In May-June 2003 the Parrish Art Museum will present Augustus Saint-Gaudens, American Sculptor of the Gilded Age (1848-1907). Today scholars acknowledge Saint-Gaudens as the most important American sculptor of the nineteenth century. Most Americans are aware of at least a few of his works, even if they do not recognize the artist's name. These familiar sculptures, which are-or were-New York City landmarks, include: the Sherman Monument, which stands near the entrance to Central Park, across from the Plaza Hotel; the David Farragut Monument in Madison Square; the Diana, which once stood atop the tower of Madison Square Garden.
When Saint-Gaudens' career began, just after the Civil War, the prevailing style of American sculpture was neoclassical, highly finished, white marble sculpture of idealized or allegorical figures or personifications of abstract principles. The style was typified by such works as Horatio Greenough's portrait of George Washington clad in a classical toga (1832-1841). By the 1880s, Saint-Gaudens had transformed American sculpture by producing work in media and techniques that had been virtually unknown here, in particular, in low relief and bronze. He also created an entirely new genre of public sculpture, the now-familiar image of the great American leaders presented in contemporary dress and settings. To an unprecedented degree, he showed how sculptors could collaborate with architects, designers and mural painters to produce powerful and well-integrated designs, through his work with Stanford White, John La Farge and Charles McKim. None of these achievements would have been possible without his thorough absorption, to a degree greater than that of any previous American sculptor, of the entire Western European tradition. Trained in the United States as cameo cutter, he went to France in 1867 and was the first American to be admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts to study sculpture.
The exhibition includes the entire range of Saint-Gaudens' work, from models and studies for monumental sculpture, to portrait reliefs, to medals and coins. It is an especially appropriate exhibition for the Parrish Art Museum and for Southampton, as all are products of the Gilded Age. The sculptor was an early member of the Tile Club and a good friend of William Merritt Chase, whose portrait appears in the exhibition. When Parrish decided to commission his copies of Roman emperor portraits, it was Saint-Gaudens he consulted. He also made portraits of several members of the Parrish family, including one of Samuel Parrish himself.
In addition to the works by Saint-Gaudens, a selection of Gilded Age paintings from The Parrish Art Museum's permanent collection will also be on view. Of particular significance are works by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase, who was one of Saint-Gaudens's close friends, and Chase's student Lydia Field Emmet, known for her sensitive portraits of children.
The presentation of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, American Sculptor of the Gilded Age, is made possible, in part from Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, The Henry Luce Foundation, DEL Laboratories, Inc., Liliane and Norman Peck, the Felix and Elizabeth Rohatyn Foundation and Allison Morrow.
The Parrish Art Museum25 Job's Lane
Southampton, New York 11968