The Life of Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Augustus Saint-Gaudens made an important contribution not only to the artistic community in his day, but also to American coinage. At the turn of the 20th century, his work on the Gold Double Eagle put him at the forefront of design mastery. Fulfilling part of President Theodore Roosevelt's call to bring beauty back to American coinage, the coin's design solidified Saint-Gauden's artistic legacy. 

His interesting life is studied by artists, historians and numismatists for his important work and lasting contributions. 

Saint-Gaudens was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1848. He moved to New York with his parents at a young age and lived there for the majority of his life. While in New York, his father established a successful boot and shoe shop. In 1861, at age 13, Saint-Gaudens was apprenticed to artist Louis Avet. For several years, he apprenticed with stone and cameo cutters, eventually finding his way to the Cooper Union and National Academy of Design. 

For much of his life, he would be a sculptor or architect, making important statues and monuments. His early apprenticeships helped shape his work as an artist in the late 19th century. In 1867, he traveled to Paris and was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the foremost proving ground for artists and architects during the late nineteenth century.

After leaving France to return to New York, he was firmly entrenched as an artist and sculptor. Throughout much of his life in the late 1800s, he would travel to Europe and back to New York to hone his craft. During his post-apprenticeship, he would earn over 20 commissions, some of them still on display today. 

By 1900, he was the most renowned American architect and sculptor. He would be noticed by Theodore Roosevelt for a coin commission to redesign the $10 and $20 Gold pieces


His $20 Gold piece, the Double Gold Eagle, was an artistic achievement for the 20th century. He has other famous works that he is known for:

  • Sherman Memorial (1903)
  • Farragut Memorial in Madison Square Park (1881)
  • Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson (1888)
  • Phillip Brooks Statue in front of Trinity Church Boston (1907)
  • Adams Memorial, Rock Creek Cemetery (1891)
  • Peter Cooper Monument (1897)

Augustus Saint-Gaudens was a premier artist in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He sculpted important works through various times in history such as the Civil War and the turn of the century. His work is displayed throughout museums and national sites throughout the country. His legacy will continue to inspire artists and numismatists for generations to come.

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