Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Emma Stebbins (1815 - 1882 ), US Sculptor and lesbian pioneer.

b. September 1, 1815
d. October 25, 1882

Stebbins was among the first notable American woman sculptors.  who lived openly as a lesbian in nineteenth century Rome.

After she moved to Rome she studied under John Gibson an English neoclassicist working there at that time. In Rome she fell in love with actress Charlotte Saunders Cushman, and quickly became involved in the bohemian and feminist lesbian lifestyle, which was more tolerated there than it would have been back in New York.

Cushman was confident, strong, and charismatic, and recently recovering from a break up following a ten-year relationship with the actress Matilda Hays. Cushman and Stebbins began traveling together, immediately taking a trip to Naples. Upon their return, they began spending time in a circle that included African American/Native American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, many celebrities, and fellow lesbians that included Harriet Hosmer.

Stebbins best known work is the Angel of the Waters (1873), also known as Bethesda Fountain, located on the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, New York. 'Angel of the Waters'  was created to celebrate the clean healthful water from New York's Croton Aqueduct, completed in 1842, with an oblique reference to the biblical "healing waters of Bethesda." The fountain complex is widely considered to be one of the great works of nineteenth century American sculpture.

Her bronze statue of educator Horace Mann was installed outside the State House in Boston in 1865.

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