Augusta Savage (b.1892 -1962) was an American sculptor and educator that gained prominence during the Harlem Renaissance era. Although she was able to leave a lasting impact in art history and was an inspiration to many black artists, she endured many struggles throughout her career. Some of which sparked her own public battles for equal rights of African Americans in the arts.
Savage’s interest in sculpting began at a very young age. The talent of the Florida native was almost thwarted by her extremely religious father, who at first saw her figures as blasphemous. His disapproval eventually softened after seeing a figure of the Virgin Mary that Augusta created. She studied at Copper Union art school in New York City, but received widespread attention after being turned down from French summer arts program just because she was black. She in turn decided to fight the notion, which gained notable press coverage. From that point on, because of her struggles and her obvious talent Augusta received much support throughout the African American arts community.
One of Savage’s most famous pieces, Gamin, can be seen in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. She worked mostly in plaster or clay because she could not afford to use bronze.She would just paint her sculptures to look bronze. Her style would be described as realistic, expressive, and sensitive. In 2009, a children’s book about her life was released called In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage.
**My thoughts: I am completely blown away by her work. Maybe I’m a bit of a sexist or something, because I almost can’t believe those sculptures were created by a woman! I’ve always associated realistic figurative sculpture with the more famous Italian Renaissance artists, who were mostly male. It’s good to see a figure such as her help pave the way and break molds for not only African Americans, but for women in general!
Photo credits: Google images (didn’t feel like putting them all here)