Gamin is the best-known work by Augusta Savage, the most admired and influential woman artist associated with the Harlem Renaissance. The life-size bronze version of this work (Schomburg Center, New York Public Library) won Savage the opportunity to study in Paris from 1929 to 1931.
Although Gamin has invoked for viewers the ubiquitous street boys of Harlem, Savage actually modeled the sculpture after her nephew and fellow Harlem resident Ellis Ford, who had earned the nickname “gamin” for his spirited, defiant nature. She sensitively modeled her subject in contemporary dress, with a jaunty but somewhat vulnerable expression that lends the work its poignancy.
Upon Savage’s return to Harlem, she began her role as an influential teacher and informal salon host by establishing the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts, which served as an important gathering place for black artists, performers, and intellectuals through the 1930s and early 1940s.