Image from Smithsonian Institution Libraries
From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Joel Tanner Hart, sculptor, was born near Winchester in Clark County, Kentucky, on February 10, 1810, to Josiah and Judith (Tanner) Hart. Because of his family's limited means, Hart received only three months of schooling. As a young man, he moved to Bourbon County, where he built stone walls and chimneys. At the age of twenty-one he was working in Pruden's marble yard in Lexington, where he carved headstones and monuments. There he met Shobal Vail Clevenger, a young sculptor from Cincinnati, who encouraged Hart to sculpt a marble bust of Cassius Marcellus Clay (now among the collections in the Margaret I. King Library at the University of Kentucky).
In 1838 Hart visited the Hermitage to sculpt Andrew Jackson. On his return to Lexington, Hart made busts of John J. Crittenden, Robert Wickliffe, and the Rev. Alexander Campbell . In 1845 he received a commission from the Ladies' Clay Association in Richmond, Virginia, for a full-length sculpture of Henry Clay to be placed in the Virginia state capitol. Hart traveled to Italy in September 1849 to transfer his plaster molds of the statue into marble, and he lived in Florence for the rest of his life, occasionally visiting the United States, London, and Paris. His invention for modeling the human form by means of measurements was patented in Great Britain and France.
In 1853 Hart submitted a sketch for a monument for the grave of Henry Clay in Lexington. The commission, however, went to architect Julius W. Adams, who used Hart's models for the head of the statue. In the mid-1850s William H. Lowery of New York City ordered a marble replica of Hart's bust of Clay, called Virginia Mourning Over Her Son. (Its name was later changed to Il Penseroso and it is now in the Margaret I. King Library at the University of Kentucky .) In 1857 Hart obtained a commission from the city of New Orleans for a bronze version of a statue of Clay that the state of Virginia had commissioned. The sculptures in both Richmond and New Orleans were unveiled on April 12, 1860. Hart was in New Orleans for the event. While he was in the United States, Hart was asked by the city of Louisville for another replica of Virginia's statue of Clay, which was placed in the Jefferson County Courthouse .
In 1869 Hart completed Morning Glory, another life-size neoclassical ideal sculpture. Of the two versions in marble, one is now in Louisville's Free Public Library and the other is in the collection of the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. Hart's masterpiece, Woman Triumphant, was begun in 1875. He died before its completion and George Saul, an English sculptor and former pupil of Hart, finished sculpting the figure. A marble replica of it in the Fayette County Courthouse was destroyed in a fire on May 14, 1897.
During his lifetime Hart was more zealous of his reputation as a poet than as a sculptor. Though not many of his verses were published while he was alive, he provided in his will for compiling and publishing them in book form. Manuscripts of many of his poems, including "Marathon" and "the Old And New Year," are in the collection of the Kentucky Library Archives at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green .
Hart died on March 2, 1877, in Florence, Italy. Eight years later his remains were brought to Frankfort, Kentucky, for reburial in the Frankfort Cemetery.
Selected Sources from UK Libraries:
Dearinger, David B. Joel Tanner Hart : American Sculptor. S..: S.n.], 1984. Print.NB237.H35 D4450 1984, Special Collections Research Center
Mitchell, Strother D. Joel T. Hart Scrapbook, 1877-1947. (1877). Print.50M64, Special Collections Research Center - Manuscripts Collection
Berry, Carrie Williams. Joel Tanner Hart. S.l.: S.n., 1900. Print. Beyond the Shelf, Serving Historic Kentuckiana through Virtual Access (IMLS LG-03-02-0012-02) ; B92-48-26951921.