Helen Farnsworth Mears

Year inducted: 2005
1876-1916

One of the best known sculptors in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Helen was born in Oshkosh. She was christened Nellie at birth, but took the name of an aunt who left her a legacy enabling her to go to the Chicago Art Institute. She received her first official commission from the State of Wisconsin at age 21 to create a heroic figure to be exhibited at the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893. Helen was apprenticed to the world famous sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens in New York, Paris and Italy. She studied at the Art Students’ League in New York during the time of the apprenticeship. She received many commissions and won medals for her work in several exhibitions. Despite what was certainly visible success and renown in her brief lifetime, her health deteriorated and she died in 1916. A newspaper article reporting on a posthumous exhibition of her work held at the Brooklyn Museum of Arts and Sciences states she was “hailed as a great genius,” with a particular gift for monumental sculpture. The largest collection of Helen’s sculpture is in the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh, part of the art collection of the Nathan Paine family.

Works by Helen Farnsworth Mears