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Abastenia St. Leger Eberle


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Sculptor. Humanitarian concerns inspired her characteristic small bronzes naturalistically depicting lower-class children and women. Influenced by reformer Jane Addams and the turn-of-the-century Progressive movement, Eberle admired what she perceived as the vitality and uninhibited zest for life in New York's tenement culture. Like contemporary Ashcan School painters, she employed a vigorous, anti-academic style suitable to her genre subjects. Girls Dancing (Corcoran Gallery, 1907) exemplifies the spirited animation of her best works. Two girls holding hands swirl in movement, their hair and dresses flying. In the energetic Windy Doorstep (Peabody Art Collection, State of Maryland, 1910), wind tosses the long skirt of a woman wielding a broom. Born in Webster City, Iowa, Mary Abastenia St. Leger Eberle spent her childhood primarily in Canton, Ohio. After a year with her family in Puerto Rico, in 1899 she entered the Art Students League for three years of study. George Gray Barnard and Kenyon Cox numbered among her teachers. Between 1904 and 1906 she collaborated on several sculptural groups with studio-mate Anna Hyatt Huntington. She visited Italy in 1907 and again in 1908 and Paris in 1913. From 1907 she lived and worked much of the time on New York's Lower East Side, where she acted on her belief in the artist's social responsibility by devoting her art to themes derived from the lives of the unfortunate. Although art professionals admired her achievements, her social radicalism positioned her work outside public taste. From 1909 she summered at Woodstock, and in 1913 she exhibited in the Armory Show. Although she completed a few later pieces, increasingly severe heart problems effectively ended her career by 1920. In later years, she spent most of her time in Westport, Connecticut. She died in New York.

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