December 13th, 2000
Augustus Saint-Gaudens
About Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Throughout the United States there are thousands of parks in which can be found bronze and marble statues of the major historical figures of times past. Taken from a mostly European sensibility, these monuments are testaments to their subjects and to the times in which they were sculpted. Among the greatest American sculptors and monument builders of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1848. The son of a shoemaker, Saint-Gaudens moved with his family to New York before he was one. Growing up in the city, he became interested in art, and after turning thirteen he left school to apprentice with a cameo cutter. While an apprentice, Saint-Gaudens took classes at Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. When he was nineteen he moved to Europe, where he continued his studies in both Paris and Rome. Studying classical art and architecture, Saint-Gaudens began to work as a professional sculptor.

Returning to America, Saint-Gaudens received his first major commission in New York City. Still considered one of his important works, “Admiral Farragut” (1881) stands in New York’s Madison Square Park. Combining the technical proficiency learned in Europe with a free and flowing hand, Saint-Gaudens created bronze statues that represented the complexity and grandeur of the American heroes he portrayed. Saint-Gaudens was a master of the human form, perfectly representing the physical while bringing to life the personality of his subjects.

By the late 1880s and 1890s, Saint-Gaudens had produced some of his greatest work including a copper statue of Diana and the first of his bronze monuments to President Abraham Lincoln. He had also become part of a group of rising artists and architects including H.H. Richardson, Stanford White, Charles McKim and John La Farge. Working with the McKim, Mead, and White architectural firm he produced a significant body of monuments and decorative sculpture. Throughout his career, he would continue to work closely with architects, creating most of his work specifically for the sites.

Throughout the 1890s Saint-Gaudens continued to work while engaging in the greater art world through teaching and advocacy. Often taking on many private students at once, Saint-Gaudens also taught at the Art Students League of New York, and worked in support of the American Academy in Rome. During these busy times, however, Saint-Gaudens continued to work diligently on a number of projects, many of which took him upwards of ten years or more to complete. His bronze statue of General Sherman led by Victory, which stands at the entrance to New York’s Central Park took eleven years. Probably the most famous of this time however, was the sculpture of a bent and draped figure deep in thought and grief in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington D.C. This sculpture uniquely brings together the monumental and the personal for which Saint-Gaudens’ work has become known.

By 1900, Saint-Gaudens moved to his summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire. Joined by other artists including Maxfield Parrish, Thomas Dewing, and his brother, the sculptor Louis, Saint-Gaudens created a community of artists there that supported and inspired him throughout his final years. On August 3, 1907, Saint-Gaudens died. Today, nearly one hundred years later, the technical grace and subtle beauty of his work remains an inspiration to artists everywhere.

  • Randolph M Roberts

    Are there any videos or other images available on this sculptor?

  • Bonnie Towles

    What a wonderful presentation … I learned many new things about St.Gauden, the time in which he lived, and his work. How fortunate this nation is to have been left such beautiful, evocative sculptures. PBS viewers are fortunate that this documentary’s images and narrative enable us to truly appreciate St. Gauden’s genius. Thank you.

  • eileen brower

    PBS has a documentary about Saint Gaudens with photos and art critics/ historians commentary

  • Olga Geoffrion

    I had heard of Saint-Gaudens prior to seeing this documentary but did not appreciate the full depth of his contribution to American sculpture. I’m now very eager to look at some of his works in person.

  • glenn derman

    The show about SG mentions his bastard son “who was to change all their lives” but does not mention any more about this. Does anybody know anything on this subject and what this boy became or did?

  • Peg

    Looking for the music credits for this program, which we saw tonight and very much enjoyed.

  • María-Cecilia Peón

    The program on Saint-Gaudens is a master piece in its own right. The writing is inspiring, profoundly moving, just a delight! I could watch it over and over again. I write on art appreciation for the paper of my home town in Mexico -the most important paper in the whole South-East of the country and after the program I felt that…sculpture is just one art which I had not tried out! So maybe I will get a piece of clay and experience the touch…Just thank you. Is it possible to watch it on the Web? Thank you again,
    Cecilia Peón

  • Cecil

    Wow I can”t wait to see it!

  • Emanuel De Castro

    Whatever happened to the upper section of the 18ft Diana sculpture and where are the 3 smaller 13 ft sized copies of that sculpture?? thanks – this would make a great segment on your history detectives program. thanks.

  • Beti Schwartz

    A picture of one of Saint Gaudens’ sculptures appeared in one of the two volumes of “Eleanor Roosevelt” – biography by Blanche Wiesen Cook. The name of the sculpture was “Grief.” I am trying to find a picture of this work online but hae not been able to. Can you help? Might the work have a different name? The work was located in a garden in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Roosevelt used to go to that garden regularly when she was grieving over her husband’s betrayal of her. Thank you. Beti

  • Joyce K. Schiller

    Answer for Beti Schwartz.:
    The sculpture that Eleanor Roosevelt found solace in was Saint-Gaudens’ Adams Memorial in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC. The name “Grief” was given to the figure by others, not Saint-Gaudens nor Henry Adams who commissioned the work as a grave marker for his deceased wife, Clover Adams.

