Black History Month is officially upon us and that means for the next 28 days we’ll be celebrating our beautiful, unapologetic blackness, although it should be celebrated by everyone throughout the year.
One of the best parts about February is learning about great African-Americans that you may not be familiar with and their great contributions. As they do every year, Google has kicked off Black History Month with a Google Doodle and this year they put the spotlight on the little-known, but groundbreaking artist Edmonia Lewis.
The Doodle depicts Lewis sculpting one of her most famous works, The Death of Cleopatra, which is currently on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The sculpture was first revealed at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. Lewis’s realistic portrayal of the Cleopatra’s death shocked viewers and received acclaim from critics, who called it “the most remarkable piece of sculpture in the American section” of the show.
The Google Doodle of Lewis was created by Sophie Diao and is a very timely representation, given the recent Women’s Marches across the country, which celebrated the greatness, courage and strength of women worldwide.
Diao recently told the Huffington Post that she had always been inspired by Lewis’ work.
“I really wanted to show her in the process of sculpting, emphasizing her small stature (she was only four feet tall!) and one of her most famous pieces, ‘The Death of Cleopatra,’” Diao told HuffPost.
“I chose this piece to highlight in particular not only because it’s such a striking sculpture, but it depicts a female commander and Egyptian queen. I found her choice of subject matter extremely powerful.”
Lewis was the first woman of African-American and Native American heritage to achieve global recognition as a sculptor. According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, Lewis was born in Greenbush, New York, in 1844 and died in London in 1907.
She began an art education at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1859, but was unable to graduate after being accused of poisoning her two white roommates, which she was acquitted but not before getting a brutal beating by a white mob, the Huff Po noted. Afterwards she moved to Boston and saw her career take off and made enough money to move to Europe where she ended up setting down in Rome.
While she created numerous works of art, sadly the majority of her work did not survive.