If you’ve ever been to Central Park in New York City, there’s a chance you’ve walked around the Bethesda Terrace, where one of the largest fountains in the city is located.
The fountain is named the Bethesda Fountain, and in the center of it is a beautiful statue of an angel designed by one of the first American women sculptors, Emma Stebbins.
Emma was born to a wealthy family in New York City in 1815. Her family was very encouraging of her artistic endeavors and pushed her to pursue becoming an artist. Therefore, she was able to study in several studios and had her work shown in various galleries at a young age.
She even had her work included at the National Academy of Design.
During her earlier years as an artist, Emma did a lot of oil paintings. But as she got older, she discovered a love for sculpting.
When she was 41-years-old in 1856, her brother helped send her to Rome so she could study neoclassicist sculpting. Emma met several other artists who taught and influenced her.
People may not know that Emma was also a member of the LBGTQ+ community and met American actress Charlotte Cushman in Rome, who she considered to be her wife for over a decade.
After her time in Rome, Emma became a master sculptor and continued working professionally. She was connected through the artists she had met in Rome and through Charlotte, who was a big promoter of her career.
From the late 1850s to 1870, Emma did some outstanding work. She made a dozen marble sculptures and two bronze statues. She was awarded three public commissions, which was more than any American woman had received to that date.
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