National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Edmonia Lewis: American\African American
Edmonia Lewis: Native American\American Indian\Central Woodlands and Great Lakes\Chippewa
Edmonia Lewis achieved international recognition as a sculptor during the second half of the nineteenth century. Educated at Oberlin College, she settled first in Boston, where she created portrait busts and medallions of prominent politicians, writers, and abolitionists. In 1865 she relocated to Rome and joined an active community of American and British artists living abroad. Adopting a neoclassical style then widely popular, she found inspiration in stories from the Bible and classical mythology, as well as from African American history. Her sculpture Forever Free (1867) depicts an African American couple as they first hear news of the Emancipation Proclamation. The work led one critic to exclaim, "No one, not born subject to the 'Cotton King,' could look upon this piece of sculpture without profound emotion." Although Lewis enjoyed unprecedented success for several decades, she died in obscurity.