Joel Tanner Hart


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Sculptor. A portrait specialist, he is particularly associated with likenesses of Henry Clay, whose features he reproduced in life-size and reduced versions made of marble, bronze, or plaster. Born on a farm near Winchester, Kentucky, as a teenager Hart worked as a stonemason. About 1835 he moved to Lexington, where he met Shobal Vail Clevenger who aided his development and inspired his efforts to become a full-time portrait sculptor. A sculpture of Andrew Jackson (Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, 1838) did much to establish his local reputation. His first model of Clay's visage (plaster cast, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, early 1840s) secured an 1845 commission from the Ladies Clay Association in Richmond, Virginia, for a full-length statue. After making additional studies of his subject, in 1849 Hart departed for Italy, where he established a studio in Florence. Various difficulties and distractions delayed the project until 1859, when the finished marble (state capitol, Richmond, Virginia) was shipped. Rather literal in its treatment of the standing figure, it nevertheless conveys quiet dignity. In 1860 Hart made his only return visit to the United States. Subsequently in Florence, he continued to turn out Clay memorabilia and maintained a steady business in portrait busts. He also tried his hand at a few ideal works, most notably a life-size nude, Woman Triumphant (also known as The Triumph of Chastity; 1864–77). Several years after his death, a group of Lexington women arranged for a marble version to be carved. Installed in the rotunda of the Fayette County courthouse, it was destroyed in an 1897 fire.

Subjects: Art.

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