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Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age

April 17, 2005 - June 12, 2005


(above: Portrait of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, ca. 1890s. Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, NH)

The first United States tour of sculpture by the American Renaissance sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens will be on view at the Wichita Art Museum April 17, 2005 - June 12, 2005. Organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions (TME), Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age will feature seventy-five of the sculptor's most famous works -- including reductions of major outdoor commissions, full-sized works cast in bronze, marble and plaster, portrait reliefs, decorative objects and coins -- an outstanding retrospective of the master's work. The exhibition's Wichita venue is made possible, in part, by the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum, Inc.

"Saint-Gaudens is one of those sculptors whose works of art are more famous than his name. For example, the artist's portraits of Diana or Abraham Lincoln are icons of American sculpture that we have seen so frequently that we don't stop to think enough about them," explains Charles K. Steiner, Museum director. "This magnificent exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to become reacquainted with the artist and his contribution to the development of realism in 19th-century American sculpture."

Saint-Gaudens has been described as the "American Michelangelo." He was a superb craftsman who became a brilliant player in the history of America's Gilded Age. Brought to the United States as an infant, he was educated in the U.S. and abroad, but it was his training in Paris that clarified his conception of ideal beauty, which relied heavily upon French and Italian Renaissance models. (right: Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Sherman Monument, Victory, 1897-1902, bronze reduction, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, NH.)

In Paris Saint-Gaudens became acquainted with many other artists, among them the architect Stanford White. It was a friendship and collaboration that bore fruit in more than twenty cooperative projects, and brought about a significant change in American monumental sculpture. Their careful joint attention to site, landscape and a monument's architectural features, such as benches, pedestals and inscriptions, produced a majestic and integrated whole.

Versions of all of Saint-Gaudens's major projects are represented in this exhibition, including perhaps the most famous collaboration with White, the haunting Adams Memorial, installed in 1892 in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. But it was through his monuments dedicated to the Civil War and its heroes that Saint-Gaudens acquired a national reputation. His memorial to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Regiment, situated in Boston Common, is considered one of his finest achievements. This exhibition will feature parts of seven other major projects, including the Sherman Monument, The Puritan, and Diana for the weathervane of Stanford White's Madison Square Garden.

The exhibition opened February 23, 2003 at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh and ran through May 11. Subsequent venues in 2003 included Parrish Art Museum (Southampton, New York), June 5 - August 3; Museum of the American Numismatic Association and Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (Colorado), August 28 - October 26; Allentown Art Museum (Pennsylvania), November 20 - January 18, 2004.

In 2004 the exhibition appeared at Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester (New York), February 12 - April 11; Frick Art and Historical Center, (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), May 6 - July 4; Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia (Athens), July 29 - September 26; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (Alabama), October 21- January 2, 2005.

This year, the exhibition is being hosted by the Smith College Museum of Art (Northampton, Massachusetts); January 26 - March 20; Wichita Art Museum (Kansas), April 15 - June 12; Center for the Arts (Vero Beach, Florida), July 7 - September 5; and Munson-Williams Proctor Museum of Art (Utica, New York), September 29 - November 27.

TME in association with Archetype Press published a 128-page catalogue to accompany the exhibition. The principal authors are Henry J. Duffy, curator, and John H. Dryfhout, superintendent of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site along with experts in the work of Saint-Gaudens and the culture of the Gilded Age. Most of the works in the exhibition are on loan from the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire, which is the first National Historic Site dedicated to the work of an American artist and part of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Trust for Museum Exhibitions (TME) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit service organization committed to providing the finest in exhibition and technical support to museums and cultural centers throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age is being presented at the Wichita Art Museum in conjunction with a larger collaboration -- The Gilded Age and American Public Sculpture. Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, the Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, Wichita Center for the Arts, along with the Wichita Art Museum, will each present programming relating to public sculpture during the months of April, May and June to broaden understanding of this important period in American art history. Fore more information on the collaborative effort please call 316-268-4985. (right: Young Girl and Fawn, Created in 1948 by sculptor Bruce Moore. Collection of the Wichita Center for the Arts.)


