Home Art Photos Reviews Speeches Media Debate References Video Links Contact Buy

Articles about Vinnie Ream

New York Times -- January 7, 1871


Exhibition to the Secretary of the Interior -- Description of the Statue-- Merits as a Work of Art -- Miss Reams at Rome.
From Our Own Correspondent.
Washington, Saturday, Jan.7, 1871.

The Secretary of the Interior, on the invitation of Miss VINNIE REAM, paid a visit to the rotunda of the Capitol this morning, and was shown her statue of President LINCOLN. Members of the Press were informed of the exhibition, and many of them, and such members of Congress and other persons as happened to be about the Capitol at the time, witnessed the only exhibition of the work that will be permitted until the formal presentation to Congress. The reason that this special invitation was extended to the Secretary of the Interior, was that he was the officer appointed by the law giving MISS REAM the commission to carry it into effect. It is with him, as the agent o the Government, that the contract was made, and to him it must be formally fulfilled.

The statue is the size of life. It stands on a pedestal of lightly-clouded marble, which bears the simple inscription, ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Mr. LINCOLN is represented as standing with the right foot a little forward of the life, on which the weight of the body is thrown, bending slightly the right knee. A cloak, hanging loosely on the right shoulder has slipped from the left, till the hem reaches to the feet, and is held from slipping lower by the left hand, which falls by his side. The right hand is extended forward a few inches, and holds a roll, containing the emancipation proclamation. The head is bent forward and the look is downward, as if Mr. LINCOLN were speaking with a person of less stature than himself.

The expressions of those who saw the statue were unanimous in approval, and Miss REAM was warmly congratulated on the success which she had attained. In many instances, perhaps in most, the congratulations were from personal friends, and were the utterances of an earnest, kindly interest in the artist -- for so she may truly be called -- and the approbation expressed wasnot intended to be, and would not be, accepted as just criticism.


Mr. LINCOLN is a subject presenting uncommon difficulties to the sculptor who attempts more than a bust, and difficulties impossible to overcome so as to conquer admiration. Realistic treatment is sure to displease those who, remembering only the beautiful, noble soul of the man, expect in the form which enshrined it gracefulness and beauty. On the other hand, GREENOUGH'S WASHINGTON is a lasting warning to those who would attempt the ideal. No statue of LINCOLN -- andthere are several -- has met with generalfavor, and some of them, notably the Union Square, New York, have been favorite subjects of ridicule. And Miss REAM's statue will undoubtedly receive more or less adverse criticism. It is a conscientious, painstaking, loving effort of a young woman, not devoid of artistic perception, and even genius to present Mr. LINCOLN as he actually appeared, and on the dress he habitually wore. He might have looked better clad in the Greek chalmys or the Roman toga. Probably the old Continental military uniform, the next favorite costume of the sculptor, would not have become him more. In either dress he would not have been Mr. LINCOLN. So if Miss REAM has not evoked from the marble a figure of striking beauty, so that she has fashioned truthfully the President, certainly it is not she who is in fault. The marble is a beautiful piece from Carrarra, and is almost entirely colorless.


It would be foolish adulation to pronounce the statue a great work of art, and probably Miss REAM would not thank any one for doting so. It may be or it may not be. The test of time will only determine that. But that it is a contribution of real value to the portraiture of its subject cannot be doubted. Houdon's statue of WASHINGTON is not a great work except in its faithfulness; but for how much would the American people part with it. The giving of a commission of such importance to a young lady of only two years not very instructive experience in the study of art was possibly deserving of censure. But there will be few now found to express regret, or who will not be, indeed, glad. Not all the attempts of our Government to encourage and aid seeming artistic endowment, have found so worthy return.


VINNIE REAM went to Europe nearly two years ago, accompanied by her parents. her time was chiefly spent in Rome, though she traveled extensively on the Continent. She was in Paris three months. She did not content herself with simply executing the commission of the Government. An ideal work called "Sappho"of life size, and the "Spirit of the Carnival," a girl throwing flowers, of half lifesize, were her first works while abroad, and they are now to be put in marble in Italy. Two of her earliest models she carried with her, and they are also being put in marble. Besides, at Paris, she modeled busts of DORK and Pere HYACINTHE; at Munich, HAULBACH, the celebrated German painter, who painted the famous Berlin frescoes; at Rome, LISTZ, and Cardinal ANTONELLI; at Vienna, JOHN JAY, and at London Mr. SPURGEON. These were all modeled from sittings by the different persons. From several of these personages MISS REAM has valuable souvenirs. ANTONELLI gave her among other things, a locket, with the head of Christ exquisitely cut in stone cameo. DORE presented her with a drawing on wood of one of his Bible pictures, "Judith." She received kindly encouragement from the aged portrait-painter HEALY, Mr. STOKES, JOHN JAY, our Minister at Vienna, and others.

Miss REAM's path has not been a pleasant one. What artist's has? She has fairly earned her admittance into that fraternity, the struggles of whose members ought to make them all friends. Let her persevere: there is much in art for her to learn, and she can master it if she will esteem lightly what she has already attained, but, as of much greater consequence, what, to her own labor, the future will easily yield.
New York Times -- January 25, 1871


Unvailing Miss Ream's Statue of the Late Mr. Lincoln -- Speeches by Prominent Members of Congress
WASHINGTON, Jan.25 -- The unvailing of Miss Reams's statue of LINCOLN took place tonight, in the Rotunda of the Capitol, which was brilliantly illuminated and decorated with flags. One of them, made of California silk, was suspended over the statue. President Grant, Vice- President Colfax, Gen. Sherman, Judge Davis, the Committees on Public Buildings and Grounds, and the orators of the occasion occupied seats on the platform. There was a very large audience, including Judges of the Supreme Court and members of Congress, with their families. After music by the Marine Band, Senator Morrill, of Vermont, said that four years ago a little girl was employed in the Post office, at $600 a year, bus she had faith that she could do something better. Congress gave her an order to execute a statue of the late President LINCOLN. That statue and the artist were now before the spectators. Judge Davis of the Supreme court then, according to the program, proceeded slowly to unvail the statue, which was covered with the national flag. As soon as this was done the assembly broke forth in applause.

