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The Lesbian Art Colony in Rome in the Nineteenth Century

Matylda Hays and Charlotte Cushman

According to several historians, Lesbian artists did not exist before 1970, but in fact, different lesbian artists worked in the nineteenth century, specially in Italy.

Homophobia and sexism were part of the society. Women became anonymous because of these reasons.

Europe had a reputation of being a place where artists could reach their potential, some of them preferred France or Italy.

In Italy, Rome was one of the cities where artists could demonstrate their art.

Different lesbian artists arrived in Rome searching inspiration and here they found another woman with the same interests. That group of women became a sisterhood.The group settled up in a neighborhood near Rome: Emma Stebbins and her partner Charlotte Cushman, Mary Edmonia Lewis, Harriet Hosmer and Anne Whitney were some of the artists among others.

The style used by the artists was neoclassical, producing sculptures of great women as Cleopatra.

Emma Stebbins

One of the love stories in that sisterhood was the relationship between Emma Stebbins and Charlotte Cushman.

They met in Rome where Emma fell in love with the actress Charlotte Cushman. After that, they started to travel together and they became part of the circle of lesbian artists in Rome.

Some years later Charlotte died from cancer, but Emma stayed by her side all the time. In fact, Emma, after Charlotte’s death never did another sculpture, she only wrote a book including the letters and memories of Charlotte.


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LGBT Art and Culture, showing great gay and lesbian personalities not only from the past but also contemporary. The Untold history that made our history great and full of diversity

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