Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907) was a prominent American sculptor of the late 19th century. Born in Dublin, Ireland, he moved to the United States as a baby with his French father and Irish mother. Raised in New York City, he apprenticed with a cameo cutter at age 13, developing an appreciation for intricate detail and craftsmanship.
Recognizing his artistic talent, Saint-Gaudens moved to Europe at 19 to study classical art in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts, a significant center of art training. He then lived in Rome, where he absorbed the influence of Renaissance and classical sculpture.
Returning to America in 1872, Saint-Gaudens quickly garnered critical acclaim. His works, known for their dynamic composition and depth of characterization, epitomize the American Renaissance, or the Beaux-Arts period, blending American themes with classical style.
Saint-Gaudens' sculptures include many notable public monuments, and he often used bronze and marble in his works. One of his first major commissions, the Admiral David Glasgow Farragut Monument in Madison Square Park, New York City, solidified his reputation. This was followed by his iconic Abraham Lincoln: The Man (or Standing Lincoln) in Chicago's Lincoln Park.
Perhaps his most famous work is the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial on the edge of Boston Common, commemorating Colonel Shaw and the all-Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment he led during the Civil War. The piece, a high-relief bronze monument, took 14 years to complete and is praised for its emotional depth and intricate detail.
Saint-Gaudens was also an influential teacher, establishing the "Cornish Colony" of artists and writers in New Hampshire. He taught at the Art Students League in New York and sought to elevate the standards of American coinage as well. His design for the $20 gold piece, known as the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, is considered one of the most beautiful American coins ever minted.
In 1897, he was diagnosed with cancer but continued working until his death in 1907. His home and studios in Cornish, New Hampshire, are now a national historic site where his life and works are celebrated.
Overall, Augustus Saint-Gaudens is remembered as one of the most significant figures in American sculpture, whose contributions helped shape the course of American public art.