- Carolyn R. Lafever
Ball, Thomas (03 June 1819–11 December 1911), sculptor and author, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Ball, a house and sign painter, and Elizabeth Wyer Hall. He attended the Mayhew School until age twelve, when his father died. Needing to help support the family, Ball found work at Kimball’s Boston Museum and Fine Arts Gallery, where he performed tasks that included repairing wax figures and conducting tours. Ball learned to cut silhouettes for museum visitors to supplement his income, but he described himself as exhibiting no artistic talent until he was fifteen or sixteen years old. As his interest in art grew he apprenticed himself briefly to Abel Bowen, a wood engraver. After a few months he returned to work at the museum and began painting miniatures and portraits. In 1837 he set up a small studio in Boston, where he worked hard to establish himself as a professional portrait painter. He entered art exhibitions, receiving much encouragement. He began to work in clay and found it a more interesting medium for his talent. His first work, modeled in clay and produced in plaster, was a small bust of the celebrated Swedish singer Jenny Lind (1851). Many copies were sold, and its success brought Ball orders for small-scale cabinet busts of other musicians....