Described as “an impressionist in plaster,” Bessie Potter Vonnoh specialized in statuettes of women and children engaged in everyday activities. She was energized by the dynamic environment of late nineteenth-century Chicago, and studied there at the Art Institute. Vonnoh launched her career as one of five women whom the architect Daniel Burnham dubbed the White Rabbits, chosen to assist with the sculptural decoration for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. After the fair she gained a national reputation for vivacious plaster statuettes of women in contemporary dress, modeled with richly textured surfaces.
In 1896, after a visit to Paris, Vonnoh created A Young Mother, the first and most celebrated of her several sculptures of maternity, which were cast in bronze. In A Study, her most intimate piece, she limited detail so as to evoke a sense of serenity. It was thanks to such works that Vonnoh was often credited with popularizing fine small bronzes designed for domestic settings.