Edmonia Lewis

Edmonia Lewis bigraphy, stories - African-Mississauga Ojibwe Neo-Classical sculptor from New York who had a studio in Rome, Italy

Edmonia Lewis : biography

ca. July 4, 1845 – September 17, 1907

Edmonia Lewis (ca. July 4, 1844–September 17, 1907) was an African/Native American sculptor (African, Ojibwe and Haitian) who worked for most of her career in Rome. Her heritage is African-American and Native American and she gained fame and recognition as a sculptor in the international fine arts world.


For years, the year of Edmonia Lewis’s death was speculated to be 1911 in Rome. An alternative view held that she died in Marin County, California, and was buried in an unmarked grave in San Francisco.Wolfe, 110. Recent scholarship has found that she lived in the Hammersmith area of London, England before her death on September 17, 1907, in the Hammersmith Borough Infirmary. Cowan’s Auctions: News. (retrieved 14 March 2011).

Lewis never married and had no known children.Perry, Regenia A. "Edmonia Lewis", Free Within Ourselves. Washington D.C.: National Museum of American Art, 1992. In 2002, the scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Edmonia Lewis on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.

Posthumous exhibitions

  • Art of the American Negro Exhibition, Chicago, 1940
  • Howard University, Washington D.C., 1967
  • Vassar College, New York, 1972
  • Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, 2008

List of major, known artworks

  • John Brown medallions, 1864-5
  • Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (plaster), 1864
  • Anne Quincy Waterston, 1866
  • A Freed Woman and Her Child, 1866
  • The Old Arrow-Maker and His Daughter, 1866
  • The Marriage of Hiawatha, 1866-7
  • Forever Free, 1867
  • Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (marble), 1867-8
  • Hagar in the Wilderness, 1868
  • Madonna Holding the Christ Child, 1869
  • Hiawatha, collection of the Newark Museum, 1868According to the Newark Museum; 1869-1871, according to Wolfe, 120.
  • Minnehaha, collection of the Newark Museum, 1868
  • Indian Combat, Carrara marble, 30" high, collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1868 Art Daily. 19 Nov 2011 (retrieved 19 Nov 2011).
  • Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, 1869–1871
  • Bust of Abraham Lincoln, 1870 The original sculpture is housed in the California Room of the San Jose Public Library. The statues "Awake (1872)," "Asleep (1872)," and "Bust of Abraham Lincoln (1870)" were purchased in 1873 by the San Jose Library Association (a forerunner to the San Jose Public Library) and were transferred to the San Jose Public Library.
  • Asleep, 1872
  • Awake, 1872
  • Poor Cupid, 1873
  • Moses, 1873
  • Hygieia, 1874
  • Hagar, 1875
  • The Death of Cleopatra, marble, 1876, collection of Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • John Brown, 1876, Rome, plaster bust
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1876, Rome, plaster bust
  • General Ulysses S. Grant, 1877–1878
  • Veiled Bride of Spring, 1878
  • John Brown, 1878–1879
  • The Adoration of the Magi, 1883Wolfe, 120.



Descriptions of most popular works

Forever Free, 1867 This sculpture is of white marble. It represents a man standing, staring up, and raising his left arm into the air. Wrapped around his left wrist is a chain; however, this chain is not restraining him. To his right is a woman kneeling with her hands held in a prayer position. The man’s right hand is gently placed on her right shoulder. Forever Free represents the emancipation of African-American slaves after the Civil War. Lewis attempted to break stereotypes of African-American women with this sculpture. For example, she portrayed the woman as completely dressed while the man was partially dressed. This drew attention away from the notion of African-American women being sexual figures. This sculpture also symbolizes the end of the Civil War. While African Americans were legally free, they continued to be restrained, shown by the fact that the couple had chains wrapped around their bodies. This piece is held by Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.Collins, Lisa G. "Female Body in Art." The Art of History. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2002.