Sculptor. She was an American sculptor during the 19th century, who at the age of 18, was the first woman and youngest person to receive a commission from the United States Congress for a statue. Her most recognized piece is her 1869 memorial statue of United States President Abraham Lincoln, which stands in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. It was unveiled in January of 1871. She received recognition for her busts of several congressmen and other prominent persons, which led in 1864 to an offer from Congress for her to sculpt a bust of Lincoln, with him being a live model a half-hour each day for five months. She was nearly completed with the bust when Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865. Although some critics stated that she was too young and a female to create a full-size statue, she had the experience with this subject as she had successfully created Lincoln's bust. In this era, the nation was divided by sexual chauvinism or regional political rivalries. Her full-size detailed statue, "Unfathomable Sorrow," has Lincoln solemnly looking down at his right hand holding the Emancipation Proclamation, the 1863 document freeing all the slaves in the United States. She has Lincoln gripping in his left hand the edge of his cape that is falling off his shoulder in deep-layered folds. She received a total of $10,000 for this commission. Born the Lavinia Ellen Ream, she was the youngest of three children of a federal government surveyor, Robert Lee Ream and his Lavania Ellen McDonald. Her father was the youngest son of Revolutionary War patriot, John Fredrick Ream. She exhibited artistic talents early in life. Her grandfather served in the American Revolutionary War. With her father's employment, her family moved from Wisconsin, to Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and other places before settling in Washington, D.C as the America Civil War started. She studied at the Art Academy, a division of the Christian College of Columbia in Missouri. During the American Civil War, she studied with sculptor Clark Mills in his studio in Washington, D.C. With her father's decline in health, she worked during the American Civil War in the dead letter department of the Washington, D.C. post office until she was able to earn an income from sculpturing fulltime. Later, she studied in Paris with Léon Bonnat and in Rome with Luigi Majoli. Traveling to Rome, she used her full-size plastered model of Lincoln to carve into a block of Carrara marble with the help of skilled Italian stonecarvers. While in Europe, she created a bust of well-known French book illustrator, Paul-Gustave Doré; French theologian, Père Hyacinthe; Hungarian Composer, Franz Liszt and Roman Catholic Cardinal Antonelli. She married Lieutenant Richard Hoxie in 1878. In 1881 she completed a statue of United States Admiral David G. Farragut, a veteran of the American Civil War, who was known for his Battle of Mobile order, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" Farragut's statue, which was the first major of many statues of him, is exhibited at the well-known Washington landmark, Farragut Square. After being in a tight competition with several other well-known artists, she received a $2,000 commission for the Farragut statue. She was placed on restrictions by her husband, who did not want his wife to work as a sculptor, thus she did not create for decades. Her husband had a successful military career reaching the rank of Brigadier General. The couple had a home on Farragut Square, where she was a well-respected hostess. In 1883 the couple had a son, Richard. Her bronze statue of Samuel Jordan Kirkwood was given to the National Statuary Hall Collection by the State of Iowa in 1913. The State of Iowa had commissioned her early to do the statue of Kirkwood, who had been the abolitionist Governor and the United States Senator from Iowa. The second work, commissioned in 1912, is the bronze statue of Sequoyah, the Native American recognized for inventing the written alphabet for the Cherokee language. After Ream's death in 1914, George Zolnay completed the statue; it was donated in 1917 to the National Statuary Hall Collection by the State of Oklahoma. From 1863 to 1867, she was an accomplished portrait painter, executing the likeness of General Ulysses S. Grant, Ohio Senator John Sherman, General George Custer, and Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens. In 1980 the United States Postal Service issued as part of the "Women's Series," a First Day stamp honoring her using the portrait painted by her. A city in Oklahoma, Vinita, is named in her honor. Her oil-on-canvas portrait dated about 1870 by George Peter Alexander Healy was one of several portraits of this petite young lady with long dark curly hair. The National League of Pen Women presents an annual award, the Vinnie Ream Medal, to women who have excelled in the categories of "Art, Letters, Music, and Multi-discipline." The National League of Pen Women building in Washington, D.C. houses many of her belongings in the Vinnie Ream Room. The "Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine" published in 1973 the article "Vinnie Ream." In 2002, the Public Broadcasting Service aired "Vinnie Ream: Lincoln's Young Sculptor." The American Art Museum displays Ream's statue of Sappho from her days in Europe. She also completed a replica of her sculpture "Sappho," which marks her and her husband's grave site. George Zolnay created the bas relief on the base of Ream's grave monument at Arlington Cemetery. She died from renal failure.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Richard Leveridge Hoxie