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In the Spring of 1863 we remember conversing most earnestly and encouragingly with the above mentioned young lady, then a student at Oberlin, with regard to art.
She had exhibited some signs of talent in drawing and painting; had evinced such enthusiasm for the art which adorns and ennobles that, from a kindred artistic love, we were led to advise her to seek the East, and by study prepare herself for work and further study abroad. Ten years have passed, and the half-Indian maiden has gained a reputation which many artists might envy; but has not, we trust, reached the highest round of the ladder which it has been her good fortune to climb. She is now revisiting her native land, bringing with her some of the works of her chisel. These are now on exhibition in San Francisco, and have received the praise of all art critics in that city. So eminent a character has Miss Lewis become that she has been “interviewed” by the Graphic correspondent, and criticized by an able writer in the Capital. Artists have never been noted for their generosity toward each other; on the contrary, their jealousies have rather been prominent. We are not surprised, then, that Miss Lewis should have indulged in some sharp criticism of her fellow craftswoman—Vinnie Ream.
Miss Ream’s friend, “R.J.R.,” above referred to, comes to her rescue gallantly, but by no means discourteously. In Miss Lewis, recognizing the latter’s merit, and only blaming her hasty judgment of the much-abused Vinnie.
We are aware that, in Italy Miss Lewis has enjoyed some advantages on account of the accident of complexion; has met encouragement, where she would not had she been white. We know that this was the case in Boston; but we are still painfully aware that, she has suffered many discouragements at the hand of her own fellow countrymen and women, which have tended to cripple her energies and clip the wings of her progress. The Marquis of Bute (Lothair) has assisted her; Charlotte Cushman, generous as she is gifted and great, has been her friend. Others have given her orders, because struck by the novelty of her work. What she needs however, is the assistance of her own race.; the patronage, the favorable mention of colored members of Congress when appropriations for artistic purposes are on foot. She certainly could not execute worse effigies than sundry statues which are supposed to adorn our Capital and Capitol.
We do not think Miss Lewis has done justice to herself in anything she has yet accomplished. The possibilities are there as [Michel]Angelo said, The statue is imprisoned in the marble, waiting only to be freed. Miss Lewis is young, has ability, and what is sometimes worth more, independence and a wonderful amount of courage.
Give her such orders as will allow her to devote her time to the severest and critical study; give her the opportunities which have helped to make Miss Stebbins, Miss Hosmer, and Miss Foley, all able and gifted women in their profession, and she will in a few years rank with any of them. We hope Miss Lewis will come East with her collection. Here in Washington she might meet with that encouragement in just and discriminating praise, or the more satisfactory encouragement of pecuniary aid, which we are afraid will not be found even in the El Dorado.
Transcribed but not proofread by A.H.