Augustus Saint-Gaudens


While waiting for a shoe fitting, Peter Cooper once noticed a young fellow sketching in the back of his father’s shop. He suggested to the boy that he attend his institution, The Cooper Union, which he did.

Years later, Augustus Saint-Gaudens would be regarded as one of America’s foremost sculptors. His first major commission, a monument to Civil War Admiral David Farragut, was unveiled to great acclaim in 1881. The colossal Standing Lincoln in Lincoln Park, Chicago, considered the finest portrait statue in the United States, would follow, along with, of course, our beloved monument of Peter Cooper on Cooper Square.
For Stanford White’s Madison Square Garden, in 1891, Saint-Gaudens created an ideal female nude, Diana, in gilt sheet copper to top the building’s tower, making it the highest structure in the city. In 1905, he earned a commission from President Theodore Roosevelt to redesign the ten and twenty dollar gold pieces; the latter is arguably the most inspirational example in the history of American numismatics states The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: “Saint-Gaudens’ contribution to American Renaissance art and culture must be measured not only as a master sculptor of works large and small, public and private, but also as a gifted teacher, arbiter of taste, and professional role model for a succeeding generation of…American sculptors.”
(Tolles, Thayer. “Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907)”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/astg/hd_astg.htm (October 2004)).

This post first appeared in the CUAA November 2012 Newsletter