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Genteel Mavericks

Professional Women Sculptors in Victorian Britain


Shannon Hunter Hurtado

Sculpture was no occupation for a lady in Victorian Britain. Yet between 1837 and 1901 the number of professional female sculptors increased sixteen-fold. The four principal women sculptors of that era are the focus of this book. Once known for successful careers marked by commissions from the royal family, public bodies and private individuals, they are forgotten now. This book brings them back to light, addressing who they were, how they negotiated middle-class expectations and what kind of impact they had on changing gender roles.
Based on their unpublished letters, papers and diaries coupled with contemporary portrayals of female sculptors by novelists, critics, essayists and colleagues, this is an unprecedented picture of the women sculptors’ personal experience of preparing for and conducting careers as well as the public’s perception of them. The author examines each woman’s ability to use her position within the historical and cultural context as a platform from which to instigate change. The analytical emphasis throughout is on the art of negotiation and the result is an interdisciplinary work that delves deeply into the experience of an undervalued cohort of artists who had a disproportionate influence on Victorian social norms.


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List of Figures ix List of Abbreviations xiii Acknowledgements xv Introduction 1 PART I Personal Experiences 11 Chapter 1 Family Matters 13 Chapter 2 Carving Out a Career 69 Chapter 3 Making their Way 113 Chapter 4 Characteristics and Convictions 161 viii PART II Public Perceptions 205 Chapter 5 Critical Appraisals 207 Chapter 6 Hoydens or Heroines? Literary Portrayals of Female Sculptors 239 Chapter 7 Impacts 273 Epilogue 287 Appendix 291 Bibliography 293 Index 325

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