Miss Geneva Mercer was one of Alabama's most
notable artists, and she is one of the few to achieve national and
international acclaim. She is also the first Alabama artist to have all of her
works documented by the Smithsonian Institution.
Miss Mercer, who was born in Jefferson, Alabama,
showed talent as a sculptor at a very early age. Although she took art lessons
as a child, it was not until she enrolled at the State Normal School (formerly
Livingston University, now the University of West Alabama) in Livingston,
Alabama. There, she received the encouragement and guidance that led her to
study art professionally. The school's president, Miss Julia Tutwiler,
recognized the young girl's talent and arranged an apprenticeship for her with
Giuseppe Moretti. Moretti was the famed sculptor whom the Tutwiler family had
commissioned to cast a bust of Henry Tutwiler for the University of Virginia.
The famed Moretti had supervised the casting of Vulcan, the iron sculpture that
towers over Birmingham and serves as the city's mascot.
When Miss Mercer completed her apprenticeship
with Moretti, she remained with him as his assistant until his death in the
late 1930's. Since much of Miss Mercer's work during her years with Moretti was
done under his name, separating the achievements of Moretti from those of Miss
Mercer is difficult. She was so much a part of the Moretti studio that she
continued to operate it until after the death of Mrs. Moretti.
Although Miss Mercer worked many years outside
Alabama, public buildings in the state house contain many of her works. In the
early 1930's, the State of Alabama commissioned her to cast the Julia Tutwiler
Memorial tablet for the Department of Archives and History. She also sculpted
Tutwiler memorials for several universities and colleges in Alabama, including
the University of Alabama and the University of Montevallo. The Montgomery
Museum of Art displays her Flimp Foundation. Outside the state, Miss Mercer,
individually and in cooperation with Moretti, executed works for some of the
most prominent and influential families, organizations, corporations, and
agencies in America.
In her later years, Miss Mercer returned to
Alabama, where she painted and wrote verse. Sculpture, however, was always her
main vocation, and it is in that art that she made her greatest and most
Miss Mercer was more than a great artist; she was
a Renaissance woman who had the grace, dignity, self-assurance, and poise that
reflect integrity and accomplishment.