Montgomery AL- Montgomery, AL- In this first major exhibition of her work since 1930, Bessie Potter Vonnoh is showcased as a relevant and innovative turn of the 20th century sculptor. Her work, often marginalized or maligned because of its intimate sentimentality and association with women’s daily lives, provides an insight into the domestic tastes of the period.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1872, Vonnoh spent much of her early life in Chicago, Illinois, where her family moved in 1874. By the age of 14 she had decided to become a sculptor,and she received her formal training from the French-trained Art Institute of Chicago professor Lorado Taft. It was through her association with Taft that she received the first opportunity to show her work publicly at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Two years after her public debut, she traveled to France where she met contemporary French sculptor Auguste Rodin in his studio. Vonnoh was undoubtedly influenced by his sculpture, and in the year following her trip she produced her well-known work, A Young Mother. While its’ small size and familial scene were atypical for other artists of the period, Vonnoh received tremendous praise for the figure group, and it became one of her most sought after sculptures. A Young Mother will be featured in three versions for comparison within the exhibition.
Vonnoh’s ambition surpassed the realm of interior decorative sculpture, and shortly after her relocation to New York City and marriage to American painter Robert Vonnoh, she was commissioned to produce a life-sized statue for display at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. This sculpture, cast in gold, was followed by larger scale memorial garden sculptures such as The Frances Hodgson Burnett Memorial in Central Park and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial on Long Island. After 1930, Bessie Potter Vonnoh’s sculpture production tapered off, however, she remained a lauded figure in American art until her death in 1955.
This exhibition brings together thirty-five sculptures that best demonstrate Vonnoh’s progression during the most prolific portion of her career, from 1895-1930, along with portraits of the sculptor painted by her husband, Robert Vonnoh.
Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women is sponsored in Montgomery by Regions Bank, Bess and Fred Blackmon, and Michelle and Daniel Hughes. It was organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio and presented with the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday Noon to 5p.m. Admission is free and donations are welcome. For more information, call the MMFA at 334.240.4333 or visit the website at www.mmfa.org.
The MMFA, a department of the City of Montgomery, is supported by funds from the City and County of Montgomery and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association. Programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.