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 John Severinus Conway  (1852 - 1925)

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Lived/Active: Wisconsin/New Jersey/Ohio / Italy      Known for: monument sculpture, medallic art, easel and mural painting

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Ad Code: 3
John Severinus Conway
from Auction House Records.
Notre Dame, Paris
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Artist and sculptor John Severinus Conway was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1852. He received his first artistic training from Conrad Diehl of the Art Institute of Chicago. He left Chicago, however, after fire destroyed both his studio and his prospects there. Conway then resided in Milwaukee where he soon gathered popular acceptance for his portrait work. He also made several sketching tours into Wisconsin and Minnesota to paint local landscapes. In 1880 Conway completed in only eighteen days a mural in the Chamber of Commerce building entitled Agriculture and the Industries Bringing Their Tribute to Milwaukee.

During his residence in Milwaukee Conway became acquainted with Lydia Ely Hewitt (1836-1914) who had arrived in Milwaukee in 1840.  Married to Gideon P. Hewitt in 1852, she had nevertheless found time to pursue her artistic interests. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Mrs. Ely devoted herself chiefly to charity work.  Toward this end she organized the Soldiers Home Fair which included an exhibition of American paintings and sculpture.  Earnings from this fair were used for the construction of the Wisconsin Soldiers Home in 1865 of which Ely served as president for two years.  Returning to her artistic interests after the war, Mrs. Ely went on several sketching and study tours in the United States and Europe. She was particularly interested in furthering "art-mindedness" in Milwaukee, organizing exhibits and expositions for this purpose.  During the 1880s she served as superintendent of the art department of the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition.

Largely at the suggestion of Lydia Ely, John Conway left Milwaukee for Paris to study at the Ecole Julien under Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre and at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He also made sketching tours throughout France and Italy, and under Aimee Millet of Paris expanded his studies to include sculpture.  About 1883 he settled in Rome.  During this period Conway married Agata Meloni.  They had four children: George (1885-1967), Etheldreda (1887-1900), Mario (1889-1962), and Robert (1899-1972).

Largely because of his friendship with Lydia Ely who headed the fund raising committee, in 1898 Conway secured the contract for his most famous work, the Milwaukee Soldiers Monument.  The bronze sculpture Victorian Charge, was completed in Rome and shipped to its destination in front of the Milwaukee City Hall.

In 1902 Conway returned to the United States, settling his family in Tenafly, New Jersey.  In 1904 he completed Oklahoma, another large sculpture, for the St. Louis Exposition. Conway died in Tenafly in 1925.

Submitted December 2004 by Steve Klose

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