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Sat, 06.09.1877

Meta V.W. Fuller, sculptor of Black themes

Meta Fuller

*This date marks the birth of Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller in 1877. She was an African American sculptor and one of the earliest studio artists to depict Black themes.

Fuller was born in Philadelphia, grew up in a upper middle class home, receiving lessons in art, music, dance, and horseback riding.  After one of her high school projects was selected to be part of the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition, her career as an artist began. She received a three-year scholarship to the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, followed by a one-year postgraduate fellowship. In September 1899, Fuller studied in Paris and received private guidance from prominent sculptor Auguste Rodin who was an especially significant early supporter.

Meta Vaux Warrick works often-portrayed dramatic and even grotesque figures and were praised for their force and power. When she decided to return to the United States in October 1902, she found the art world in her hometown unwilling to accept her.  In 1907 Fuller became the first Black woman artist to receive a federal commission for her art.  In 1910, a fire in a Philadelphia warehouse destroyed 16 years' worth of work, including everything she had created in Paris. Over the next few decades, Fuller became known for pieces that celebrated African and African American history, struggle, and heritage.  Other Black writers, musicians, and artists that began in New York in the 1920s sometimes remember Fuller as a Harlem Renaissance artist because her work from this period coincided with the flowering of art.

In 1950 Fuller temporarily retired from sculpting, to care for her ill husband and to recover from her own tuberculosis. But by the late 1950s she had returned, creating a bust of educator Charlotte Hawkins Brown and other notable Black women. In the 1960s, Fuller sculpted works that reflected her support of the American Civil Rights Movement. Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller reflected the spirit of a woman who created bold, dramatic work that took new chances in African American art.

By the time she passed away in 1968 at the age of 90, Fuller had spent more than 70 years creating art and had become one of the most innovative Black artists of the twentieth century.

The St. James Guide to Black Artist
Edited by Thomas Riggs
Copyright 1997, St. James Press, Detroit, MI
ISBN 1-55862-220-9

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