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Vinnie Ream:
Sculpting a Name for Herself in History

Vinnie Ream and bust of Abraham Lincolnstatue of Abraham Lincoln by Vinnie Ream If you go to the U.S. Capitol you may see a full-length, marble statue of President Abraham Lincoln in the Rotunda, and beside this work the name of the artist, Vinnie Ream. This name also appears beside the full-length, bronze statues of Iowan governor Samuel Jordan Kirkwood and Cherokee hero Sequoyah, both of which are located in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. Though the name may not be familiar to many visitors of the Capitol today, during the post-Civil War days "Vinnie Ream" was the talk of the town.

Vinnie Ream was born in Wisconsin in 1847, but in the first year of the Civil War moved to Washington, D.C. when her father, a former surveyor, relocated the family. In 1862, though not yet 15 years old, she managed to help the family financially by obtaining a position at the Post Office.

During the next year, Vinnie visited the studio of Clark Mills who casted in bronze the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson that stands in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. She impressed the artist by sculpting in clay a medallion of an Indian chief's head and was taken in as his part-time pupil. Soon after, she began sculpting busts of politicians who frequented the studio.

In 1864, the precocious young artist requested to sculpt a bust of President Abraham Lincoln, and the successful outcome of this project encouraged Vinnie to pursue a prestigious commission to sculpt a full-length statue of the President. Her attainment of the $10,000 commission in 1866 was not easily won, however, as the 19-year-old was met with resistance by those who criticized her skill, age, gender, charm, and physical beauty. But Vinnie emerged as the victor with the successful completion of this project in 1870, and the unveiling of her masterpiece in the Capitol during the first month of the following year.

Around this time, Vinnie had become the sole provider of the family, and the funds from her commission were now depleted. Despite continually disparaging remarks by her critics, the pragmatic and tenacious Miss Ream pursued a commission in 1873 to sculpt a full-length statue of Admiral David Farragut, three years after the Civil War hero's death. Vinnie sought the assistance of the admiral's widow, politician friends, and General William Tecumseh Sherman, her most dedicated supporter. Her ultimate triumph earned Vinnie the $20,000 commission, and her 10-foot-high plaster model for the bronze casting was completed in 1878.

Vinnie Ream married Lieutenant Richard Hoxie in 1881, ending her career as a sculptress to become a traditional Victorian wife and later the mother of their only child, Richard. Twenty years later however, her husband witnessed the effects on Vinnie's health by denying her artistic self-expression. Hoxie allowed his wife to take up sculpture again, and in 1906 Vinnie created the statue of Civil War governor Kirkwood that was presented in bronze to the Capitol in 1913. In 1912, she was asked by the State of Oklahoma to create a bronze statue of Sequoyah, who had developed the written language of the Cherokee then served as a leader for his tribe. But just before the completion of this work, Vinnie collapsed and died of kidney disease. George Zolnay, friend and sculptor, completed the statue and was later commissioned to sculpt a bronze bas-relief for Vinnie's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery.

Though the life of the sculptress had come to an end, through her works Vinnie Ream will be remembered, along with the heroes whom she immortalized in bronze.

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Above left: Photo of Vinnie Ream and bust of Abraham Lincoln from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Above right: Photo of Vinnie Ream's statue of Abraham Lincoln in the U.S. Capitol by CNO.


Clark Mills: Sculpture by the Mentor of Vinnie Ream

life mask of Abraham Lincoln by Clark Millsequestrian statue of Andrew Jackson by Clark Mills Sculptor Clark Mills made this plaster life mask of President Abraham Lincoln (pictured left) in 1865, just before the President's untimely death. Mills's equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson (pictured right) was cast in bronze in 1853 with melted metal from a captured British cannon. The statue was placed in Lafayette Park across from the White House where it still remains today.


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Above left: Photo of Abraham Lincoln's life mask in the National Portrait Gallery by CNO. Above right: Photo of Andrew Jackson's equestrian statue in Lafayette Park by CNO.

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