Hiram Powers  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Hiram Powers (June 29, 1805 - June 27, 1873) was a U.S. neoclassical sculptor, best known for his 1843 he statue The Greek Slave.


The son of a farmer, Powers was born in Woodstock, Vermont, on the 29th of June 1805. In 1819 his father removed to Ohio, about six miles from Cincinnati, where the son attended school for about a year, staying meanwhile with his brother, a lawyer in Cincinnati. After leaving school he found employment superintending a reading-room in connection with the chief hotel of the town, but being, in his own words, forced at last to leave that place as his clothes and shoes were fast leaving him, he became a clerk in a general store. At age 17, Powers became an assistant to Luman Watson, Cincinnati's early wooden clockmaker. Powers was “skilled in modelling figures. Watson owned a clock and organ factory, Powers set himself to master the construction of the instruments, displaying an aptitude which in a short time enabled him to become the first mechanic in the factory.

In 1826 he began to frequent the studio of Frederick Eckstein, and at once conceived a strong passion for the art of sculpture. His proficiency in modelling secured him the situation of general assistant and artist of the Western Museum, kept by a Frenchman named Dorfeuille, where his ingenious representation of the infernal regions to illustrate the more striking scenes in the poem of Dante met with extraordinary success, commissioned of him by Fanny Trollope. After studying thoroughly the art of modelling and casting, at the end of 1834 he went to Washington DC, where his remarkable gifts soon awakened general attention. In 1837 he settled in Florence, where he remained till his death. While he found it profitable to devote the greater part of his time to busts, his best efforts were bestowed on ideal work. In 1839 his statue of Eve excited the warm admiration of Bertel Thorvaldsen, and in 1843 he produced his celebrated statue The Greek Slave, which at once gave him a place among the leading sculptors of his time. It was exhibited at the centre of the Crystal Palace Exhibition and Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sonnet on it. The sculpture The Greek Slave became an abolitionist cause and copies of it appeared in many Union-supporting state houses. Among the best known of his other ideal statues are The Fisher Boy, Il Penseroso, Proserpine, California, America (modelled for the Crystal Palace, Sydenham), and The Last of the Tribe (also called The Last of Her Tribe). Powers died on the June 27, 1873, and is buried as were three of his children, in the 'English' Cemetery, Florence.

In 2007 the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio presented the first major exhibition devoted to the most celebrated nineteenth century American sculptor, "Genius of Marble". This is the same place where he gave his first solo show in 1842, when Nicholas Longworth opened his private residence to allow the public to view Power's newest sculptures.[1]

Collections holding works by Hiram Powers include the Addison Gallery of American Art (Andover, Massachusetts), the Amon Carter Museum (Texas), the Arizona State University Art Museum, the Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (New York), the Birmingham Museum of Art (Alabama), the Brooklyn Museum of Art (New York City), the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College (Florida), Detroit Institute of Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Glencairn Museum (Pennsylvania), Harvard University Art Museums, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Hudson River Museum (Yonkers, New York), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Morse Museum of American Art, (Florida), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the Newark Museum (New Jersey), the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Portland Museum of Art (Maine), the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington D.C.), the United States Senate Art Collection, the University of Cincinnati Galleries (Ohio), the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Vermont State House Fine Arts Collection (Montpelier, Vermont), the White House Collection, (Washington) and the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Connecticut).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hiram Powers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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