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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photo courtesy Sotheby's.

The Old Arrow Maker

Artist: Edmonia Lewis (1844 - 1907)
Date: modeled 1866, carved ca. 1872
20 x 14 x 14 in. (50.8 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm)
Medium: Marble
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2008.15
Not on View
Accession Number: 2008.15
ProvenancePrivate Collection; to (Sotheby's, New York, NY), May 22, 2008, sale no. N09449, lot 69; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2008
Label TextEdmonia Lewis, daughter of a Chippewa mother and an African American father, was educated at Oberlin College, the first college in the United States open to African Americans, Native Americans, and women, as well as to white men. She eventually made her way to Rome and created sculptures exploring racial themes in a neoclassical style based on classical Greek and Roman ideals.

The subject of this sculpture is a scene from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s bestselling epic poem, Song of Hiawatha (1855). The elderly father is a craftsman, and while he may be old, he is not portrayed, as Native Americans often were, as a doomed member of a vanishing race. Instead, he gazes with his daughter into the future. By giving father and daughter a craft, Lewis endowed them with the values of hard work and independence that her middle-class patrons admired.