Diana the Huntress: Augustus Saint-Gaudensâ Only Female Nude
Dublin-native Augustus Saint-Gaudens was raised in New York City after his Irish mother and French father immigrated to America when he was six months old. He took classes at the Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design before traveling to Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux Arts. He also studied art and architecture in Rome. Upon his return to the United States, Saint-Gaudens received critical acclaim for his monuments commemorating heroes of the American Civil War and his numerous funerary monuments and busts. His colossal Standing Lincoln in Lincoln Park, Chicago, is considered one of the finest portrait statues in America. It was followed by a seated statue of the president in Chicago’s Grant Park, a copy of which was placed by Lincoln’s tomb. Saint-Gaudens was an important teacher, tutoring privately and at the Art Students League of New York. He is also known for his portrait medallions and coin designs. Later in life, he founded the Cornish Colony in New Hampshire, which attracted numerous painters, architects, and sculptors, including Paul Manship, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and the illustrator Maxfield Parrish. His house and gardens are preserved as Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.
Diana was designed to be a weathervane placed atop Stanford White’s new Madison Square Garden in New York. The monumental gilt bronze figure became a popular success and the sculptor made many smaller-scale copies. The IMA’s version shows the graceful, idealized lines and naturalistic forms of the Beaux-Arts style that Saint-Gaudens employed for his only nude female figure. The original eighteen-foot figure of Diana was much too cumbersome and unbalanced to remain as a weathervane. A smaller thirteen-foot version was made and placed on the building, where it remained until the structure was demolished and the statue acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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