Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (June 9, 1877 – 18 March 1968) was an African-American sculptor, whose career lasted more than seventy years. Fuller is considered the leading woman artist of the Harlem Renaissance; although she both pre-dated and out-lived it. She was known as a multi-talented artist who wrote poetry, painted, and sculpted. Fuller created work with strong social commentary; depicting black figures before other Black artists embraced racial themes. Her sculptural works in bronze, clay, and plaster represented her comments on America’s racism and violence and the African-American experience.
In Paris, Fuller earned a reputation as “the delicate sculptor of horrors,” with such work as Secret Sorrow (1901) and The Wretched (1902). She is also recognized as the first African-American to specifically address the savagery of lynch mob in her work, by sculpting, In Memory of Mary Turner: As a Silent Protest Against Mob Violence. Fuller’s painted plaster tribute to Mary Turner stands fifteen inches high, twenty including a base that contains an inscription. She worked on the sculpture in 1918 and 1919 and possibly again in 1931. The little statue meant a lot to her because when her health began to fail in the early 1960s, she made sure that it would be cared for after her death. She was also able to recall, fifty years after the fact, Walter White‘s description of the horrific lynching of Mary Turner, with almost perfect detail.
Fuller died in 1968 at age 90.
Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller’s Sculptures
Talking Skull, 1937
Ethiopia Awakening, bronze sculpture, 1914
The Wretched, 1902
Silence and Repose, 1986
Mary Turner (A Silent Protest Against Mob Violence), 1919
The Water Boy, 1930
Untitled (Portrait of a young boy), 1930
Mother and Child, 1962
Emancipation, in plaster, 1913; in bronze, 1999
“The People took exception to her remarks”: Meta Warrick Fuller, Angelina Weld Grimke and the Lynching of Mary Turner by Julie Buckner Armstrong.