"Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French" opens on June 29 in Bucks County.

Michener Art Museum celebrates first exhibition exploring legacies of Gilded Age sculptors who created the nation’s most recognizable monuments

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (American,1848-1907), Head of Victory, 1897-1902. Plaster, 24 x 19 x 22 inches. Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, Cornish, NH.

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 The James A. Michener Art Museum is pleased to present "Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French," the first exhibition to explore the intersecting careers and significance of two of America’s most preeminent sculptors of the Gilded Age. The exhibition will be on view at Michener Art Museum from June 29 through January 5, 2025.

Daniel Chester French (1850–1931) and Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907) were friends and sometimes rivals who transformed sculpture in the United States. They produced dozens of the nation’s most recognizable public artworks, including French’s "Seated Abraham Lincoln" in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and Saint-Gaudens’s "Diana," which graced the top of Madison Square Garden in New York.

Saint-Gaudens was born in Dublin, Ireland and immigrated to New York as an infant. French was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. After coming of age in Civil War America and training in Europe, both artists returned to the United States in a moment when sculpture had immense power to shape the visual and intellectual landscape of the nation during a period of rapid industrial growth and developing sociopolitical structures.

"Monuments and Myths" features approximately 70 sculptures, models, maquettes, and more drawn from the collections of the two artists’ historic homes, the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park and French’s Chesterwood. The exhibition features six thematic sections, beginning with an overview of the artists’ thriving studio practices in rural New England, both of which were dynamic spaces of creativity, education, and exchange.

Between 1860 and 1920, Americans experienced the Civil War, World War I, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. French’s and Saint-Gaudens’s funerary monuments and looks at how, during this extended period of unfathomable human loss, the two sculptors’ evocations of beauty and mystery played a vital role in shaping evolving attitudes toward death, grief, and memorialization.

With an aesthetic of remarkable formal elegance, Gaudens and French created a picture of national ambition rooted in conceptions of liberty, grandeur, and common cause. Filled with multiple meanings and contested histories, the artworks in this exhibition encourage visitors to question the stories that public art tells and to explore what histories remain hidden from view.

“It is an opportune time to examine the role of historic monuments, and the impact of these sculptures and how their legacy continues to influence our perception of America,” said Laura Turner Igoe, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator.

Visitors can also enjoy a related exhibition from Bucks County artist, George Anthonisen who served as sculptor-in-residence at the Saint Gaudens National Historical Park in the 1970s. "George R. Anthonisen: Meditations on the Human Condition" celebrates Anthonisen’s 65-year artistic career of creating visual dialogues with his figurative sculptures. The exhibition is open until October 13 and features more than 40 bronze sculptures, maquettes, and frescoes on view both in the galleries and the Museum’s Sculpture Garden.

Related Exhibition Programming: 

Art After Dark: Monuments and Myths Live Performance

Thursday, July 11, 2024, from 6-8 p.m. $25/$15 Member/$7 Student

An evening of live performance, where improv actors take visitors through the exhibition using humor to bring to life Saint-Gaudens's and French’s most iconic figures The evening will also feature live music, a finger labyrinth workshop, games and a bar for those 21 and over.

Virtual Conversation: Behind the Scenes of Monuments and Myths

Wednesday, July 31, 2024, 7p.m. Pay what you wish (free/$10/$20)

Join us for a virtual conversation with Chief Curator Laura Igoe and Director of Exhibitions Joshua Lessard as they take you on a tour of the new exhibition, "Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French." Learn about the history of the sculptors, the exhibition, and background about pieces to see during when visiting.

This virtual program is accessible via Zoom. On the morning of July 31 participants will receive the Zoom link via the email address provided during registration. Please double-check spam/junk folders if the confirmation email is not received. If you encounter any difficulties in registering or accessing the Zoom link after registering, please email [email protected]. The Museum will record the program and share it with registrants who are unable to attend live.

Please check back at our website for more new programs related to "Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French."

Michener Art Museum in Doylestown has a mission dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting the art and cultural heritage of the Bucks County region. The Museum is home to the largest public collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings. 

The James Michener Art Museum gets its name from Doylestown’s most famous son, the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer who first dreamed of a regional art museum in the early 1960s. The Museum was originally home to the 19th century Bucks County Jail, and it is still surrounded by the original stone walls which are part of the Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden, terraces, and a landscaped courtyard. The Museum features nationally touring special exhibitions, work from regional artists in distinctive galleries, and the quiet and serene Nakashima Reading Room.


Press Release

Thursday, July 25, 2024




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