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 Katherine T. Hooper Prescott  (1851 - 1926)

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Lived/Active: Maine/Massachusetts      Known for: sculpture, relief

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This following biography was researched, compiled, and written by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director, Southold Historical Society, Southold, NY, with the help of Scott Baumann, the great-grandson of the artist.

KATHARINE TUPPER HOOPER PRESCOTT (June 17, 1851 - January 8, 1926)

Sculptor and poet.  Born in Biddeford, Maine to Deborah Elizabeth White (May 8, 1827 - October 26, 1906) and Colonel Edward Henry Cobb Hooper (October 21, 1817 -December 18, 1898).  Her father was a Civil War veteran and a very successful trader and insurance agent in Biddeford, Maine.   He was also an Indian agent of the Sisseton Agency beginning in 1877.  The Sisseton Agency was established in 1867 for the Sisseton and Wahpeton Sioux on the Lake Traverse (now Sisseton) and Devil's Lake Reservations in North Dakota.

Her youth was apparently a comfortable one and on June 14, 1876 she married Harry Lawson Prescott (July 29, 1852 -  January 18, 1887).  Prescott was born in Stillwater, New York and may have come to know young Katharine through her father's business interests.  Though they lived in upstate New York for a period (their first child, Caroline, was born in East Milton, New York in 1877) they eventually traveled out west.  First they moved to Browns Valley, Minnesota where they resided c. 1879-1884, and then finally to Devils Lake, North Dakota, where they were living in 1886 and 1887.

In early 1887 her husband, who worked as a banker, returned to the east coast for business reasons and died there suddenly in Boston on January 18.  Just thirty-six years old, she was now a widow who was stuck in North Dakota with three children and virtually no income.  Having never liked the great plains, she quickly returned to Maine to be near her family.  The question was what to do with herself  upon her return.

Having an interest in art, she decided to try sculpting.  Artistic pursuits apparently ran in the family - her younger bother, William Phillip Hooper, had also traveled out to the far west where he worked as a landscape painter.  She first trained with E. Boyd in Boston and later in New York City with noted sculptor Francis Edwin Elwell  (1858 - 1922).  The adopted son of author Louisa May Alcott, Elwell was known for his large public monuments as well as his detailed relief work, something young Katharine would also become known for.  In 1890 she showed a work at the National Academy in New York City, which may have been the very first time she exhibited at a major art institution.

She came into her own around the time of the planning for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  In 1892 The Arrow noted that "Katherine Tupper Prescott, who has attained enviable success in executing medallion portraits in bas-relief, is now at work on a life-size bas-relief of Mrs. Potter Palmer, which will be placed in the Woman's Building at the Columbian Exposition."  The publication "The Book of the Fair" also reported upon Prescott's works, noting:   " . . . Wesselhoeft, sends his "Titania and Bottom;" Anne Whitney, her "Roma," and Katherine Prescott, her "Joy to the New Year, Peace to the Old;" these and a few minor studies completing the list of what New England has to show in this direction."  In 1893 she was elected to membership in the Copley Society of Boston and exhibited with the 'new' Sculpture Society in New York City.

Her works were prominently displayed at the Columbian Exposition and won her wide acclaim.  In 1893 The New England Magazine reported on the works at the exposition:  "Among the New England sculptors whose work will be seen in Chicago are Daniel C. French, Henry Hudson Kitson, Theo Alice Ruggles, Max Bachmann, Amy A. Bradley, Jane N. Hammond, William Ordway Partridge, Katherine T. Prescott, and F. E. Wesselhoeft."  The commissioners from Connecticut who reported on the fair also commented upon her works:  "The room was also honored by the work of Mrs. Katherine T. Prescott of Boston. Mrs. Prescott exhibited there her charming Intaglio "Blessed are the pure In heart," and various medallions and small bits in bronze and plastic relief."

Following the exposition she continued to be popular both at exhibitions and with private clients.   She exhibited fairly regularly with many of the best American institutions, including the American Numismatic Society, Art Institute of Chicago (1897, 1908-1909), Boston Art Club (1890-1892, 1896, 1898-1900), Boston Art Students Association, the Copley Society, the National Academy of Design (1890, 1898), the National Sculpture Society, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1896-97, 1899, 1913).  By 1896 her reliefs had become so fashionable that they were being issued in print and postcard by New York City book dealer and publisher, William Beverley Harison.  In addition to her American exhibitions, she also showed works at the New Gallery, located in London, Great Britain.

In 1898 the popular art magazine, The Critic, mentioned her work in regards to the recent  National Academy exhibition:  "On his departure he may stop for a moment to admire Mr. Herbert Adams's relief for one of the doors of the Congressional Library, and the few other works of sculpture by Katherine T. Prescott, W. R. O'Donovan and F. Miranda which ornament the staircase."  A decade later, in 1910, her works were featured in the exhibition and catalog of contemporary medals which noted that she " . . . makes a specialty of portraits in low relief . . . [and] . . .has had studios in Boston and in New York, and is now in Chicago."

It appears that the primary studio that Prescott made use of during her most prolific period was the one located at 59 Fifth Avenue in New York City.  According to family tradition she owned the building with her brother, William, and they maintained studios there for a number of years.  The acquisition of such an address would have been an achievement for the day for any artist, however it is most likely that the money inherited upon her husbands untimely death probably allowed for the purchase of the building.
Other studio addresses she maintained included 711 Boylston Street, Boston, and 6143 Monroe Avenue and 131 Wabash Avenue, both located in Chicago.

In addition to her work as a sculptor, during her lifetime Prescott was also a published poet, submitting works to the Atlantic Monthly and The Magazine of Christian Literature.  She primarily resided in Massachusetts during the last years of her life.  Katharine Tupper Hooper Prescott died in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday, the 8th of January 1926 and was buried on Monday, the 11th of January in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Shortly thereafter Amy Prescott Hough, Katharine’s daughter, had the bodies of her mother and late brother (Harry Forbes Prescott) moved to Oakwood Cemetery, in Troy, New York, where other members of the Prescott family were buried.

Her works are known to be in the following public collections:  The Saco Museum, Saco, Maine (which obtained a collection of her works through the donation of her grandson, Louis Prescott Dolbeare); and Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.  A large number are also known to reside in the possession of her descendants and in other private collections.

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