The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis, A Narrative Biography
Harry Henderson & Albert Henderson
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Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907), born to a Chippewa mother and African-American father, was the most controversial sculptor of her day. Her story was told in 28 pages twenty years ago by Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson in A History of African American Artists from 1792 (1993), a "landmark" tome and standard reference that you have in your collections. Our narrative of Lewis's life and art updates that article with more than 100,000 words, 50 illustrations, 800 references, bibliography, index, and a reference list of more than 100 works with notes on museum holdings. It provides discussions of her fans, her critics, other 19th-century artists, and much more.
This first full-length biography reveals Henderson's decades of original research. It digs into hidden relationships, identifies many new sources, and casts new light on well-known works of art. Starting with the suggestion, "Think of Edmonia Lewis as an artist at war," it goes on to tell the story of a young woman on a mission to overturn myths of inequality. Burdened by outsider status and personal secrets, she joined radical feminists and the Roman Catholic Church as she struggled to establish a famous studio in Rome, to publicize her work, and to show her art in the U.S. during Reconstruction. Thousands came to see her shows from Boston to San Francisco, and many more followed her in the news. Backed by her brother, a Gold Rush businessman, she ultimately provided inspiration to, and helped change how the world viewed, talented women of color.
KIRKUS REVIEWS said, "The Hendersons' monument of research and craftsmanship seeks to give Lewis the consideration that she has been denied-not dissimilar to the artist's own commitment to proving her competitors and critics wrong, demonstrating that a minority could take on the hegemonic tradition of fine arts. The book provides crystalline accounts of Lewis' feuds and mentorships, as well as rich illustrations of the works being discussed throughout. Overall, the authors deliver a well-constructed mix of primary resources, critical analysis and literary flourishes." MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW called her new biography "a key acquisition for any arts or African-American history holding ... it reads with the passion and drama of good literature." GOODREADS accorded it Five Stars, remarking, "even though it is classified as a narrative biography, don't expect to find extended scenes of improvised dialogue or re-imagined day to day occurrences fleshed out by artistic license. The book remains academic and serious in nature throughout, but with conjecture here and there concerning what Edmonia must have been thinking and feeling." It recently received the GOLD eLit Award for biography, "Illuminating Digital Publishing Excellence." I am sure you would want this essential biography in your collections.
Because Lewis and her art connected with some of the most famous literary, feminist, radical, and artistic figures of her time, her life is of special interest to students of American art history, feminist and women's history, American history, African-American studies, American studies, and American-Indian studies, as well as scholars of race, gender, and the 19th-century American novel.
Sample chapter, more details and more reviews at www.edmonialewis.com