Themes of the exhibition:


The Gilded Age in America (1865-1914) commonly refers to the period between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War I. It is most associated with growth of industry and a wave of immigration. The need for more efficient transportation (the railroad) grew as quickly as the demand for products like steel, iron, lumber, gold, and oil. The high interest in these industries proved profitable for many businessmen like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. In the visual arts, the Gilded Age is characterized by the widespread emulation of the historical styles and by major public sculptural commissions, many of which themselves were given historicized form for their modern subject matter.
The American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) created a great variety of works beginning in his early years with cameos, mural paintings, stained glass, and mixed media decorative panels found in some of the most magnificent Gilded Age mansions of his day. In his maturity Saint-Gaudens was a great portrait artist, creating more than one hundred sculptural portraits. He also accepted more than twenty public commissions for major monuments and he created medals and coins - the most renowned of which is the U.S. 1907 gold coinage created for the nation. He introduced affordable and accessible sculpture for a wider audience, with reductions of some of his most popular statues and portrait reliefs. This made it possible for museums and individuals alike to include his work in their collections. Saint-Gaudens's reputation and the popularity of his work established him as the leading American sculptor of the latter half of the nineteenth century.
As the wealth of America grew after the Civil War, great houses and art collections were created. Travel by train and ship and innovations in communication brought America closer to Europe and the Orient and exposed Americans to new cultures and artistic styles. Saint-Gaudens' reputation was made at this time. The artist lived in the centers of European art, Paris and Rome from 1867 to the early 1870s. Returning to America, his earliest commissions were for decorative works - cameos, murals, decorative sculptured panels, stained glass and silver. Through these commissions the young artist became experienced in various artistic media and honed his skill as an artist of strong expressive quality.
Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, there was a great public call for monuments and memorials dedicated to the leaders and soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Saint-Gaudens responded to this need with some of his most powerful sculptures. Through the Standing Lincoln in Chicago, the monuments to Admiral David Farragut and William Tecumseh Sherman in New York City, and the great Shaw Memorial in Boston, Saint-Gaudens presented to the country works that changed the public perception of civic sculpture. Of the hundreds of Civil War-inspired monuments, his works stand out for their quiet dignity and inherent strength of character.
Saint-Gaudens's depictions of the female figure reveal the true grace, breadth and beauty of his technique. Works such as Amor Caritas, Tomb of Edwin Morgan, Diana, and the Adams Memorial, included in this exhibition, were among the most unforgettable sculptures of the 19th century. All different stylistically, these figures reflect Saint-Gaudens's maturing approach to his depiction of the human form. The earliest figures, Amor Caritas and the Angels for the Tomb of Edwin Morgan, show the influence of Pre-Raphaelite imagery in the almost dreamlike quality of the face and the flowing, graceful contours of the figure. Diana is more classical in inspiration. Finally, the Adams Memorial, with its mystery and power, reflects the strength of emotion and the all-encompassing spirit that Henry Adams and the sculptor sought to achieve. Whether earthly or spiritual, Saint-Gaudens's sculptures of the female form are most assuredly elegant.
Saint-Gaudens is best known for his relief portraiture. Introduced to the style during his early years in Paris and Rome, he made his first relief portraits in New York City following his return to the United States in 1875. The painter John LaFarge suggested that the sculptor try his hand at "painting" a bas-relief portrait, resulting in the first of a series of such portrayals over the sculptor's lifetime. The earliest reliefs in this exhibition are the portraits of William Picknell, Dr. Walter Cary and Charles McKim, the first of more than twenty bas-relief portraits of artists and friends he created while in Paris from 1877 to 1880. He continued to work in this medium throughout his career, producing over one hundred in his lifetime. The style of these portraits changes with time, taking on a more fluid, painterly style, and featuring experimentation with both very high and very low relief, and novelties such as the portrait of Bessie Smith seen in the exhibition, her arm placed outside the portrait's frame. Critics consider Saint-Gaudens a master of the relief portrait in the manner and tradition of the great artists of the Renaissance.
Saint-Gaudens designed a number of commemorative medals, including the World's Columbian Exposition Commemorative Presentation Medal, 1893; the George Washington Inaugural Centennial Medal, 1889; and the Theodore Roosevelt Special Inaugural Medal, 1905. This last medal so pleased President Theodore Roosevelt that he asked the artist to redesign the U.S. gold coinage. Saint-Gaudens was the first professional sculptor in the United States to produce designs for the nation's coinage. Between 1905-1907 the artist, working with his assistant Henry Hering, produced designs for the twenty-dollar and ten-dollar gold coins, and began work on the one-cent piece. Completed after the artist's death, the twenty- and ten-dollar gold coins are considered by collectors to be the most beautiful ever designed for American coinage. (right: Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), World's Columbian Exposition Medal, 1893, Bronze 76.5 mm. Private Collection)


