Joel Tanner Hart

(February 10, 1810 - March 2, 1877)

American sculptor, was born near Winchester, Kentucky and was a sculptor of importance during America's antebellum years. As a young man, he worked as a stone-cutter, developing his skills as a sculptor. In the 1840s he joined a growing artistic and literary community in Florence, Italy where he lived for the remainder of his life.

Joel Tanner Hart is best known for busts of 'Andrew Jackson' (1838) and 'Henry Clay' (1847). As well, he carved those of 'John Jordan Crittenden' and 'Cassius M. Clay' and created the statues called 'Il Penseroso' (1853) and 'Woman Triumphant' that stood at the Fayette County courthouse until it was destroyed by fire in 1897.

He also sculpted the bas-relief for the tombstone of 'Southwood Smith' in the English Cemetery in Florence. Hart died in Florence in 1877 and was buried in the same English Cemetery. By Legislative Act, his remains were later exhumed and returned to his native state of Kentucky for reinterment in the Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky. Wikipedia


Hart, Joel T. (Am.) Born in Kentucky (1810-1877). After a very slight common school education Hart was apprenticed to a stone-cutter in Lexington, Ky., where he began to model busts in clay. In 1849 he went to Florence, where he executed a marble statue of Henry Clay for the Ladies' Clay Association, which is erected in Louisville, Ky. He is also the author of a colossal bronze statue of Clay, standing on St. Charles and Canal streets, New Orleans. Mr. Probasco of Cincinnati has one of his portraits of Clay. He made busts and statues of many other eminent men. Among his ideal works are, "Charity," "Woman Triumphant," "Angelina," "Penserosa," etc. Mr. Hart had a vein of poetical sentiment which he sometimes expressed in verse. He was a faithful friend, and in his long residence in Florence gained the confidence and respect of many who knew him there.

"Hart had a delicate perception of the beauty of form and the faculty of reproducing it, skill in imitation, but little power of ideal invention. He excelled as a maker of portrait busts."-- Italian Letter to New York Times, March 30, 1877.

"Speaking of Mr. Hart's 'Woman,' I am reminded that he had begun its composition when I was in his studio in 1866. It was his highest ambition to put into marble his ideal of the Christian woman, a triumph over the Pagan, sensual, and earthly woman of ancient art; on this idea, which required the loftiest power of human genius to produce anything that should express the sentiment, he wrought intently the last twelve or fifteen years of his life. He aimed at a perfect woman, and of course never realized his ideal. . . He never satisfied himself. Even after he had done his best and had given up his model to the graver to be put into marble, he would work it over again and again, and so his life wore out with his work, and he died a year ago, leaving his perfect woman imperfect even in his own esteem." — IRENÆUS, Letter to New York Observer, January 24, 1878.

[Artists of the Nineteenth Century, Works & Biographical Sketches. Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879.]


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