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Henry Dexter

DEXTER, Henry, sculptor, born in Nelson, Madison County, New York, 11 October 1806; died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 23 June 1876. His father died when Henry was a child, and in 1817 he removed with his family to Pomfret, Connecticut, where he worked on a farm, and was afterward indentured to a blacksmith. After serving his apprenticeship he married, and began business for himself, continuing in it seven years. He excelled as a worker in metals, and often attributed his subsequent power of using the chisel to tiffs early training. The occupation had always been distasteful to him, however, and, determining to become an artist, he went to Providence, R. i., where, though self-taught, he had some success as a portrait painter. He removed in 1836 to Boston, and in the following year to Cambridge, where he passed the remainder of his life. His attention was turned to sculpture about 18/0, and he afterward confined himself to that art. He may be named with Crawford, Powers, and Hart as a pioneer of American sculpture; but, unlike them, he never left this country, holding with Pahner that it was not necessary for American artists to go to Italy either for inspiration or for instruction, and that our artists who live abroad lose their claim to be called distinctively American. Mr. Dexter never saw a sculptor model in clay, nor chisel the marble, until years after he was a master in his art. He achieved special success in his portrait busts, of which he made nearly 200. His first marble bust was that of Mayor Samuel Eliot, of Boston. His " Binney Child," in Mount Auburn cemetery, is said to be the first marble statue executed in this .country. In 1860 he modeled the busts of all the governors of the United States then in office, with the exception of the governors of California and Oregon, giving about a. week to each, and traveling 17,000 miles. The collection, numbering thirty-one busts, was intended for the capitol at Washington, but the civil war prevented the consummation of his plan. Other portrait busts by his hand are those of Charles Dickens, Longfellow, Agassiz, Henry Wilson, and Anson Burlingame. His statues include "Tile Backwoodsman," now at Wellesley College (1847); "The Cushing Children " (1848); "Gen. Joseph Warren at Bunker Hill" (1857); and " Nymph of the Ocean " (1870).

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