Hiram Powers

HIRAM POWERS, sculptor, was born in Woodstock, Vermont, July 29, 1805. He was the eighth child of a family of nine, and his parents were plain country people, who cultivated a little farm. He acquired such education as the district school afforded, and he also found leisure to get some knowledge of divers kinds of handicraft, among which was the art of drawing. His father finding it difficult to maintain his family upon his farm removed to Ohio, where he shortly after died, and the future artist was thrown upon his own resources. He set out for Cincinnati to seek his fortune, and found employment in a reading-room connected with one of the principal hotels of the city, and afterwards became clerk in a produce store, where he remained until his principal failed. He then found a situation with a clockmaker, by whom he was employed in collecting debts, and afterwards in the mechanical part of the business but, although this employment was not disagreeable to him, he aspired to some higher branch of the arts. In Cincinnati, he made the acquaintance of a Prussian, who was engaged upon a bust of general Jackson, and with some little instruction in the art of modeling obtained from him, Mr. Powers was soon able to produce busts in plaster of considerable merit , in fact one of his earliest he has declared, himself, to have been unsurpassed in likeness and finish by any of his later works. He then felt that his vocation was the arts, and he formed a connection with the Western Museum at Cincinnati, where, for about seven years, he superintended the artistic department, such as wax-work shows etc. After leaving this place he visited Washington in 1835, hoping to gain some reputation as an artist, which would enable him to increase his business, and furnish him the means of visiting Italy. In this he was not disappointed. After spending some time in the capital engaged in taking the busts of the most eminent men of the day, he was enabled, by the liberality of Mr. N. Longworth, to accomplish his long-cherished scheme and in 1837 he landed in Florence. For some time after his arrival he continued to devote himself principally to busts, but he soon determined to employ his spare time on the production of an ideal work; the subject determined upon was Eve.' Just before the model of this statue was completed, Mr. Powers received a visit from the celebrated Thorwalsden, who was then passing through Florence. He expressed himself in terms of high admiration of the artist's busts; and, in reference to these, declared Powers to be the greatest sculptor since Michael Angelo. The statue of Eve' also excited his admiration and to the artist's apology that it was his first statue, he replied that any man might well be proud of it, as his last. When the model of Eve' was completed, he began the Greek Slave,' which was finished in eight months. This, the best known and most admired of all Mr. Powers' works, has been exhibited throughout the United States, and at the Great Exhibition at London. There are two copies in existence besides the original, one of which recently formed one of the prizes distributed by the Western ArtUnion. Among some of his finest works are portraits of Jackson, Webster, Adams, Calhoun, Chief-Justice Marshall and many persons of less eminence. He has also produced some ideal busts; the Proserpine' is one of the finest.