Meta Warrick Fuller

Meta Fuller was born on June 9, 1877, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents belong to the middle class, with her father being a barber and her mother was a hairdresser.  Her parents pushed her into the field of art by having he attend lessons in art, music, and dance. She was educated at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. Upon graduation, she moved to France where she studied at the Académie Colarossi for sculpting and École des Beaux-Arts for drawing. It is here that she studied under Auguste Rodin.  In Figure 5 we see Man Eating His Heart.

    Figure 5.  Meta Walker Fuller, born 1877. Man Eating His Heart, 1905-1906, Painted plaster, 7 x 3 x 2’

While studying under Rodin, Meta created the piece Man Eating His Heart also known as Secret Sorrow. She used this piece to focus on and express the theme of human suffering. It illustrates the internal sorrow one faces in one mind with individual thought and one mental state. It implies that one may come across a painful mental inner state with oneself however by going through a state like this we actually become stronger ourselves. The heart symbolizes this internal sorrow we face, and by eating it with a more figurative meaning of working through and over coming this sorrow, we grow to become stronger. The piece shows how our sufferings shape us into the humans that we are. Following her period of study in France, she returned to Philadelphia in 1902. It was here that she began to focus her art back on to black life within Philadelphia.  Over a period of time that involved a marriage, giving birth to three children, and work off and on focusing on different aspect of African Americans, Fuller returned to focus on her sculpting. On the 15th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Edmonia created her piece Spirit of

    Figure 6. Meta Walker Fuller, born 1877Spirit Emancipation, 1817, Sculpture

The piece features 3 figures, two females and a male, emerging from a tree of knowledge.  Unlike common art focusing on freed slaves at the time, the piece did not feature any chains or ideas of oppression.  It also did not feature any common images that she had used in previous pieces, such as whips, chains, slaves bowing to Lincoln. Instead if feature strong young individuals ready to go forth and rejuvenate the African American image as a strong and capable race that can overcome the challenges set before them. This was the start of Fuller’s most productive and influential time period. During this time period Fuller shifted her views from being a social observer creating working with loud imagery, Fuller began to start to use a subtitle technique in her social commentary. It was during this time period she created her most famous piece, Ethiopia Awakening.

Figure 7.  Meta Warrick Fuller, born  1877. Ethiopia Awakening.    1914, Bronze, 67 x 16 x 20.

The piece focuses on the idea of the connection between Africa and slavery. The name itself spurs the idea of an awakening of race awakening from a sleep and deprivation brought on by slavery, and calls out for African-American to reemerge. The Egyptian image connects African slaves back to their home continent, with the idea that they came from a strong and powerful nation before they were enslaved. The piece was used to illustrate the idea to shed the idea of slavery and suppression of blacks from Africa. Ethiopia for that matter was used because it was the only African nation to maintain its independence from European settlers. Meta continued to create art for the rest of her life, although like most artists she slowly faded and did less prestigious work.  Fuller passed away in 1968 in Massachusetts.

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