On this day in 1866, Lavinia Ream became the first female artist to receive a commission from the U.S. government
July 28, 2023
An event every year that begins at 12:00 am on day 28 of July, repeating indefinitely
On this day in 1866, Lavinia (“Vinnie”) Ream became the first female artist to receive a commission from the U.S. government. Her project? A full-body statue of the recently deceased Abraham Lincoln. The piece still stands in the Capitol Rotunda today.
A child prodigy, Ream was only 18 at the time of the commission, making her the youngest artist to receive a congressional commission. In part, she was chosen for the project as she had done a portrait bust of Lincoln from life two years prior. After her Capitol project, Ream went on to produce impressive statues of Samuel Jordan Kirkwood and Sequoyah as well.
Did you know? According to Ream, Lincoln at first refused to sit for a portrait, only agreeing when he heard of the youth and humble origins of the teenage sculptor.
Vinnie Ream with her bust of Abraham Lincoln, c. 1860s.