  • Robin D’Adamo

    Great video and good “About the Artist” but you should use spell check before you publish. It’s Maxfield Parrish, not Perish.

  • deb meister

    We are looking for the credits to find the music selections from the soundtrack. Can anyone help? Particularly the piece playing during the French discussion.

  • Joan M. Kline

    Thank you for the beautiful presentation on the life and work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens – it was profoundly moving!

    With material like this, I don’t understand why Saint-Gaudens’ life hasn’t been made into a fantastic Motion Picture – wake up Hollywood!!

  • dana

    There are moments of goosebumps, this is a piece not to be missed.

    Can anyone name and composer of the Chorale that was played during the Adams Memorial “aka grief” segment? I wish they had run credits.

  • Kathy Contino Turner

    I watched the pbs report on Saint-Gaudens and was sad to see you left out an important fact. On the Masonic Care Community Campus in Utica stands the marble statue “Silence” It was the first important commission for an original work of art received by the young sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907). Although officially signed and dated in 1874, the marble statue was only completed in clay and cast in plaster in 1874. The marble carving was completed by Italian craftsmen in 1875. By July 5, 1876, John Quincy Adams Ward, a prominent American Sculptor, had seen the Statue of Silence at the Masonic Hall in New York. On the basis of his favorable impression, Ward recommended that Saint-Gaudens be given the commission for the Farragut Monument which helped launch his career as the most important American Sculptor of the 19th Century. Because Ward saw “Silence” who originally stood in front of the Grand Lodge in Manhattan, Saint-Gaudens received the Farragut commission. “Silence” is well cared for here, its too bad she wasnt included in your report.

  • dana

    Saint-Gaudens’s name for the bronze figure is The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding, but the public commonly called it Grief—an appellation that Henry Adams apparently disliked. In a letter addressed to Homer Saint-Gaudens, on January 24, 1908, Adams instructed him:

    “Do not allow the world to tag my figure with a name! Every magazine writer wants to label it as some American patent medicine for popular consumption—Grief, Despair, Pear’s Soap, or Macy’s Mens’ Suits Made to Measure. Your father meant it to ask a question, not to give an answer; and the man who answers will be damned to eternity like the men who answered the Sphinx.”

    Google “Adams Memorial” lots of pics.

  • Angela Verdoux

    I watched the PBS presentation on Saint-Gaudens that evening and again early the next morning before I left for work. I was engrossed and deeply moved by the entire film from the touching commentary that gave me a better under standing of Saint-Gaudents to the music. Saint-Gaudens sculptures were filmed and shown with so much respect allowing the emotion and power of the pieces to be appreciated by the viewers. The experience left me in awe and at peace and like others who commented, I hope to experience his works first-hand.

  • Jeanette Watkins

    Wonderful presentation about Saint-Gaudens’ life and work. His sculpture is beautiful. The film was beautiful. I want to see it again.

  • Betty Collins

    I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation of Saint-Gaudens life and works. i too, am interested in learning more about the music that accompanied the program. I have also decided to pursue additional information about his life. Sadly, local libraries do not have any books on this subject. I have suggested they add books about Saint-Gaudens to their collection. Thanks again for this exceptional program.

  • Shirley Pollock Parker

    What a wonderful program on PBS tonight. Four of us are headed to Cornish in ten days to see the coin and the Cornish area. Thanks for the show…………………I know it will be much more enjoyable now.

  • Dr. Douglas R. Hoenes

    Saint Gaudens’ most beautiful and memorable work was on the US $20 gold Piece: that $20 gold coin when it was struck has now risen in value, mostly in response to the fact it is considered” the “most beautiful coin ever produced by the US Mint”. I agree with that, but I think Saint Gaudens’ most beautiful sculpture is the nude standing image of the Goddess of the Hunt, Diana, with herbow extended and bowstring pulled. It is absolutely stunning! Saint Gaudens was clearlygifted with the sculptural ability

  • jasencak

    Did Saint Gaudens do any lithos of shoe makers?

  • LoveLincoln

    I am searching for an estimated value that Saint Augustus bronze “Standing Lincoln Statue” could have been worth back in 1999?

  • Carolyn Weist

    How can I purchase a copy of the film of the program about Augutus Saint-Gaudans.

  • Ruth Donaldson

    This wonderful presentation about the life and work of Saint Gaudans moved me a few TV films do. It captures the emotions inherent in his work and I want to watch it again and again. Is it possible to buy DVD of the film?

Inside This Episode

  • About Augustus Saint-Gaudens

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