Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877 – 1968), one of the first nationally recognized African-American female sculptors, is best known for her work celebrating Afrocentric themes. Born June 9, 1877 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, her career as an artist began when at 16 years old, one of her high school projects was chosen for inclusion in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Based on her exemplary work, she won a scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts). In 1898, Fuller traveled to Paris, France where she studied at the Ećole des Beaux-Arts and became a protégé of Auguste Rodin. Returning to Philadelphia in 1902, members of its arts scene rejected Fuller because of racial discrimination. Despite this, she became the first African-American woman to receive a U.S. government commission to create several dioramas depicting African-American historical events for the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition in 1907.
In 1909, she married Dr. Solomon Fuller, the first psychiatrist of African descent to practice in the U.S. The couple moved to Framingham, Massachusetts, where Dr. Fuller was employed at the Westborough Psychiatric Hospital. Fuller continued to exhibit her work until her last show at Howard University in 1961. In Framingham, a middle school is named after the Fullers.
Fuller’s work is a precursor to the Harlem Renaissance. She is heralded for her groundbreaking depictions of the African and African American experience. Ethiopia Awakening, depicting the history and expectations of African Americans, was exhibited at New York City’s Making of America festival in 1922. Ethiopia is in the permanent collection of the Schomburg Center.
- Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance (1997) by Richard J. Powell and David A. Bailey
- Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America (1994) by Mary Schmidt Campbell
- 250 years of Afro-American Art: An Annotated Bibliography by Lynn Moody Igoe with James Igoe. New York: Bowker, 1981.
By Christopher Moore