Female painters have been , and are, in abundance female sculptors are rare aves; for the chisel aud the mallet require stronger hands than the pencil and palette; and to work with the former is neither so graceful, nor feminine, nor easy, as with the latter: and therefore it is, perhaps, that sculpture finds less favour with ladies than the sister art. It is more agreeable to mix the pigments of the painter than to mould into form the moist and cold clay which the sculptor uses; more inviting to "wash in" a brilliant sky, or invest the human figure with a drapery of rich colours, than to model a limb, or carve a "face divine," from a block of hard marble. But in proportion to the difficulties which beset the sculptor's art, and the hindrances to its practice by the female sex, are the honours achieved by women when they bravely encounter and overcome them: and the annals of Art include a few of these heroines. Towards the close of the last century we find the Hon. Mrs. Damer, one of the most accomplished and beautiful women of her time, forsaking, as Allan Cunningham says, "the masque and the dance to become a worker in wet clay;" an admirer of subdued lights‚ wore a mob cap to keep the dust of the marble from her hair, and an apron to preserve her silk gown and embroidered slippers; and with a hammer of iron in one hand, and chisel of steel in the other, had begun to carve heads in marble, and, according to Walpole, carve them cunningly." This lady, "to enable her more fully to enter into the feeling and character of antique sculpture, studied night and day those illustrious Latins aud Greeks whose history, philosophy, and poetry yet maintain pre-eminence in literature." And this daughter of Art, the friend and associate of the most noted men and women of her time, would doff the habiliments of the studio, and mingle in the bitter fray of rival politicians, scouring the streets and alleys of Westminster with "the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire," aud other high-born adventurous dames, to secure votes for "Charley" Fox. But the chief business of Mrs. Damer's life was sculpture: it was the great object of her existence, to which all else was of secondary importance. Then, not very many years since, there was Lady Dacre, a clever sculptor and a graceful poet; and, later still, the Princess Marie of Orleans, whose 'Joan of Arc' has a wide-world reputation; and now living are Harriet Hosmer, the American, who produced the famous figure of Beatrice Cenci, engraved in the Art-Journal three or four years ago; and Mrs. Thornycroft, patronised by royalty, besides others, whose names and works are not altogether unknown among us. — Art-Journal (1860)

Introductory Material and Criticism


The Cradle from the sculpture by Mrs Thornycroft.“ Art-Journal. (1860): 370.

Hurtado, Shannon Hunter. Genteel Mavericks: Professional Women Sculptors in Victorian Britain. Oxford, Bern etc: Peter Lang, 2012.

Rose, Pauline. Working Against the Grain: Women Sculptors in Britain c. 1885-1950. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020 [review by Jacqueline Banerjee].

Trusted, Marjorie, and Joanna Barnes eds. Discovering Women Sculptors. Watford: PSSA, 2023. [review by Pamela Gerrish Nunn].

Last modified 4 September 2021