Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 08.01.09 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Summer As a Verb


Another visitor to the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site was speaking on her cell phone. “I am visiting Saint Gardens, in Cornish,” she said. And she wasn’t all wrong. The estate of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, NH is a little bit of heaven on earth, with rolling lawns, a birch walk, a wildflower meadow and a scattering of buildings that demonstrate an urbanite’s vision of country life from the turn of the nineteenth century. A barn developed into a stage with a neo-classical pergola and a clerestory. A plain farmhouse was dressed up with a Dutch stepped gable and a deep porch with trellises and a red-painted floor. The garden wasdivided into blocks, and each hedged cell now houses a famous work, including Saint-Gaudens’ Robert Gould Shaw memorial frieze—a tribute to the leader of the first black regiment to fight for the Union in the Civil War. (Matthew Broderick played Shaw in Glory.) The carefully modeled heads of the soldiers, with specific, non-stereotyped African-American faces, are on display in another building.

Saint-Gaudens was part of a larger summer outflux of artists to Cornish. Other famous names include borderline soft-porn painter Maxfield Parrish (my college roommate had his Ecstacy pinned up on her wall), the now completely eclipsed novelist Winston Churchill, and assorted other painters, engravers, gardeners and musicians linked by their love of classical dress-up, particularly for their fancifully named children. (There are some great period photos in the book New Hampshire’s Cornish Colony.)

Besides being a lovely place to picnic, the site is also an indoor and outdoor museum of Saint-Gaudens’ work, which turns out to be ubiquitous but also, for me, completely overlooked. Saint-Gaudens is responsible for the style of American coinage, as he and friend Teddy Roosevelt led the effort to create more beautiful money, most notably the gold double-eagle coin. Saint-Gaudens also had a hand in many of those memorial sculptures I completely ignore in city parks. If it isn’t Daniel Chester French, it’s probably Saint-Gaudens.

The most interesting of the large sculptures on display is the Farragut Memorial from Madison Square Park. The original base was done in bluestone, which proved too soft for the rain, and was sent back to Cornish and replaced with a granite facsimile. The statue of Admiral Farragut is fine in its way—a nice likeness, in contemporary dress—but the base is allusive and clever. Designed by Stanford White (a frequent collaborator) as a semi-circular bench, it looks as if it is in the process of being etched by the waves, with fish caught in currents forming the two front corners. As the waves carry around the back, they turn into draperies on two mourning maidens. Saint-Gaudens and White’s names are written on a bronze crab. In Cornish this sculpture sits in a little glass-roofed open-ended barn, part of a complex with the Little Studio and a gallery that shows the work of contemporary artists in residence. The building manages to make the big urban sculpture work in the rural setting, and helps you focus on the artist’s hand in a way that’s impossible in the city. Perhaps that’s why all these artists had to summer: they couldn’t really think, or watch a stream, or play at being nymphs and satyrs in the city.

In The New Yorker of August 24, 2009, Peter Schjeldahl reviews a show of Saint-Gaudens’ work at the Met, and reports on his trip to Cornish.

|
Share This Story

Comments

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

More books by contributors >>

RELATED POSTS


The Conceptual Advertising of J.G. Ballard
J.G. Ballard’s conceptual ads anticipated the emergence of culture jamming, subvertising, design fiction and speculative design.

How to Visualize Poetry — And How Not to
Design Observer's poetry editor, Adam Plunkett, gives us a primer on visual poetry.

Found, Cut, and Rearranged: The Art of John Stezaker
For almost four decades, the artist John Stezaker has steadfastly been appropriating “found” press photographs, film stills, imagery from books, old postcards, and the like, to create a strikingly new way of seeing photography.

An Aposiopesis of Black Honey: or Variations on Dürer's Melancholia I
A visual poem from Jess.

The Essence of a Teapot
While the traditional teapot should be at the very least functional — that is, have the ability to hold and pour a liquid, I recently viewed an exhibition that turns all that on end with the “idea of a teapot.”