Calendar of Events for The Gilded Age and the Rise of American Public Sculpture

701 Amidon
Wichita, KS 67203
Coexisting with the 24 beautiful gardens at Botanica, The Wichita Gardens are 17 sculptures. Guided sculpture tours are available at a special rate by calling Helen Pauls at 316-264-0448, Ext. 112 or by e-mailing her at hpauls@botanica.org. If you prefer to be on your own, the cost of admission is $6 for adults, $5 for adults over 62 and $3 for youth 5 - 21. Botanica is open Monday through Saturday 9 am - 5 pm (April through November) and Sunday 1 pm - 5 pm.
Wichita State University
1845 Fairmount St
Wichita, KS 67260-0046


(above: Charles Grafly Sculpture Garden, Wichita State University 02005)

The Wichita State University campus is home to more than just classrooms. The grounds are filled with impressive sculptures, including the Charles Grafly Sculpture Garden. This colonnaded garden honors the memories of renowned American artist Charles Grafly (1862-1929). Located on the southwest corner of campus near Hillside, the gardens feature recent casts from Grafly's original plaster models. New casts will be made every few years as dictated by the bequest from Grafly's daughter.
The garden's concentric oval colonnades are designed in the style of a traditional nineteenth-century garden structure, providing an appropriate and compatible setting for Grafly's handsome figurative bronzes. The ambience is further enhanced with seasonal plantings. "The Grafly Garden is a wonderful addition to a beautiful campus," says Butler. "It feels like a private retreat, a special, quiet place to enjoy art and nature, available to everyone." The garden now houses six sculptures; new works will be added as additional bronze casts are made. (right: Charles Grafly (American, 1862-1929) Untitled (Icarus), 1894 (cast in 1973) Bronze 26 x 29 x13 inches. Gift of Dorothy Grafly Drummnd and Charles Drummond .Wichita State University Foundation Art Collection 1973.5 )
For additional information or to arrange a tour of the Grafly Garden or the entire WSU outdoor sculpture collection, call the number listed above or visit www.ulrich.wichita.edu. The Ulrich Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Friday 11 am to 5 pm and Saturday and Sunday 1pm to 5pm. Admission is free.
1400 West Museum Boulevard
Wichita, KS 67203
In addition to the exhibition, the Museum will offer the following events:
Friday, April 22 - 6:30 pm - 8 pm
The Museum will host an opening reception in the S. Jim and Darla Farha Great Hall. There is no charge for Museum members; non-members are invited to attend for $10. RSVP by calling 316-268-4912. The evening will feature light hors d' oeuvres, live music and a cash bar. The Spartan Café will also be open for dinner from 6:30 pm to 9 pm by reservation only.
At 8 pm, Dr. Henry J. Duffy, Curator/Chief of Cultural Resources, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, NH will present a lecture titled "Augustus Saint-Gaudens: The Life of the Studio."
Co-curator of the exhibition Augustus Saint-Gaudens: American Sculptor of the Gilded Age, Dr. Duffy will explore the role of the studio and assistants in the work of the famed sculptor. While Saint-Gaudens is known as the sculptor of major Civil War monuments, portraits, and coins, the working methods in a nineteenth-century sculpture studio are not well known today. Dr. Duffy will address this issue along with the working artist's assistants and staff. In addition, he will include some of the artists who worked in conjunction with Saint-Gaudens.
Dr. Duffy is the curator of the home, studio and gardens of American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, which includes the contents of the artist's studio and over ten thousand sculptures and studies.
Saturday, May 21 - 4 pm
Dr. Erika Doss will present a lecture on "Statue Mania: Sculpture and Memory in Gilded Age America."
Professor of Art History at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of the books Twentieth Century American Art and Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities, Dr. Erika Doss is an expert in American sculpture and culture who previously lectured at the Museum on contemporary sculpture. In a talk excerpted from her forthcoming book Memorial Mania: Self, Nation, and the Culture of Commemoration in Contemporary America, she will examine the multitude of sculptures, memorials, and monuments that were made in America between the Civil War and World War I, with special attention paid to Augustus Saint-Gaudens' public sculptures including the Shaw Memorial (Boston), the Farragut Monument (New York), and the Sherman Monument (New York).
