Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller was born June 9th, 1877, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a family of black elites within an affluent and influential community. As a young girl she was trained in art, music, dance, and horseback riding; her family stressed education and cultural enrichment. She was selected as one of the few students to attend J. Liberty Tadd’s art school, instead of attending a Philadelphia public school. In 1893 as a high-school student one of her art projects was chosen to be displayed in the World’s Columbian Exposition. She was later awarded a scholarship to attend the Pennsylvania Museum & School of Industrial Art in 1894. While attending the Pennsylvania Museum & School of Industrial Art, she learned and mastered the skill of sculpting. Fuller would start to show her artistically rebellious spirit, she broke out of the traditional themes of feminine art which was expected of female artist. She began to create pieces which would reflect frightening imagery; she was showing independence which was rarely shown by female artist. In 1898 Fuller graduated from the Pennsylvania Museum & School of Industrial Art, she also earned a teaching certificate.
In 1899 she left home and traveled to Paris, France, to study with Raphael Collin at the Academie Colarossi and the Ecole des Deaux-Arts. While in Paris Fuller was confronted with racism, she was refused lodging at a hotel where she had already made reservations. She would find help from a family friend, the Painter Henry Ossawa Tanner who found lodging for her and acquainted her with his colleagues. Fuller was flourishing as a sculptor; she was finding inspiration from the art of Augustine Rodin. Her art was beginning to resemble the images of human suffering; she gained the name “the delicate sculptor of horrors.” Fuller earned the privilege of becoming the protégé of Augustine Rodin, and also gained the friendship of W.E.B. Dubois. Rodin helped mold a genius of a sculptor, while Dubois encouraged her to incorporate more African concepts into her art. Fuller’s art was being displayed in galleries all over Paris; she even earned herself a one-woman exhibition sponsored by Samuel Bing. The Salon de l’Art Nouveau exhibited two of Fullers works, The Wretched, and The Impenitent Thief, in 1903 before her return to the United States.
As Fuller returned to Philadelphia, she was met with racism once again, she was not welcomed within the local art scene because she was black. Despite the racism, she was commissioned to create dioramas of African-American historical events for the James Town Tercentennial Exposition and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts In 1906. She was the first African-American woman to receive a U.S. Commission. Fuller earned more art exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1908 and 1920. The Boston Library hosted one of Fullers exhibitions in 1922; she also exhibited at the Tanner League at Dunbar High School in Washington D.C. She would later face financial troubles in life along with enduring a fire which almost destroyed all of her work for the last 16 years. She did not receive the same artistic nurturing in Philadelphia that she received in Paris. She had begun to lose her passion for her art. March 13, 1968 Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller died in Framingham, Massachusetts at the age of 80. Fuller is regarded as the first artist to celebrate afrocentricity within her art; she was one of the forerunners of the Black Renaissance. Because of Fuller and several contemporaries positive art depicting Africa and African-Americans were beginning to flourish. Mrs. Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, we stand on your shoulders.
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