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About Patience Wright
Patience Lovell Wright (1725 – March 23, 1786) was the first recognized American-born sculptor. She chiefly created wax figures of people. She loved to write poetry and was also a painter. Never forgetting her Patriot loyalties, she became a spy for the cause.
Patience Lovell was born at Bordentown, New Jersey, into a Quaker farm family with a vegetarian diet. She married Joseph Wright in 1748. For years, she had amused herself and her five children by molding faces out of putty, bread dough, and wax. After her husband died in 1769, her pastime became a full-time occupation as she began earning a living from molding portraits in tinted wax. Making wax sculptures of people was popular art form in colonial America. Patience Wright was particularly good at it. She had a "energetic wildness" when she worked for she loved the work she did. When her wax figures couldn't take the heat (due to a fire), Patience took a boat to England. She kept her fondness for her "dear America".
"Promethean modeler," for her New World egalitarianism and often coarse speech as well as her artwork. She was patronized by George III, and sculpted him and other members of British royalty and nobility, but fell from royal favor because of her open support for the colonial cause during the American Revolution. Never forgetting her Patriot loyalties, she became a spy for the cause, often sending messages to America inside her wax figures. When Patience was constructing these sculptors she didn't want anyone, who may inform the King, to know, so if Patience ever had any visitors while constructing the sculptures she would hide the bust (the head of a sculpture) underneath her apron, and try to distract her visitor by engaging in a conversation.. Wright's sculpture of friend William Pitt still stands in Westminster. She passed on information on how the British were preparing for the war.
Some of Wright's other friends include Benjamin Franklin, Deborah Sampson, the King and Queen of England, and William Pitt. She sculpted wax figures of some of the people on both sides (loyalist and patriots). The reason why she did this is because she wanted to make as many positive images as she could of both of the sides.
Patience Wright's son Joseph Wright (1756–1793) was a well-known portrait painter. Her daughter Phoebe married British painter John Hoppner; their son, Henry Parkyns Hoppner, went on to become a Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer. She died after a bad fall in 1786 in London.
Her home at 100 Farnsworth Avenue in Bordentown, New Jersey still stands.
Wright was featured as a character in Lillian de la Torre's story "The Frantick Rebel," part of her series featuring Samuel Johnson as a detective, with Wright successfully tricking Johnson into supplying information to an American spy.