Janet Scudder was born in Indiana in 1869. She enjoyed drawing as a child, and upon graduation from high school enrolled in the Cincinnati Art Academy. In her first year, she decided that she would be a sculptor.
The 1892–1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ expedition to America, was perhaps the greatest event held in 19th century America. Laredo Taft was commissioned as a sculptor for the event. At the time, women were not as accepted in art as they are now. Taft wanted to hire a few talented women, including Scudder as assistants, but first he had to confirm that the director would allow him to hire female assistants. The director said that Taft could hire anybody, even a bunch of white rabbits if they could get the work done. The women were hired, and were nicknamed the White Rabbits.
In 1894 Scudder went to Paris, and from then on divided her time between Europe and America. She had studios in both New York and Paris, and became well known among artists and the public on both sides of the Atlantic. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement.
Young Diana, one of Scudder’s most famous pieces, was created early in the 20th century. Betty Burroughs, daughter of the painter Bryson Burroughs and sculptor Edith Burroughs, was the model for Young Diana. Diana, patron deity of hunting, is usually depicted as an adult woman with a bow and arrow. Scudder’s choice of a young girl instead of a woman proved to be very popular. Several versions of the figure were produced, four of which are shown here.
Indiana, Scudder’s native state, celebrated its centennial in 1916. Janet Scudder was commissioned by the state to design the official commemorative medallion. A nude girl stands by Columbia on the obverse of the medallion. Indiana in 1916 was a conservative and devoutly religious state, and remains so today. Today it is unlikely that an official state medallion would include a nude girl in its design. People were apparently more open-minded in 1916.
Scudder gave use of her house near Paris to the Red Cross and YMCA for the duration of World War I. She also worked as a Red Cross volunteer at times during the war. For this service, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1925. After being exposed to the suffering of war, Scudder was dismayed that many public statues in post-war America seemed to celebrate the war. Scudder said, “I won’t add to this obsession of male egotism …My work was going to make people feel cheerful and gay, nothing more!”
Many of Scudder’s sculptures were intended to be the center pieces of fountains. The following photos show some of her fountain statues.