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Wendt, Julia Bracken (1871–1942)

Wendt, Julia Bracken (1871–1942)

One of the leading women sculptors of the American West. Born Julia Bracken in Apple River, Illinois, on June 10, 1871; died in Los Angeles, California, in 1942; daughter of Andrew Bracken and Mary Bracken; attended the Art Institute of Chicago, 1887, and studied with Lorado Taft, 1887–92; married William Wendt (b. 1865, an artist), on June 26, 1906.

Major works:

Illinois Welcoming the Nations (1893) and The Three Graces: History, Science and Art (1914).

Julia Bracken Wendt was born into a large Irish Catholic family in 1871 in Apple River, Illinois, and moved with her parents to Galena in 1876. Her career began at 17, when she started work as one of Lorado Taft's female assistants, a group known as the "White Rabbits" which included other noted female sculptors Bessie Potter Vonnoh and Janet Scudder . Wendt worked with Taft for six years, making a name for herself as an independent artist in Chicago. In 1893, she was commissioned for a sculpture at the Illinois Pavilion at the Chicago World's Fair. She produced Illinois Welcoming the Nations, which was placed in the state capitol in Springfield.

Julia left Chicago in 1906 after her marriage to famous California painter William Wendt. They moved to Los Angeles and then to an art colony in Laguna Beach where they built a studio. Julia Wendt's sculptures in bronze, wood, and marble made her one of the more famous figures in the California art community, particularly her series of relief portraits of famous men of the century such as Tolstoy, Emerson, Lincoln, and William Morris. In 1911, she was commissioned to create one of her best-known pieces, an allegory sculpture for the rotunda of the Los Angeles County Museum called The Three Graces: History, Science and Art. Completed in 1914, the 11'-tall sculpture depicts three women in bronze holding aloft a globe illumined by electric light. It was the centerpiece of the rotunda for years until it was completely hidden by another exhibit in the 1950s. However, it was returned to a central place in the museum in the 1980s. Among the many honors Wendt received was a gold medal for sculpture at the 1915 San Diego Exposition. She also taught at the Otis Art Institute from 1918 to 1925. One of the most important Los Angeles sculptors of her day, Wendt died in 1942.

sources:

Bailey, Brooke. The Remarkable Lives of 100 Women Artists. Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, 1994.

Rubinstein, Charlotte Streifer. American Women Artists. NY: Avon, 1982.

Amy Cooper , M.A., M.S.I., Ann Arbor, Michigan

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