PAINTING AND SCULPTURE, 1820-1865

Henry T. Tuckerman, whose Book of the Artists ( 1867) was the most inclusive and representative work on what was then contemporary American creation, expressed little surprise that artists should emerge from the Ohio Valley or from even more recently settled parts of the West. But Maine was another matter! That the sculptor Paul Akers had been born at Saccarappa and raised at Salmon Falls (only a few miles from Portland) made Tuckerman marvel at "the obscure and isolated unfolding" of a "gifted soul" in such a "scene of primitive toil."

Akers's concern with working in the round was encouraged by his father's "toil": the parent was a wood turner, and the lad executed on the family lathe "original designs," "beautiful toys." However, the sculpture of his mature years was not a further outgrowth of his environment but rather the most promising of successive efforts to escape. While still young, he had substituted Paul for his given name, Benjamin, in acceptance of the jeers of his contemporaries who, angered by his criticism of their games and their profanity, had mocked him as "St. Paul."

Sculpture was then the most exotic of American arts: its practitioners commonly resided in Italy, where marble and assistants skilled at fashioning it were easily available. Although Akers modeled many portrait heads in Washington, D.C., he carried the clays to Florence to be "finished in marble." His ambitious works--Una and the Lion, Diana and Endymion, Lost Pearl-Diver--were completely executed abroad in the cold, meticulous neo-classical idiom then internationally rampant. Akers returned to Maine only when, too sick for further expatriation, he was slipping toward his early demise. His Reuel Williams seems to date from this final phase of his career.

The other Maine-born sculptor to achieve distinction between 1820 and 1865, Edward Augustus Brackett, was less addicted to Italy than

____________________
An earlier version of this essay appeared in A. Hyatt Mayor and Mark Davis, American Art at the Century ( New York: The Century Association, 1977), pp. xv-xxvi.

-119-

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