Friday, June 1, 2018

Larger than Life

Photo of Augustus Saint-Gaudens looking into the camera and smoking a cigar
Recently, we had the opportunity to collaborate with the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. They borrowed several documents from our Augustus Saint-Gaudens papers to round out an exhibit on the American sculptor--the first major display of his work in New England in over thirty years. When our materials came back to us after several months away, it provided an opportunity to reflect upon the accomplishments of one of the most important American artists of his generation.

Initial sketch of Standing Lincoln monument, including dimensionsSaint-Gaudens is perhaps best known for his bronze bas-relief on Boston Common, the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial. However, we were reminded today of another influential work that Shaw completed in 1887 at the age of thirty-nine: Abraham Lincoln: The Man. Often referred to as Standing Lincoln, Shaw's massive 12-
foot statue stands on a pedestal in Lincoln Park in Chicago. Saint-Gaudens was specially selected to cast the giant monument, a fitting choice in part because the artist held the late president in high esteem and had been at his inauguration. The initial sketches that Saint-Gaudens made of the monument evince his attention to detail, all the way down to the pedestal decorations.

initial sketch of small detail for monument pedestal base
The influence of Standing Lincoln on both the public and other artists was significant. Numerous replicas were made and now stand in places as far-flung as London and Mexico City. Smaller replicas were cast by Saint-Gaudens' widow, Augusta, after his death and now reside in art museums all over the country. The local significance of this statue is also worth mentioning: Standing Lincoln was the first monument completed by Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, New Hampshire, where one of his friends had lured him with the promise that the area had "many Lincoln-shaped men." Saint-Gaudens would become so enamored of Cornish that he decided to establish his studio there. Saint-Gaudens' presence attracted like-minded artists that included important figures like the painter Maxfield Parrish and the American novelist Winston Churchill. The regular but informal gathering of these artists every summer eventually morphed into an extended social network that would come to be called the Cornish Colony. Today, the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is the only national park system site in the state of New Hampshire (other than our portion of the Appalachian Trail).

To explore the Augustus Saint-Gaudens papers, come to Rauner and ask for boxes from ML-4.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The World in Your Hand

Title page showing globeI pulled this book off the shelf just because it was so cute: a book less than 4 1/2 inches tall boasting "Atlas" from 1601 on the spine. I expected a few fold out maps, but I found the whole world compressed between the pages. It is based on a pocket atlas issued by Plantin in 1590--it might even use the same plates. Each page opening gives you a short textual description on the verso and an engraved map on the recto.

Map of AfricaMost of Europe gets detailed treatment, but all of the Americas (North and South) are relegated to one map--the same is true for Africa. What is the purpose of an atlas like this? It can't get you anywhere, and it doesn't have enough information or detail to give you a good sense of any of the places depicted. Maybe it was some kind of power thing--a statement of ownership or dominance. Or, just a quick reference guide for the geographically confused.

Two-page spread showing text and map of Zelandia
To judge for yourself, ask for McGregor 131.