Senator Trumbull, of Illinois, in the course of his remarks, said that previous to the passage of the act by Congress giving to Miss Ream the execution of this work, a number of persons had made statuettes and heads of LINCOLN, and she also made a bust from sittings by LINCOLN. This bore such a striking resemblance to LINCOLN that congress ordered from her a statue of life size. After giving a brief account of the artist and her personal history, and of her visit to Rome, he said she succeeded in procuring a block of marble without a stain -- a fitting emblem of the pure character and spotless life of him the statue is intended to represent. Although LINCOLN was often seen in a happy frame of mind, there were periods with him of great depression, and melancholy seemed to have marked him for her own. When burdened with thought his countenance always had a pensive expression, and this was what the artist had endeavored to preserve in marble. Perhaps the highest compliment he could pay as he gazed upon the statue was the readiness to acclaim --"This is Mr Lincoln" -- others wouldjudge of the execution of the artist.

Gen Banks commenced his remarks with the assertion that the incidents which distinguished the Presidential course of Mr LINCOLN were greater than any which occurred since the foundation of the Government. Lincoln had greater capacities than those attached to ordinary men. He discharged his duties with such earnestness sincerity and success, as to enroll his name with the great civil administrators. The great cause of his success was the welfare of all men. In the very beginning of the war, at a time when party spirit ran high. LINCOLN was with difficulty prevented from making a visit to Gen McClellan in Maryland, by which he would have periled his safety.

It was not to embarrass the general with impracticable suggestions, but to give advice in relation to personal welfare. "I want McClellan to succeed," he said, "for his success is our success." Lincoln had no personal animosities. Those who differed from him were not necessarily estranged from him. He always counted on reconciliation. It was this quality that drew to him the hearts of all classes of the people. It was just that his figure of enduring marble should be placed in he Capitol to remind us and our successors of the virtue, character, success and devotion to the principles which be advocated and defended and died in maintaining.

Representative Brooks, of New York, said: It was appropriate that, in unvailing a statue like this, a Democrat should be given an opportunity to express for himself and associates their common interest both in the map and in the monument -- thememorial of the man. He who acted so foremost a part as Mr LINCOLN in that portion of our history -- the most exciting andmost perilous, save that of our revolutionary era -- is entitled, not only to such a memorial as this, but to have it placed hereunder the great dome of its Capitol. We have no Parthenon, no Pantheon, no Vatican, no Pinakothek nor no Westminster Abbey, wherein to entomb our illustrious men or to erect statues to their honor. Yet the time is coming, nay, it is in part come, when this Rotunda, and the surrounding halls and grounds, will be filled with pictures, paintings, frescoes, statuary, bronzes, friezes, bas reliefs, and other monuments of the world's memorable men. But the work here that we are unvailing is the double memorial of not only a Chief Magistrate in the prime of life, foully shot down, but the memorial of a woman's handwork -- awoman's plasticart. The Parthenon, the Vatican, the great museums of Paris, London, and Berlin bring over to our eyes the works of some Phidias or Praxiteles of antiquity, but they show us no marble monuments, busts or statues the finger work of the fairer sex, while here in this Rotunda we now see the equal rights of woman, if not with the ballot, with the pencil, to chisel, the artistic instruments, to perpetuate the human form divine. Fortunate the man thus sculptured! Fortunate even in the calamities of his country, for in a restored Union he lived to survive them all, fortunate in the trying hours of his death as he is thus forever consecrated to the Republic by his martyrdom, immortalized among all mankind; fortunate, too, on being thus handed down to posterity by a woman's love of a noble art, one of the few immortal names that were not born to die.

Senator Carpenter, of Wisconsin, said that, passing by the artists of world wide fame, Congress employed a young girl to execute the statue. The selection of the artist was most fortunate. Sculptors, generally, patterned after ancient models, their productions resembling neither men nor gods; and, as an illustration, he referred to Greenought statue of Washington in the East Capitol grounds, it having been compared to an Englishman just from the bath. It looked no more like Washington than a prize-fighter. Art had completely triumphed over nature. He spoke of the freedom of the West, which was not trammeled by the education of the foreign schools, and claimed for the address of Mr. Lincoln at the dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery, greater eloquence than the oration of Edward Everett. He eulogized the Western artist for having given to the country a true representation of Lincoln. The statue was satisfactory. Judge Davis, for many years the personal friend of Mr. Lincoln, authorized him to say so. TO the fascinating, dark eyed damsel, he expressed his own and the thanks of the people of Wisconsin. To the President, Vice President, the Judges of the Supreme Court, the heads of Departments, the high official officers, military and naval heroes, the matrons and belles and beauties of the audience, he now presented the artist, Miss Ream.

This lady, as the Senator uttered the concluding words, stepped upon the platform, bowed and retired followed by the applause of the assemble.

The crowd lingered some time in the Rotunda examining the statue. A number of colored persons availed themselves of the same opportunity.

Rededication of Memorial Statue to Admiral Farragut

Mark Twain'sletter about Vinnie Ream

Paul Sloca's API article