Adventures in Paris

American artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens finds inspiration in France to create one of America’s most iconic sculptures, a memorial to Civil War hero Adm. David Farragut

AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS came to Paris for the first time in 1867, the year it seemed the whole world came to Paris for the Exposition Universelle, the grand, gilded apogee of Second Empire exuberance. He arrived on an evening in February, by train after dark and apparently alone. He was 19 years old, a redheaded New York City boy, a shoemaker's son, who had been working since the age of 13. He was not one of the first ambitious young Americans to come to Paris following the Civil War.Read more »

A Capitol Attraction

Washington’s newest attraction proves that progress can come to the capital city. Last December, just in time for President Obama’s inauguration, Congressional leaders proudly dedicated the new Capitol Visitor Center with ceremonies in its grand hall, which covers 1.3 acres and looks bright as the day beneath huge skylights with walls clad in Virginia limestone. Read more »

The Shocking Blue Hair Of Elie Nadelman

He ignored the conventions of his day and became one of the greatest American sculptors of this century

I find myself sketching a top hat on a snapshot I’ve taken of a former pasha’s obituary photograph. I marvel at the resemblance between Abbas Hilmi II, the last Turkish ruler of Egypt, who died in exile in Geneva in 1944, according to the encyclopedia, and my grandfather Elie Nadelman’s painted bright-bronze sculpture Man in a Top Hat.Read more »

Little Big Top

Superb carvings by an obscure artisan recapture the circus world of the 1920s

 

Much has been written about the magical appeal traveling circuses had for small-town America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but little of it is as eloquent as the tribute shown here: a miniature circus carved during the 1920s by Albert Kveck. Read more »

An Epitaph For Mr. Lincoln

The curiously troubled origin of a brief and fitting inscription

On February 9, 1911, Congress approved a bill authorizing construction of a monument to Abraham Lincoln in the nation’s capital. The notion of building such a memorial had long moved many people for varied reasons. The Republican party naturally wanted to honor its greatest hero. Millions of Americans saw a memorial as a way of finally announcing the end of sectional animosities as the Civil War receded into history.Read more »

Saint-Gaudens

His works ranged from intimate cameos to heroic public monuments. America has produced no greater sculptor.

For the “mysterious aura” of his art, a critic has compared him to Thomas Eakins. In the “haunting grandeur” of his sculpture, he is the equal of Auguste Rodin. Both historian and idealist, an artist whose work encompasses realism and allegory, Augustus Saint-Gaudens satisfied popular taste while managing to grow steadily as an artist. An American pioneer in moving sculpture from single to multiple figures and from carved stone to cast bronze, he completed more than two hundred commissions over a thirty-year working life.Read more »

Saving The Statue

After standing in New York Harbor for nearly one hundred years, this thin-skinned but sturdy lady needs a lot of attention. She’s getting it- from a crack team of French and American architects and engineers.

AT A TABLE IN a cozy Chinese restaurant on the Left Bank of Paris, half a dozen men argue loudly about the Statue of Liberty. Several argue in French, several argue in English, and one argues in both languages while attempting simultaneous translation of everyone else’s remarks. The question at issue: Why wasn’t the statue built the way Gustave Eiffel designed it? Read more »

Stonework

A photographic record of the boom years in the granite quarries of Barre, Vermont

Barre, cried one Vermont newspaper in 1893, was “The Busy Hustling Chicago of New England,” and the town itself cheerfully claimed to be the “Granite Center of the World.” Not of the world, perhaps, but certainly of the United States: in the years following the Civil War, the national enthusiasm for statues, public memorials, mausoleums, ornate tombstones, and obelisks created a tremendous market for the millions of tons of fine granite buried in the hills above the town, and by 1910 Barre was shipping $2,500,000 in quarried granite all over the world.Read more »

The Colossus Of Staten Island

A ponderous memorial to a people who refused to vanish

 

Had one man’s grandiose vision been realized, the first sight to greet immigrants arriving in the New World after 1913 would not have been Bartholdi’s graceful, torch-bearing Goddess of Liberty, but something more nearly resembling the world’s largest cigar-store Indian. Read more »

A 1783 Monument To American Independence Makes Sense-but In Yorkshire, England?

It is normally the winners, not the losers, who erect triumphal irches at a war’s end. Yet at Parlington Park in West Yorkshire, some two hundred miles north of London, stands this monument, boldly dedicated to Liberty in North America Triumphant, MDCCLXXXIII . Built in 1783, the year America officially wrested her independence from England, it is the little-known creation of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, the eighth Baronet of Parlington and an aristocrat with distinctly individual views. Read more »