[ née Potter, Bessie Onahotema ]
(b St. Louis, MO, Aug 17, 1872; d New York, March 8, 1955).
American sculptor. Vonnoh was known for small, distinctive compositions of women and children in dress of the period. Created in an impressionistic style, her sculptures capture the essence of her subjects. Born Bessie Onahotema Potter, she grew up in Chicago. In 1886, she entered the studio of the sculptor Lorado Taft and enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he served as instructor of modeling. Newly arrived from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Taft taught Vonnoh the latest French techniques and stylistic tendencies, including a fluid approach to form and the retention of the evidence of her touch. After she graduated in 1891, her education advanced with the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), where she exhibited her work and gained practical experience as one of the “White Rabbits;” a group of women who assisted Taft with the enlargement of sculptors’ models.
In 1894, a circle of artists and writers calling themselves “The Little Room” convened in Vonnoh’s Chicago studio. Discussions ensued on the merits of American subject matter and Impressionism, a movement in painting that used active brushwork to engage with contemporary life. Seeking a three-dimensional equivalent to Impressionism, Vonnoh modeled statuettes of women in the dress of the day with lively surfaces, cast them in plaster and delicately tinted them with color. Some she assigned titles such as ...