Shaping up to be a busy summer for master sculptor Saint-Gaudens

Legislation seeks new status for site, with new statue to be installed
By , Coin World
Published : 06/10/16
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It’s shaping up to be a busy summer for Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The American sculptor, best known to numismatists as the designer of the double eagle that bears his name, is the subject of companion bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate calling for the redesignation of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as the “Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts.” 

Both bills were introduced May 12 and each is titled the “Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts Redesignation Act.” 

In the House, H.R. 5206 was introduced by Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., and in the Senate, S. 2923 was introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. The House bill has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands while the Senate bill has been read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

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The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is New Hampshire’s only national park. The park preserves the studios, home, and gardens of the sculptor. 

The findings portion of the bill states, “Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of the greatest sculptors in the United States, creating well-known public monuments to Civil War heroes, peerless bas-reliefs, and the 1907 United States gold coinage, which are considered to be the most beautiful coins ever minted.”

From 1885 until his death in 1907, Saint-Gaudens maintained a residence and studios in Cornish, N.H., where he created many of his most famous works. 

His presence attracted leaders and practitioners in painting, sculpture, etching, writing, poetry, drama, dance, musical composition, musical performance, architecture, landscape architecture, jurisprudence, politics, and other artistic disciplines to relocate to Cornish. Their collective presence formed the Cornish Art Colony, which was one of the earliest art colonies in the United States. 

The findings portion of both bills concludes, “Throughout the long history of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, the Historic Site and the partner organization of the Historic Site, the Saint-Gaudens Memorial, have promoted the arts through the regular presentation of musical concerts, historical dramas, visual arts exhibitions, artistic workshops, and the oldest artist-in-residence program in the National Park Service, creating a vibrant artistic community that promotes the creation, performance, and interpretation of the artistic heritage of the United States.”

The designation would mean that any reference in any law, regulation, document, record, map, or other paper of the United States to the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site would be considered to be a reference to the “Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts.”

New Lincoln Statue

The Saint-Gaudens Memorial and the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site will be unveiling a new bronze cast of Saint-Gaudens statue of Abraham Lincoln on June 26. 

Remarks by Harold Holzer, Lincoln scholar and director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, and Thayler Tolles, the Marcia F. Vilcek Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will take place at 1 p.m. 

Holzer wrote in a May 26 opinion piece for the Concord Monitor, “Saint-Gaudens’s masterpiece portrays the bearded orator of the presidential years. But surely, albeit clean-shaven, this is what Abraham Lincoln looked like when he rose, virtually a political unknown, to appeal to the Republicans of New Hampshire more than a century and a half ago — offering a message of hope that rallied a nation to save itself and shed the immoral contradiction of slavery. Sometimes right really does make might.”

The monumental 12-foot high bronze cast of Abraham Lincoln: The Man (Also known as the Standing Lincoln) represents the first new sculptural addition to the park’s landscape since the Shaw Memorial bronze was unveiled in 1997.

Saint-Gaudens began work on the Lincoln monument in 1885. As the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site relates, “Saint-Gaudens’s friend and attorney, Charles Beaman, enticed the artist to come to Cornish to work on the piece, promising that the area had ‘many Lincoln-shaped men’ who could be used as models. The Standing Lincoln became the first monument Saint-Gaudens would complete in Cornish. Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s son, remarked that Saint-Gaudens’s monument was the very best of the many Lincoln likenesses he had ever seen.”

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site Superintendent Rick Kendall said, “The Standing Lincoln is in many ways the reason we have a National Park in Cornish today.” Kendall added, “Saint-Gaudens moved to Cornish specifically to work on this piece, and found a local model to pose for the sculpture. It would be the first monument he would complete here in New Hampshire. And finally, the popularity of the piece and its use in sculptural diplomacy undoubtedly greased the gears that would ultimately see President Johnson sign the legislation creating the park. We would not have a national park in Cornish without this piece, so it is very fitting that a cast of the Standing Lincoln will finally be placed in the park landscape.”

The park is located at 139 Saint Gaudens Road, Cornish, NH 03745. 

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