Augusta Stylianou Gallery
Portrait of Augustus Saint-Gaudens by Kenyon Cox.
Early life and career
Born in Dublin to a French father and an Irish mother, Saint-Gaudens was raised in New York, after his parents immigrated to America when he was six months of age. He was apprenticed to a cameo-cutter but also took art classes at the Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. At 19, his apprenticeship completed, he traveled to Paris where he studied in the atelier of François Jouffroy at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1870, he left Paris for Rome, to study art and architecture, and worked on his first commissions. There he met an American art student, Augusta Fisher Homer, whose sister was Elizabeth Fisher [Homer] Nichols, whom he married in 1877. In New York he was a member of the Tilers, a group of prominent artists and writers, including Winslow Homer (his wife's fourth cousin), William Merritt Chase and Arthur Quartley.
Civil War commemorative commissions
In 1876 Saint-Gaudens received his first major commission; a monument to Civil War Admiral David Farragut, in New York's Madison Square; his friend Stanford White designed an architectural setting for it, and when it was unveiled in 1881, its naturalism, its lack of bombast and its siting combined to make it a tremendous success, and Saint-Gaudens' reputation was established. The commissions followed fast: the colossal Standing Lincoln in Lincoln Park, Chicago in a setting by architect White, 1884–1887, considered the finest portrait statue in the United States (A copy was placed at Lincoln's tomb in Springfield, Illinois, another copy stands in London in front of Westminster Abbey facing Parliament Square); a long series of funerary monuments and busts: the Adams Memorial, the Peter Cooper Monument, and the John A. Logan Monument, the greatest of which is the bronze bas-relief that forms the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial on Boston Common, 1884–1897, Saint-Gaudens labored on it for 14 years, and even after the public version had been unveiled, he continued with further versions. Two grand equestrian monuments to Civil War generals are outstanding: to General John A. Logan, atop a tumulus in Chicago, 1894–1897, and to General William Tecumseh Sherman at the corner of Central Park in New York, 1892–1903, the first use of Robert Treat Paine’s pointing device for the accurate mechanical enlargement of sculpture models.
For the Lincoln Centennial in 1909 Saint-Gaudens produce another statue of the president. A seated figure, it is in Chicago's Grant Park. The head was used for the commemorative postage stamp issued on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.
Saint-Gaudens also created the Charles Stewart Parnell monument on Dublin's O'Connell Street. In 1887, when Robert Louis Stevenson made his second trip to the United States, Saint-Gaudens had the opportunity to make the preliminary sketches for a five-year project of a medallion depicting Stevenson, in very poor health at the time, propped in bed writing. With minor modifications, this medallion was reproduced for the Stevenson memorial in St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh. Stevenson's cousin and biographer, Graham Balfour, deemed the work "the most satisfactory of all the portraits of Stevenson." Balfour also noted that Saint-Gaudens greatly admired Stevenson and had once said he would "gladly go a thousand miles for the sake of a sitting" with him. Saint-Gaudens was also commissioned by a variety of groups to create medals including varied commemorative themes like The Women"s Auxiliary of the Massachusetts Civil Service Reform Association Presentation Medal and the World's Columbian Exposition Medal. Such pieces stand testament to his the broad appeal and respect that was given to him by his contemporaries. Today, his medals have lost none of their allure and have been sold at auction for varying sums. A statue of philanthropist Robert Randall stands in the gardens of Sailors' Snug Harbor in New York. A statue of copper king Marcus Daly, is at the entrance of the Montana School of Mines on the west end of Park St. in Butte, Montana.
Teacher and advisor
Saint-Gaudens' prominence brought him students, and he was an able and sensitive teacher. He tutored young artists privately, taught at the Art Students League of New York, and took on a large number of assistants. He was an artistic advisor to the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, an avid supporter of the American Academy in Rome, and part of the McMillan Commission, which brought into being L'Enfant's long-ignored master-plan for the nation's capital.
Through his career Augustus Saint-Gaudens' made a specialty of intimate private portrait panels in sensitive, very low relief, which owed something to the Florentine Renaissance.
Saint-Gaudens referred to his early relief portraits as "medallions" and took a great interest in the art of the coin: his $20 gold piece, the double eagle coin he designed for the US Mint, 1905–1907, though it was adapted for minting, is still considered the most beautiful American coin ever issued.
Chosen by Theodore Roosevelt to redesign the coinage of the nation at the beginning of the 20th century, Saint-Gaudens produced a beautiful high-relief $20 gold piece that was adapted into a flattened-down version by the United States Mint. The high-relief coin took up to 11 strikes to bring up the details, and only 12,367 of these coins were minted in 1907.
Two major versions of his coins are known as the "Saint Gaudens High Relief Roman Numerals 1907" and the "Saint Gaudens Arabic Numerals 1907–1933". Other extremely rare types of Saint-Gaudens double eagles, minted in 1907, are prized by collectors and valued from $10,000 to millions of dollars.
The Saint-Gaudens obverse design was reused in the American Eagle gold bullion coins that were instituted in 1986. An "ultra-high relief" $20 (24 karat) gold coin was issued by the U.S. Mint in 2009.
Saint-Gaudens honored on US Postage
In 1940 the U.S. Post Office issued a series of 35 Postage stamps, 'The Famous American Series', that honored America's famous Artists, Poets, Educators, Authors, Scientists, Composers and Inventors. The renown painter Augustus Saint-Gaudens was among those chosen for the 'Artists' category of this series and appears on this stamp which was first issued in New York City, N.Y. on September 16, 1940.
Diagnosed with cancer in 1900, Saint-Gaudens decided to live at his Federal house with barn-studio set in the handsome gardens he had made, where he and his family had been spending summers since 1885, in Cornish, New Hampshire – though not in retirement. Despite waning energy, he continued to work, producing a steady stream of reliefs and public sculpture. In 1904, he was one of the first seven chosen for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. That same year the large studio burned, with the irreplaceable loss of the sculptor's correspondence, his sketch books, and many works in progress.
The Cornish Art Colony Saint-Gaudens and his brother Louis attracted made for a dynamic social and creative environment. The most famous included painters Maxfield Parrish and Kenyon Cox, architect and garden designer Charles Platt, and sculptor Paul Manship. Included were painters Thomas Dewing, George de Forest Brush, dramatist Percy MacKaye, the American novelist Winston Churchill, and the sculptor Louis St. Gaudens, Augustus' brother. After his death in 1907 it slowly dissipated. His house and gardens are now preserved as Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.
Saint-Gaudens was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1896. In 1920, Saint-Gaudens was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. In 1940, his image appeared on a U.S. postage stamp in the "Famous Americans" series.
Among the public collections holding works by Augustus Saint-Gaudens are:
Addison Gallery of American Art (Andover, Massachusetts)
Armstrong, Craven, et al., 200 Years of American Sculpture, Whitney Museum of Art, NYC, 1976
1. ^ US Mint: The American Eagles Program.
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