October 15, 2019
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v2.1 Reference

Enid Yandell

Kentucky's Pioneer Sculptor

Louisville-born and nationally renowned sculptor Enid Yandell (1869–1934) was ahead of her time. She began her career when sculpture was considered too physical, too messy, and too masculine for women. Yandell challenged the gender norms of early-twentieth-century artistic practice and became an award-winning sculptor, independent artist, and activist for women's suffrage.

This study examines Yandell's life and work: how she grew from a young, Southern dilettante— the daughter of a Confederate medical officer—into a mature, gifted artist who ran in circles with more established male artists in New York and Paris, such as Frederick MacMonnies and Auguste Rodin. At the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, she was one of a select group of women sculptors, known as the White Rabbits, who sculpted the statues and architectural embellishments of the fair. As a result of her success in Chicago, Yandell was commissioned to create a twenty-five foot figure of Pallas Athena for Nashville's Centennial Exposition in 1897. Newspapers hailed it as the largest statue ever created by a woman. Yandell's command of classical subject matter was matched by her abilities with large-scale, figurative works such as the Daniel Boone statue in Cherokee Park, Louisville. In 1898 Yandell was among the first women to be selected for membership in the National Sculpture Society, the first organization of professional sculptors formed in the United States.

Presented to coincide with the 150th anniversary of her birth, this study demonstrates the ways in which Yandell was a pioneer and draws attention to her legacy.

About the Author

Juilee Decker is associate professor of museum studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She is editor of Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals and the four-volume series Innovative Approaches for Museums. She has curated exhibitions focusing on visual arts, material culture, and public history and has served as a consultant to public art projects and programs in the US.


"Enid Yandell was a prolific sculptor who helped blaze the path for other female artists. Although several pieces of her work are well known, unfortunately Enid is not. This full-length biography will help Kentuckians (and others) become acquainted with this very talented and influential artist."—Nancy D. Baird, author of Luke Pryor Blackburn: Physician, Governor, Reformer

"Yandell is one of Kentucky's greatest visual artists. Decker's expert reading of specific pieces that Yandell designed and executed allows readers to see and understand this immensely talented pioneer artist and the various sociopolitical cultures in which she lived and worked throughout her long career. The amount of primary evidence Decker has found and closely analyzed for this study is breathtaking."—Melissa A. McEuen, author of Seeing America: Women Photographers between the Wars

"Art lovers have been waiting for the definitive biography of Enid Yandell and fortunately, thanks to Juilee Decker and the University Press of Kentucky, here it is. In this must-have monograph, Decker explores Yandell's remarkable life, art, era, and legacy with precision, thoroughness, and a distinctive commentary on feminism."—Deborah C. Pollack, author of Visual Art and the Urban Evolution of the New South

"Juilee Decker's deeply researched and richly textured biography provides a fresh, lucid prism on the life of Yandell, and makes a significant contribution to American art history, southern and women's studies. The author creates an indelible portrait of Yandell's magnificent strength of character in crafting a professional identity, and pays overdue homage to her accomplishments as a ground-breaking sculptor, entrepreneur, and feminist."—Peter Morrin, Director Emeritus, Speed Art Museum

"In late 19th and early 20th century America it was difficult for a woman to achieve success and independence—much less fame. Kentuckian Enid Yandell accomplished all three through her dedication and talent as a sculptor; and in turn used them as an activist for not only women's rights but also human rights. In Enid Yandell: Kentucky's Pioneer Sculptor, Juilee Decker excellently and thoroughly chronicles the career of this woman who blazed trails for herself and others."—Jim Holmberg, Curator of Collections, Filson Historical Society

"In this admirably researched biography of the Kentucky artist Enid Yandell, Decker shapes, molds, and chisels a prismatic narrative of the pioneer sculptor from the wilderness of the archive. This monograph is a significant feminist intervention that reinserts and resituates Yandell within the field of sculpture and art history."—Erin R. Corrales-Diaz, Assistant Curator of American Art, Worcester Art Museum

"The significance of Enid Yandell extends beyond its import as one gifted woman and artist's story, as a notable contribution to art and social history, and as a substantial addition to women's studies."—Kentucky Humanities Magazine

9780813178639 : enid-yandell-decker
360 Pages
$35.00 USD