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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Based on their unpublished letters, papers and diaries coupled with contemporary portrayals of female sculptors by novelists, critics, essayists and colleagues, this is an unprecedented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


Figures 1 Mary Grant, The Ladies’ Field, 15 July 1899, original photograph by Thomson, Grosvenor Street, London, reproduction: National Library of Scotland © Trustees of the National Library of Scotland. 2 Susan Durant, The Queen, 27 February 1873, steel engraving. 3 D. O. Hill and Alexander MacGlashon, The Sculptor of ‘Sir Galahad, the Good Knight,’ 1861–1862, albumen silver print from glass negative. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1946 (46.1.13) Image © Metropolitan Museum of Art. 4 Roger Fenton, Mary Thornycroft with ‘Princess Helena as Peace,’ c. 1848 photograph © Conway Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. 5 Amelia Paton Hill, Self Portrait, [1849], wax, Dunfermline Museum © Fife Council Museums: Dunfermline. Licensor 6 Susan Durant, Baron Henry de Triqueti, 1864, marble © J. Faujour/Musée Girodet, Montargis, France. 7 Amelia Paton Hill, James Hay Erskine Wemyss Esq. of Wemyss, 1865, marble, Cupar County Hall © Fife Council Licensor 8 Mary Grant, Sir Francis Grant, PRA, 1866, marble © Royal Academy of Arts, London. 9 Mary Grant, Memorial to Lady Augusta Stanley, 1876, marble, South transept, Dunfermline Abbey, photograph: author’s own, photographic editing: Jesse Hurtado. 10 Mary Grant, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean of Westminster, 1884, bronze relief, St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh © Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland B/64025. 11 Mary Grant, Queen Margaret Canmore, 1876, marble, Dunfermline City Chambers, photograph: author’s own, photographic editing: Jesse Hurtado. x Figures 12 Mary Thornycroft, Melpomene, 1872, bronze © Leeds Museums & Galleries (Henry Moore Institute Archive). 13 Amelia Paton...

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