This lecture is free and will be presented in the Howard E. Wooden Lecture Hall followed by a reception.
Saturdays March 12, April 23 and May 14 - 11am - 3pm
Bring the whole family for an hour of fun at Family Artventure! Each of the above Saturdays will focus on a different aspect of the Augustus Saint-Gaudens exhibition. After using a gallery guide featuring questions and ideas to consider about the exhibition, the fun continues in the studio where participants can explore new materials and create their own works of art. Family Artventure is free and requires no reservations. Just stop in at the Welcome Desk between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to begin your artventure. For more information, call (316) 268-4907.
Saturday, April 30 and Saturday May 14 - 1-4 pm
Discover the number of public sculptures located throughout the city of Wichita. Those interested are encouraged to tour the exhibition at the Wichita Art Museum before boarding a trolley at 1 pm in the Museum parking lot. Museum members can take part for $12, non-members for $15. Tickets will be available for purchase at the Museum's Welcome Desk in mid-April.
Video Series
A video series exploring sculpture past and present, American and European, will begin on Tuesday, April 19. Each video will begin at 12:30 pm in the Howard E. Wooden Lecture Hall. Videos are included in paid Museum admission. For a listing of videos give us a call or visit our website.
9112 E. Central
Wichita, KS 67206
From April 17 through June 17, 2005, the Wichita Center for the Arts will feature a selection of sculptures from the Bruce Moore archive, including public and private memorials, portrait reliefs and busts, which embody the grace, beauty and power Moore sought to capture. Moore approached sculpture with intensity, enthusiasm and determination -- mastering the art of portraiture, thoroughly exploring the human figure and rendering the portrayal of animals with discerning accuracy. The exhibition will be on display in the Watkins Cases. The Wichita Center for the Arts is open Tuesday through Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
204 S. Main
Wichita, KS 67202

At the Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum an exhibition titled "Souvenirs of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893" will be on display April 17 ­ June 12. It will feature the official medal of the exposition, which was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In addition, programs and tickets from the fair will be on display with other fair memorabilia. The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum is open Tuesday through Friday 11 am to 4 pm. Saturday and Sunday 1 pm - 5 pm. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children.

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy:


and these two videos:

Augustus Saint-Gaudens: An American Original is a 28 minute 1995 video from Direct Cinema Limited directed by Paul G. Sanderson III. This video draws on photographs, letters, literary documents and the artist's works -- which are found in major cities, public parks and museums throughout the United States -- to create a beautiful and informative portrait of a neglected giant of American art. Centering on the artist's adopted home of Cornish, New Hampshire, the film is an excellent introduction to the man and his times, and to the work that helped a weary nation begin to make sense of the war that almost tore it apart.

Saint-Gaudens: Masque of the Golden Bowl. A lush 60 minute dramatization of the life and work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, pre-eminent sculptor of the American Renaissance, as seen and recorded In his own words and those of his contemporaries. Shot on Location in Boston, New York and New Hampshire. Produced in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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rev. 3/23/05, 10/19/13

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