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Mears, Helen Farnsworth (1872-1916) Large Archive of Original Material Related to the Sculptor. Approximately 230 black-and-white photographs of Mears's sculptures (large and small format, some cabinet cards, some from the artist's life, mostly posthumous); five photographs of Helen Farnsworth Mears; approximately twenty-four domestic photographs including pictures of the Mears family, childhood photos of the artist and her sisters, photos of the artist's studio, and others; ten envelopes containing negatives of Mears's sculptures; three original drawings; small group related to Mears's father, John Hall Mears, including an autograph letter signed, three stock certificates, and a land deed signed by President James Buchanan; autograph letters signed by her mother, Elizabeth Farnsworth Mears [aka Nellie Wildwood and Ianthe, called the first Wisconsin poetess] along with a tattered copy of her Voyage of Pere Marquette; three letters and two documents signed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, along with a photographic portrait, c. 1904-1906; two letters to Mears from architect Henry Bacon; a group of correspondence related to a dispute with the New York sculpture molders John H. Walthausen, 1904; three signed autograph manuscripts in Mears's hand, including a letter, an inscribed and initialed envelope; and a dedication from the ffep of a book; five documents regarding Mears's early commissions, including the acceptance letter from the State Normal School in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, accepting her bust of George S. Albee, June 9, 1899, associated paperwork, and two printed documents relating to the official presentation of her Francis E. Willard sculpture; and four other pieces of correspondence sent directly to Mears; together with a large archive of correspondence written by and to the artist's sister and artistic executrix, Mary Mears, regarding the sale of Mears's work, and other material.
Mears studied at the State Normal School in Oshkosh, and for two years in New York City under Augustus Saint-Gaudens, working as his assistant. She also studied in Paris in 1895. Her first success, before any formal art training, was Genius of Wisconsin, a work commissioned by the State of Wisconsin when she was just 21 years old. Her most important works include a marble statue of Frances E. Willard (1905, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., National Statuary Hall Collection); portrait reliefs of Edward MacDowell (Metropolitan Museum, New York); and Augustus Saint-Gaudens; portrait busts of George Rogers Clark and William T.G. Morton, M.D. (Smithsonian Institution, Washington). In 1904, her Fountain of Life won a bronze medal at the St. Louis Exposition. She died in 1916, at the age of 43, of pulmonary edema.
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