As the subject of a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (on view now through November 15) and a new feature-length documentary directed by Paul Sanderson, Augustus Saint-Gaudens—one of the foremost sculptors of the Gilded Age in America—is certainly having a moment. Adding to these offerings is the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire, where his house, studios, and gardens are open to the public.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, as an infant Saint-Gaudens came to New York City with his family in 1848 as an infant. By the age of thirteen he was working as an apprentice to a French stone cameo cutter, he subsequently studied at the Cooper Union and National Academy of Design, and then at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, before briefly establishing a studio in Rome. Beginning around 1872 Saint-Gaudens lived between the United States and Paris, working on many of his most famous commissions: Madison Square Park’s Admiral David Farragut Monument (1877-1880); Chicago’s Abraham Lincoln (1884-1887); the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston (1884-1897); and the Sherman Monument (1892-1903) in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza. In 1900 he moved permanently to Cornish—where he had spent summers from 1885 to1897.
Today visitors can tour the first floor of the main house, dubbed Aspet after the town in France where Saint-Gaudens’s father was born. Originally a brick tavern called Huggins’ Folly in the early 19th century, Saint-Gaudens first rented the house, then purchased it from a friend in 1891. Today it contains many of the family’s original furnishings as well as artwork and tapestry purchased by Saint-Gaudens and his wife. Other features of the grounds include the Little Studio, a barn that was converted into a personal studio for Saint-Gaudens later remolded in 1903-1904; the New Studio or Big Studio and Art Gallery built by George F. Babb in 1904, which houses casts of sculpture by Saint-Gaudens; and the Marble Temple, designed by Charles Platt in 1905, which holds the sculptor’s ashes. The collections at the site include over 100 examples of bronze, marble, and plaster sculpture by Saint-Gaudens, while several casts of his most famous monuments are scattered across its extensive formal gardens-among them the Shaw Memorial, the Adams Memorial, and Amor Caritas, which overlooks the reflecting pool.
The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site hosts several events on the grounds: three art exhibitions annually, a sculptor-in-residence who provides demonstrations and hands-on workshops, and a summer concert series on Sundays at 2 pm, which continues through August 23rd. Selected days are fee-free for all visitors including this upcoming weekend, August 15 and 16. Also of interest on October 9 is a symposium on Saint-Gaudens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. More information and a full schedule of speakers can be found here.
The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is located on Saint-Gaudens Road, off route 12A, 12 miles from West Lebanon, New Hampshire. Exhibit buildings are open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm and the grounds until dusk (Memorial Day weekend to October 31). Admission: $5.00 per person (age 16 and over). Daily scheduled tours are free. For more information visit www.nps.gov/saga, or call 603-675-2175.