Skip to main content

The Café, the Explore Family Space and Courtyard will be closed Sunday, Nov. 17 in preparation for a special event. The museums will close at 5:00 pm, at which point visitors will be directed to exit through the building’s F street lobby. The G street exit and ramp will remain accessible to those who need it. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Edmonia Lewis

Henry Rocher, 1826 - 1887
Edmonia Lewis, 4 Jul 1844 - 17 Sep 1907
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
Image/Sheet: 9.2 x 5.2 cm (3 5/8 x 2 1/16")
Mount: 10 x 6.2 cm (3 15/16 x 2 7/16")
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6 cm (18 x 14")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number
Edmonia Lewis: American\African American
Edmonia Lewis: Native American\American Indian\Central Woodlands and Great Lakes\Chippewa
Exhibition Label
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.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection