BORN: Dec. 21, 1872, Oshkosh, WI
Died: Feb. 17, 1916, NYC, NY
Helen Farnsworth Mears was born in Oshkosh on December 21, 1871, the youngest of John and Mary Elizabeth Mears' three daughters. The entire family was extremely creative and their home a nurturing place for the budding artist. A shed in their back yard became Helen's "studio" and her father even fashioned special sculpting tools for her to use.
Helen showed artistic ability at an early age. Family friends recalled that as early as three or four years old Helen would sit in her highchair and bite her bread into animal shapes, like cats and dogs. At eight years old Helen won first place at the Winnebago County Fair for a small head of Apollo that she fashioned out of clay. Helen's sculptures gained national recognition and today she is still considered one of Wisconsin's premier sculptors.
While studying under Lorado Taft at the Chicago Art Institute, Helen was commissioned to do a figure, entitled Genius of Wisconsin, to represent Wisconsin at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The nine-foot marble sculpture now stands in the Wisconsin State Capitol. A five-hundred-dollar prize from the General Federation of Women's Clubs-Wisconsin enabled Helen to study in New York under one of the most famous and respected sculptors of the time, Augustus Saint Gaudens. She later worked and studied in Europe.
Helen resumed work i...