Augustus Saint-Gaudens, sculptor of the statue for the Charles Stewart Parnell monument which is installed at the North end of Dublin‘s O’Connell Street in 1911, is born in Dublin on March 1, 1848. He is generally acknowledged to be the foremost American sculptor of the late 19th century, noted for his evocative memorial statues and for the subtle modeling of his low reliefs.
Saint-Gaudens is born to a French father and an Irish mother. His family moves to New York City when he is an infant and at age 13 he is apprenticed to a cameo cutter. He earns his living at this craft, while studying at night at Cooper Union (1861–65) and the National Academy of Design (1865–66) in New York. In 1867 he travels to Paris and is admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. Along with Olin Levi Warner and Howard Roberts, he is one of the first Americans to study sculpture in Paris. Late in 1870 he sets out for Rome, where, still supporting himself by cameo cutting, he works for two years copying famous antique statues on commission. He also starts to create his first imaginative compositions during this period.
After 1875 Saint-Gaudens settles in New York, where he befriends and collaborates with a circle of men who form the nucleus of an American artistic renaissance. The group includes the architects Henry Hobson Richardson, Stanford White, and Charles Follen McKim and the painter John La Farge. The most important work of Saint-Gaudens’s early career is the monument to Admiral David Farragut (1880, Madison Square Garden, New York), the base of which is designed by White.
From 1880 to 1897 Saint-Gaudens executes most of the well-known works that gain him his great reputation and many honours. Working with La Farge, in 1881 he creates two caryatids for a fireplace in Cornelius Vanderbilt’s residence. In 1887 he begins the Amor Caritas, which, with variations, preoccupies him from about 1880 to 1898, and also a statue of a standing Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln Park, Chicago). The memorial to Marian Hooper Adams (1891) in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C., is considered by many to be his greatest work. In 1897 he completes a monument in Boston depicting Robert Gould Shaw, colonel of an African American regiment in the American Civil War. The statue is remarkable for its expression of movement. Shortly thereafter, he leaves for Paris, where, over the next three years, he prepares his final major public sculpture, the Sherman Monument (1903), which is eventually erected in Grand Army Plaza in New York.
Saint-Gaudens also makes many medallions, originally as a diversion from more serious tasks. These works show the influence of Renaissance medals as well as his early cameos. Among them are designs for U.S. coins and a considerable number of portraits. His autobiography, The Reminiscences of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, is published in 1913.