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The Sculptors

Landscape Artists


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The Sculptors
April 2003

The Garden State has been a source of inspiration for famous artists for centuries. Wax sculpture, landscape painting, watercolor, and modern art are among the many styles that artists with New Jersey roots have used through the years.

In fact, the first American sculptor was from New Jersey. Born in 1725, Patience Lovell Wright of Bordentown began wax sculpting as a child. As she got older, Wright put her work together in an exhibit. Her sculptures of famous public figures were amazing in their likenesses.

Wright moved to England in 1772. There she created new wax models of famous people, including the king and queen. People loved her work. Her sculpture of British political leader William Pitt was displayed in Westminster Abbey.

  Patience Lovell Wright - William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (wax effigy)
Patience Lovell Wright
William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (detail)
wax effigy (1779)

In addition to her artwork, Wright was an American patriot. During the Revolutionary War, she welcomed American war prisoners in her London home. Legend says she sent British military secrets back to America hidden in wax figures, but there is no proof of this.

Patience wasn’t the only one in the Wright family with artistic talent. Her son Joseph was a wax sculptor, too. He was also a painter and a die maker. Her son-in-law John Hoppner was a painter.

A few decades later, another New Jersey sculptor became well known. In 1824 John Frazee of Rahway became the first Native American marble sculptor. Frazee was never formally taught art. He learned to sculpt marble on his own, starting out as a tombstone cutter. You can view some of Frazee’s work online. Check out his busts of John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Marshall, and Nathaniel Bowditch, a famous navigator.

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