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 Theodore Augustus Mills  (1839 - 1916)

About: Theodore Augustus Mills


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Lived/Active: District Of Columbia/Pennsylvania/South Carolina      Known for: Indian sculpture, life mask

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A son of sculptor Clark Mills, Theodore Mills became a sculptor noted for Indian group figures and for a life mask he made of Abraham Lincoln.  He studied in Europe for five years and then returned to Washington DC to work in his father's foundry and studio on Bladensburg Road.  He later worked for The Smithsonian Institution and for the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.

Among his portrait bust subjects was John C. Calhoun, carved in marble and completed in 1896. It was commissioned by the United States Senate for its official vice-presidential portrait of Calhoun. For his model, Theodore Mills used a life mask of Calhoun, which had been made by Clark Mills. The Senate website has the following description:

"Theodore Mills’s likeness of Calhoun shows him as slightly gaunt, but there is no sign of the tuberculosis that ravaged the statesman in his last years. The face is most memorable for the deeply drilled eyes, which seem to express somber preoccupation. The resolute head, strongly symmetrical, appears almost to sit on the luxuriant roll of whiskers that lies beneath the jaw. The costume of shirt, cravat, waistcoat, and topcoat is encircled and partly overlaid by a cloak whose heavy folds lend an air of classical gravitas to the bust. Beyond the verifiable likeness and brooding quality, however, Mills adds little to suggest the powerfully conflicting characteristics of this controversial figure who played such a central role in 19th-century American history.

Theodore Mills and his father also modeled a life mask of Abraham Lincoln just 60 days before the president was assassinated in 1865. That mask was eventually donated to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh by Theodore Mills, then a preparator in the museum’s exhibits department. Already known for his Native American groups, the artist was hired in 1898 to create similar figures for the Pittsburgh museum. Mills died in Pittsburgh 18 years later."

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

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