Friday, September 08, 2006

Saint-Gaudens: Lincoln Head of State



Continuing on this binge of Lincoln statuary... Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) made two of them for Chicago -- and this is the second , "Head of State", made in the last years of his life, and not installed until it was discovered, decades later, in a studio in Jackson park.





It's hard to imagine a piece more sombre and sepulchral --- so well deserving the vast, bleak setting that a later architect provided for it -- a fearsome setting that seems only to attract the company of homeless vagrants.





In Chinese mythology, this is the King of Hell -- not necessarily a prince of evil -- but the lord of death -- where nothing moves and changes -- but like dust, it just settles.






He is sitting here forever -- powerful -- but immobile





Is that an American flag draped behind him --- or a shroud ?





Power without joy --- it's hardly an inspiring personal or social ideal -- but it certainly seems as cold, hard, and real as the blue steel barrel of a cannon.

I really admire St. Gaudens the sculptor -- but this is the first -- and last -- time I've spent any time with this statue.

It's just too scary.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Joy In Life said...

I greatly enjoyed the imagery and prose of this post! Did you know that a residency on the east coast offers a figurative sculptor several months of working on the preserved grounds of the home/studio of Saint-Gaudens (national or state park is also associated with the site, I think)?Have you seen his relief work? Some of the most evocative have a delicious "unfinished" quality. Thank you for showing this piece. One could devote a blog to sculptors of Lincoln alone...are you familiar with Vinnie Ream? I believe she was around 16, with little experience, when she networked herself into the White House and sculpted Lincoln near the end of his abbreviated life.

September 09, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

Thanks for all the comments! Yes -- I do think a blog could be devoted to nothing besides statues of Lincoln -- I just saw two more yesterday at the tiny Vanderpoel museum -- and what a interesting comparison between this one and French's at the Lincoln Memorial. They're both sitting on thrones (with their feet off the ground), but look at what French did to make his figure (which came later) less fierce and more welcoming.
And thanks for reminding me of Vinnie Ream -- what a story ! -- and a reminder of how far (and how short) one can go just on willpower and talent.

September 10, 2006  

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