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JUDITH NINA KERR, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Born in Philadelphia on June 9, 1877, Meta Warrick Fuller was one of America's first studio sculptors of African descent. She was one of those persons of ability and genius whom, according to W. E. B. Du Bois, "the accidents of education and opportunity have raised on the tidal wave of chance."* Fuller was born into a black elite family in a city whose black community was socially and intellectually active. She was among the fortunate few selected from the Philadelphia public schools to attend J. Liberty Tadd's art school. From 1895 to 1899, she studied at the Pennsylvania Museum School of the Industrial Arts, where her gift for sculpture emerged. Unwilling to limit herself to tradi-tionally "feminine" themes, she occasionally adopted the gruesome imagery of fin de siecle Symbolist literature and painting--a choice that represented a rare act of independence on the part of a woman artist. Fuller's work grew stronger in Paris, where she studied from 1899 to 1902. Influenced by the conceptual realism of Auguste Rodin, she became so adept at depicting sensitively the spirituality of human suffering that the French press named her "the delicate sculptor of horrors." In 1902, Fuller became the protege of Rodin. Samuel Bing, patron of such innovators as Aubrey Beardsley, Mary Cassatt, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, also recognized her abilities by spon-soring a one-woman exhibition at L'Art Nouveau Bing in 1902. An artist whose career spanned over seventy years, Fuller was versatile and productive. A woman of deep religious faith who believed her artistic gifts to be God-given, she created at least one piece of religious art a year in thanks. At various times, she was a literary sculptor, at others a creator of portrait art (which she studied under Charles Grafley at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). Although she declared that she could not specialize in African- American types, Fuller became one of the most effective chroniclers of the black experience within the context of the American experience. *Crisis, XXXII, 6(October, 1926), 246.

Subject Area

American history|African Americans|Biographies|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

KERR, JUDITH NINA, "GOD-GIVEN WORK: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCULPTOR META VAUX WARRICK FULLER, 1877-1968 (PENNSYLVANIA)" (1986). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8701179.