Molder of America

Nineteenth-century America was an explosively creative country. It opened up new territories to cultivation and poured forth a cornucopia of technical inventions. Its literature ranged from Hawthorne to Mark Twain, from Whitman to Stephen Foster, and its art included the architecture of McKim, Mead and White and the sculpture of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907).

Saint-Gaudens's was an art at once outrageously, extravagantly American and defiantly classical. His masterpieces (like the Sherman monument in front of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan or the Diana that once stood on the pinnacle of the old Madison Square Garden) can hardly be understood without an appreciation of their classical roots. As Basil Gildersleeve told his Virginia audience in 1908, "I too would plead for an honest American literature, a literature of the soO, but the classics are in a measure our home, and Kipling quotes Horace as the burial service quotes a verse from a Greek comic poet. It is not a matter of blood, it is a matter of tradition."

Saint-Gaudens wrote of himself, "I always thought I was a kind of cosmopolitan, gelatinous fish; pas du tout, I belong in America." Saint-Gaudens is a good example of the American as a citizen of a United States of Europe. He studied in Paris and Rome, and was born of a French father and an Irish mother. His greatest works celebrated the Northern heroes of the Civil War: his Farragut and...

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