Signed, in relief, upper right: AVGVUSTVS. / .SAINT-GAVDENS. / FECIT. [copyright seal, lower right]; inscribed, in relief, upper left: ROBERT.LOVIS.STEVENSON.M.C.C.C.L.XXX.VII.; inscribed, in relief, at top: .BRIGHT.IS.THE.RING.OF.WORDS.WHEN.THE.RIGHT.MAN.RINGS.THEM./.FAIR.THE.FALL.OF.SONGS.WHEN.THE.SINGER.SINGS.THEM./.STILL.THEY.ARE.CAROLLED.AND.SAID.ON.WINGS.THEY.ARE.CARRIED./.AFTER.THE.SINGER.IS.DEAD.AND.THE.MAKER.BVRIED.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was a master of every scale and format—from small coins and intimate portrait reliefs to public monuments. He is considered the leading artistic force behind the Cornish art colony and the most prominent American sculptor of the late 19th century. This relief is a reduction of Saint-Gaudens’s third portrayal of the Scottish novelist, travel writer, poet, and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson (1850– 1894). Stevenson, who suffered from tuberculosis for much of his life, sat for Saint-Gaudens in 1887 and 1888. This composition captures the writer in convalescence, yet deep in thought with pen in hand. The inscription across the background is taken from Stevenson’s poem Songs of Travel, XV. Its sentiments transform this version of the relief, which was modeled after the author’s death, into an especially poignant memorial:
Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them.
Still they are carolled and said—
On wings they are carried—
After the singer is dead
And the maker buried.
From the 2019 exhibition American Art, Colonial to Modern, curated by Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art
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Comparative Literature 49.09/English 53.49, Graphic Medicine, Michael Chaney, Winter 2023
American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 9-December 9, 2007.
American Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-September 12, 2021.
American Viewpoints: Painting and Sculpture from the Hood Museum of Art, Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, California, May 5-August 31, 2003.
Curator's Choice: Dartmouth College Permanent Collection, Jaffe-Friede, Strauss and Barrows Galleries, Hopkins Center Art Galleries, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, October 29, 1976-January 19, 1977.
Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, December 23, 1997-June 9, 1998.
Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 26, 1996-May 11, 1997.
National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C., July 1969-February 28, 1970.
New Hampshire Art, New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, New Hampshire, May-June, 1966.
Portraits at Dartmouth, Jaffe-Friede Gallery, Hopkins Center Art Galleries, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 10-April 16, 1978.
The Beauty of the Bronze: Selections from the Hood Museum of Art, Gene Y. Kim Class of 1985 Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, October 13, 2012-March 18, 2014.
Arthur R. Blumenthal, Portraits at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 1978, p. 73, no. 67.
Barbara J. MacAdam, American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Muesum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2007, p. 119, no. 92.
Helen L. Card Gallery, New York; sold to M.R. Schweitzer (dealer), New York, June 23, 1975 (sic); sold to present collection, 1963.