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1860 Hosmer Statue

Preface: In 1860, artist Harriet Hosmer was given a commission by the legislators of Missouri to make a statue in bronze of Thomas Hart Benton for display in Lafayette Square. The following acceptance letter was sent by Hosmer to the committee:

Watertown, June 22, 1860

J. B. Brant, Wayman Crow, M. L. Linton, M. D., Committee

Gentlemen:

I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 15th, informing me that the execution of the bronze statue in memory of the late Col. Benton, for the city of St. Louis, is entrusted to me. Such a tribute to his merit would demand the best acknowledgments of any artist, but in the present instance my most cordial thanks will but insufficiently convey to you a sense of the obligation under which I feel you have placed me.

I have reason to be grateful to you for this distinction, because I am a young artist, and though I may have given some evidence of skill in those of my statues which are now in your city, I could scarcely have hoped that their merit, whatever it may be, should have inspired the citizens of St. Louis to entrust me with a work whose chief characteristic must be the union of great intellectual power with manly strength.

But I have also reason to be grateful to you, because I am a woman, and knowing what barriers must in the outset oppose all womanly efforts, I am indebted to the chivalry of the West, which has first overleaped them.

I am not unmindful of the kind indulgence with which my works have been received, but I have sometimes thought that the critics might be more courteous than just, remembering from what hand they proceeded.

Your kindness will now afford me opportunity of proving to what rank I am entitled as an artist, unsheltered by the broad wings of compassion for the sex; for this work must be, as we understand the term, a manly work, and hence its merit alone must be my defence against the attacks of those who stand ready to resist any encroachment upon their self-appropriated sphere.

I utter these sentiments only to assure you that I am fully aware of the important results which to me, as an artist, wait on the issue of my labors, and hence that I shall spare no pains to produce a monument worthy of your city, and worthy of the statesman, who, though dead, still speaks to you in language more eloquent and enduring than the happiest efforts, in marble or bronze, of ever so cunning a workman.

It only remains for me to add, that as I shall visit St. Louis before my departure for Europe, farther details may then be arranged. I have the honor to remain, gentlemen.

Respectfully yours,

H. G. Hosmer

Source: Harriet Hosmer: Letters and Memories By Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1912.

Copyright Steven L. Brawley, 2007-2015. All Rights Reserved.