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Brooklyn Museum Announces Watercolors by Conceptual Artist Patricia Cronin
Brooklyn Museum Cherry Blossoms. Photo © Adam Husted.

BROOKLYN, NY.- A group of twenty-eight watercolors by Brooklyn-based conceptual artist Patricia Cronin, inspired by the work of nineteenth-century sculptor Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908), will be on view in the Herstory Gallery and Forum of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, June 5, 2009 through January 24, 2010. The Herstory Gallery is dedicated to exhibitions that elaborate on the 1,038 women who are named in Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist artwork The Dinner Party, installed in the adjacent space. Harriet Hosmer’s name appears on the Heritage Floor, near the place setting for Georgia O’Keeffe.

Cronin, who manipulates traditional art historical forms to address issues of sexuality, gender, and class, is the author of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the nineteenth-century sculptor, who defied social convention and attained a degree of notoriety for her often sensuous sculptures of women. In the catalogue raisonné, each of Hosmer’s works is illustrated by a Cronin watercolor, selections of which comprise the exhibition.

Harriet Hosmer’s works, created in the neoclassical style, depict historical, mythological, and literary figures, among them Zenobia, Medusa, and Puck. In her research for the catalogue raisonné, Patricia Cronin unearthed written references to several Hosmer sculptures that do not appear to have ever been photographed. To represent these works, Cronin has made watercolors of what she calls “ghosts,” formless and ethereal images of sculptures that in all likelihood still exist, but have been lost to art history, several of which are also included in the presentation.

The fact that Harriet Hosmer has been all but forgotten, save by art historians, formed the inspiration for Patricia Cronin’s investigation into her life and work and for writing the catalogue raisonné. Cronin views this project as not only the re-evaluation of the work of another artist, but as a meditation on her own fate in the future of art history.

Harriet Hosmer was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, and completed her education in Lenox, followed by study in anatomy at the St. Louis Medical College. Her first known work was a smaller version of Canova’s Napoleon, followed by a sculpture of an idealized head that was exhibited in Boston in 1852. That year she went to Rome with her father and her friend the actress Charlotte Cushman, where Hosmer studied with English sculptor John Gibson. She lived and worked in Italy for many years among other American expatriates including George Eliot, George Sands, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, for whom she served as the model for Hilda in his The Marble Faun. Her reputation was established in the United States with the creation of a lively statue of Puck, which eventually sold dozens of replicas including one to the Prince of Wales, followed by numerous other sculptures, among them the reclining statue of Beatrice Cenci that was commissioned for the St. Louis Public Library, as well as the monumental statue of Zenobia on which she worked for nearly two years.

Working in painting, sculpture, installation, and watercolor, Patricia Cronin’s critically acclaimed creations have been exhibited extensively, including solo exhibitions at the American Academy in Rome, as well as at Deitch Projects, White Columns, and Brent Sikkema Gallery in New York. She has been included in group exhibitions at such institutions as the Neuberger Museum, the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, and the Tang Teaching Museum. Cronin is the recipient of awards from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Rome Prize, among others. She is Associate Professor of Art at Brooklyn College.

Patricia Cronin: Harriet Hosmer, Lost and Found has been organized by Lauren Ross, Interim Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

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