#BookReview: The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis by Harry and Albert Henderson

Edmonia Lewis, a female sculptor of African and Indian descent, succeeded at her craft when societal customs of the late 1800s prohibited women from gaining recognition, let alone respect, for their achievements. She overcame many obstacles on her quest to become an artist, which of course, makes for a great story.

 

The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis

 

In a time when women artists were only thought capable of being mere copyists, Edmonia Lewis courageously blazed her own path with a helping hand early on from a generous older brother. She rose from her background as an orphan, to a young woman wrongly kicked out of Oberlin College, to a largely self-taught sculptor who molded the word to fit her view rather than sacrifice her gift to satisfy the standards of the elite.

 

Albert Henderson has painstakingly finished decades of research started by his father Harry Henderson, a writer, and Romare Howard Bearden, an artist. The role of African Americans in art history has been previously overlooked until recent decades, and the authors certainly righted numerous omissions. The documentation of Edmonia’s life and achievements, as collected in this biography, certainly makes the case for her place in the canon.

 

Her fascinating story is documented by a wealth of primary and secondary sources. Numerous pictures of her sculptures appear throughout the book and bring her work to life for the reader. As someone trained in research methods, I can attest to the time and effort needed to bring this book to publication.

 

This biography is certainly for a specialized audience, but even for casual readers of biographies and memoirs, it holds a certain appeal. However, even though it is classified as a narrative biography, don’t expect to find extended scenes of improvised dialogue or re-imagined day to day occurrences fleshed out by artistic license. The book remains academic and serious in nature throughout, but with conjecture here and there concerning what Edmonia must have been thinking and feeling.

 

One thing is for certain, this biography is a story that needed to be told, and thanks to the diligence of the Albert Henderson, the story of Edmonia Lewis has been collected for ages to come, and her place in art history is now firmly secured.

 

You can connect with Albert Henderson on his website.

 

Are you familiar with Edmonia Lewis? What other biographies of artists have you read?

 

The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis is available on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

 

 

A complimentary copy was provided by the author in exchange for this review. For more insight, read my Book Review Criteria or visit the Review Request Page.

 

The cover image in this post is for promotional purposes only and complies with fair use guidelines.

Author: Jeri Walker

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8 Comments

  1. I tend to root for the underdog quite a bit. I think it is great when someone can go against the grain and make their mark on the world (in a positive way). The sad part comes when that mark is recognized long after they are gone.

    Side note: Do you see the irony that I do in her story being written by a man?

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    • Jon, yes there is a bit of irony in male authors uncovering Edmonia Lewis’s entire story. However, it is important to note that the Hendersons have played a large role in uncovering the contribution that countless overlooked African Americans have made to the field of art.

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  2. She sounds like an interesting lady. I love to read about people who won’t take no for an answer, but persevere against the odds.

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  3. Stories like this help even women of today take courage to forge a path for themselves. I see it this way. If women of that time could find a way, against all odds, so can I in todays world with my goals to a success in the blogging world. I will be reading this book for sure.

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  4. WOW! She really had perseverance when it came to making a mark in history. I never heard of her, so thank you for introducing this artist.

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  5. What an incredible story. That Edmonia Lewis had the persistence and courage to pursue her art in that era, against all odds is pretty amazing. Women in the arts are still overlooked in the art history world, and African American women even more so. But I found it equally fantastic that a son would carry on his fathers’ research to complete what is a relatively speaking obscure project. This is just the kind of story I’d love to have come across to set in a fictional context. Thanks so much for bringing it to our attention Jeri.

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    • A.K. I definitely agree that Edmonia’s story could provide an awesome basis for a fictionalized story. Though it may not be a book for everyone, I am very delighted to have read it.

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