Portrait of American Sculptor Vinnie Ream Hoxie

Historical black and white photograph of sculptor Vinnie Ream Hoxie standing beside her sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. She is dressed in a mid-19th century attire with a long-sleeved blouse and skirt, looking directly at the camera. Her left hand rests on the sculpture's shoulder, while her right hand holds a sculpting tool.
Vinnie Ream Hoxie, circa 1865

Vinnie Ream Hoxie was just 18 years old when the U.S. Congress selected her to sculpt a memorial statue of President Abraham Lincoln in 1866. Her selection marked the first time the U.S. government commissioned a female artist.

Though Vinnie was so young, she was experienced, and this would be her second sculpture of the President. The first one she worked on a couple of years prior, spending about five months on the project, finishing the sculpture shortly after President Lincoln’s assassination. About receiving the project, Vinnie said,

“He had been painted and modeled before, but when he learned that I was poor, he granted me the sittings for no other purpose than that I was a poor girl. Had I been the greatest sculptor in the world, I am sure that he would have refused at that time.”

And about the President himself, she wrote,

“I have never known anyone in such deep grief as Mr. Lincoln showed during all the months I worked with him . . . I frequently felt that even his great strength was being sapped by his heavy sorrow.”

Senators, generals, and many others visited Vinnie while she worked on the memorial statue in a basement studio inside the Capital building. Vinnie finished the memorial statue of President Lincoln in 1871. Her work depicted President Lincoln with his head slightly bent forward, extending the Proclamation with his right hand. The statue was met with high praise. One art critic wrote,

“The head bending slightly forward and downward, seems to regard with anxious solicitude the multitude of newly liberated people, to whom is presented the ‘proclamation’ of the emancipation. Its action is in perfect harmony with the idea represented.”

Photograph of a white marble full-length statue of Abraham Lincoln by Vinnie Ream Hoxie. The statue is set against a columned backdrop, possibly within a hall or alcove. Lincoln is depicted standing in a formal stance, dressed in a long-tailed coat, vest, tie, and trousers, with a draped cloak over his right arm. His right hand is extended slightly forward. The pedestal beneath the statue bears the inscription 'ABRAHAM LINCOLN'.
Abraham Lincoln Statue by Vinnie Ream Hoxie

Despite continuing to face criticism due to her gender, Vinnie received more commissions. She continued to sculpt throughout her life while also taking up social causes, marrying, and having a son. She passed away on November 20, 1914.

Notes

  • Please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a donation if you enjoyed this portrait. Visit our Patreon page to donate.
  • Post updated on December 7, 2023.

Sources

  • Lemp, Joan A. “Vinnie Ream and ‘Abraham Lincoln.’” Woman’s Art Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, 1985, pp. 24–29. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/1357995. Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.
  • Vinnie Ream at work upon her Lincoln bust which rests upon the stand she used in the White House while President Lincoln posed for her. [Between 1865 and 1870, printed later] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2002712184/>