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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Sculpture: 20th century: Ram
Bessie Stough Callender

Bessie Stough Callender

(born Wichita, KS 1889 -- died New York City 1951)

“. . . she stood in sabots with a huge chisel in her left hand and a heavy mallet in her right, chopping away at a block of marble until there emerged the graceful and animated form of a delicate and sensitive animal.” Harold Callender, Fun Tomorrow: The Story of an Artist and a Way of Life, 1953

Bessie Stough Callender was very modest about her artistic abilities. Although she was a gifted musician and painter, as well as a sculptor, Callender listed “housewife” as her occupation on her passport. In 1926, Callender moved to Paris, where, inspired by her lifelong love of animals---especially Boston terriers---she began studying with George Hilbert, one of the best-known animaliers (animal sculptors) in France. Though she produced a limited number of pieces, Callender’s work was well received and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. The artist died from lung cancer at age sixty-two, and her husband, Harold Callender, donated five of her works to the Smithsonian American Art Museum as a memorial. He also wrote a biography, Fun Tomorrow: The Story of an Artist and a Way of Life, to pay tribute to Callender’s indomitable spirit and the joy she took in living.

Image Credits: Courtesy Bessie S. Callender Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.