I was reading an old magazine, and stumbled upon an article on Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The article inspired me, and so, I am writing a short history on the amazing sculptor. :)
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, A Short History:
Augustus Saint-Gaudens. To any numismatist who has done their homework, this name means something. Something wonderful, something beautiful. An incredible artist and sculptor, you could say a sort of a child prodigy, Saint-Gaudens made many sculptures and memorials, but most important to collectors, the 10 and 20 dollar gold coins of 1907-1933.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens and his family immigrated to America from Dublin, Ireland in 1848 when Augustus was only six months old. They made their home in New York City. Growing up, Augustus enjoyed racing his friends around the block, and buying candy at the nearby store, but most of all, he loved drawing.On his slate at school, on his backyard fence, anywhere was an easel for Augustus. He drew all kinds of things, especially the shoemakers in his father's shoe shop.
When Augustus was 13, his father told him it was time to go to work. Augustus' reply was, "I should like it if I could do something which would help me to be an artist." He began as an apprentice to a cameo cutter and learned to carve cameos out of stone and shell. (Cameos were worn mostly by women as pins, earrings, and bracelets.) Augustus carved cameos of people, lions, and even the head of Hercules from Greek mythology.
At this time, the Civil War had just begun. From his spot by the window where he worked, Augustus saw Union soldiers singing as they marched in the streets. He remembered "seeing in procession the figure of a tall and very dark man, seeming entirely out of proportion in his height with the carriage in which he was driven, bowing to the crowds on each side." It was none other than president Abraham Lincoln.
At night, Augustus went to art school, where he learned to draw and sculpt. At the age of 19, with his earnings and his parents support, he traveled to Paris and Rome to continue his studies. Before he left he drew a portrait of his mother in pencil and sculpted a small bust of his father out of clay.
Twenty-two year-old Augustus opened an art studio in Rome and worked on his first life-sized sculpture, called "Hiawatha". The sculpture was inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha", about a Native American chief. An art patron was impressed with this first sculpture and promised to help Augustus "until your genius and labors shall have met with the reward to which I feel they are entitled."
In 1876, Augustus was chosen to design a monument to the Civil War hero Admiral David Farragut of the U.S. Navy. It was his first major sculpture for the United States. Completed five years later, when Augustus was 33, the work was unveiled at Madison Square in New York City, the sculptor's boyhood home. One art critic called it "the best monument of the kind the city has to show."
More public monuments followed in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Most paid tribute to the well-known figures of the Civil War that was raging during Augustus's teenage years. The artist said, " I have such respect and admiration for the heroes of the Civil War that I consider it my duty to commemorate them in a noble and dignified fashion worthy of their great service."
In 1900, when Augustus was 52, his doctors told him he had cancer. Even though he was often ill, he continued to work at his home and studio in Cornish, New Hampshire.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt requested that Augustus redesign America's coins. The President believed that beautifully designed coins would convey the strength of the nation. Augustus made pencil sketches of his coin designs, then molded lifelike clay images using the skills he had learned as a boy.
Augustus died in August 1907, only a mere two months before his 10 and 20-dollar gold coins were issued. Augustus Saint-Gaudens had fulfilled his dream, and more!!! He was one of the greatest American sculptors not only of his day but also of all time.
I hope y'all enjoy this short history of Augustus Saint-Gaudens!