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American Art Up Close Lecture Series: Augustus Saint-Gaudens, American Sculptor in a Transatlantic Age

March 24, 2016
Fullerton Hall
Free with museum admission

As part of the American Art Up Close lecture series, Elizabeth Lee, Dickinson College, looks at the great Gilded Age sculptor who earned his reputation creating American civic memorials but spent much of his career living and working abroad.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens earned his reputation as America’s greatest sculptor through civic memorials in cities including New York, Boston and Chicago, celebrating such national heroes as Admiral David Farragut, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and President Abraham Lincoln in the decades following the Civil War. At the same time, true to his European heritage and reflective of his artistic training in Paris and Rome, Saint-Gaudens spent much of his career living and working abroad, embodying what it meant to be a cosmopolitan artist in America’s Gilded Age. Yet the small rural town of Cornish, New Hampshire, several hours by train from New York City, ultimately became the place Saint-Gaudens called home.

He first visited in 1885 and from then Cornish developed into an art colony with painters, sculptors, writers and playwrights who built summer homes near Saint-Gaudens’s property. When he was diagnosed with cancer in 1900, the sculptor’s Cornish estate assumed another role, becoming his year-round home until his death seven years later. During these years, Saint-Gaudens pursued a wide range of health regimes and became an enthusiastic athlete, even as he was completing his final major works and succumbing to disease. A small temple on the grounds of his Cornish estate contains Saint-Gaudens’s tomb, a final if unexpected resting spot for an artist of a transatlantic age.

Presented with the Terra Foundation for American Art 

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, The Puritan, modeled 1883-86; cast after 1899.