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The Lesbian Art Colony in Rome in the Nineteenth Century

Matylda Hays and Charlotte Cushman

According to several historians, Lesbian artists didn’t exist before 1970, but in fact, different lesbian artists worked in the nineteenth century, specially in Italy.

The reason that these women became anonymous is simple, homophobia and sexism where part of the society.

Europe had a reputation of being a place where artists could reach their potential, some of them preferred France or Italy.

In Italy, Rome was one of the cities where artists could demonstrate their art.

Different lesbian artists arrived in Rome searching inspiration and in Rome they found another woman with the same passion, that group of women became a sisterhood.

The group settled up in a neighborhood near Rome, between the artists in the group were Emma Stebbins and her partner Charlotte Cushman, Mary Edmonia Lewis, Harriet Hosmer and Anne Whitney.

The style used by the artists was neo-classical, producing sculptures of of great woman as Cleopatra.

Emma Stebbins

One of the love stories in that sisterhood was the one by Emma Stebbins and Charlotte Cushman.

They met in Rome and there is where Emma fell in love with the actress Charlotte Cushman, after that, they started to travel together and they became part of the circle of lesbian artists in Rome.

A few years later Charlotte died from cancer, but Emma stayed by her side all the time. In fact Emma, after Charlotte’s death never did another sculpture, se only wrote a book including the letters and memories of Charlotte.

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