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 Louisa (Maria Louisa) Lander  (1826 - 1923)



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Lived/Active: District Of Columbia/Massachusetts / Italy      Known for: portrait and figurative sculpture, still life painting

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Ad Code: 3
Louisa Lander
from Auction House Records.
Peonies, Acacia and Lilacs
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Louisa Lander became a sculptor who spent much time in Rome where, in 1856, she became a studio assistant to Thomas Crawford.  In Rome, she first met novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was also from Salem, and while he posed for Lander for an oversized portrait bust of himself, he became enamored of her.  He decided to use her as the model for the free-spirited women artists he depicted in his novel, The Marble Faun.

Of her he wrote: "There are very available points about her and her position: a young woman, living in almost perfect independence, thousands of miles from her New England home, going fearlessly about these mysterious streets by night as well as by day; and no household ties; nor rule or law but that within her; yet acting with quietness and simplicity, and keeping, after all within a homely line of right."

Shortly after that, Lander was judged guilty of some moral indiscretion by other members of the American art colony, and patrons and her peers ostracized her, and even Hawthorne avoided her.  However, she defiantly continued to work but had to do so at her own expense because she had no commissions.  One of her pieces was titled Virginia Dare, (1859) and the sculptor John Rogers said of her defiant attitude while working on this piece that "She snaps her fingers at all of Rome."

Subsequently this statue, about the first child of English parentage born in the New World, had a series of misadventures.  The real subject died in infancy, but Lander's Virginia Dare was a mature woman looking out to sea, draped in a fish net.  The boat intended to carry the statue to America was shipwrecked off the coast of Spain and the sculpture was on the bottom of the ocean for two years.  Lander finally paid for its salvaging, repaired it, and exhibited it in Boston where a gallery fire nearly destroyed it.  Then a collector purchased it, but he died without making the payment, so Lander regained possession of the work.

She moved to Washington DC, where she lived in obscurity until her death in 1923. She tried to persuade the state of North Carolina to purchase Virginia Dare for the 1893 World's Exposition, but they refused.  She finally willed it to the state, and it now resides in the Elizabeth Garden on Roanoke Island where the real Virginia Dare supposedly was born.

Most of Lander's other works have disappeared.

Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, American Women Artists

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