Artist of the moment….Augusta Savage…


The artist was one of few women of color who pursued knowledge of the arts.  Very similar to Elizabeth Catlett and Samella Sanders Lewis who both blazed new paths for future artists by studying the arts in college.

Augusta Savage was born on Leap Day, which is February 29th in a year with 366 days included, in the year 1862.  The artist was born Augusta Christine Fells and was the seventh child of fourteen.

The artist was a large figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement. She worked tirelessly for equal rights for people of color that worked in the art industry.

A great clip showing a live movie with Augusta Savage working on a sculpture.  The piece is accompanied by some piano jazz. I enjoy seeing the artist’s at work doing their own unique processes which they have honed over the years. She first sculpts an animal piece than a young African- American boy.

A great clip showing the artist at work. In addition to Savage you can other leaders of the Harlem Renaissance such as Richmond Barthe, Aaron Douglas, and Palmer Hayden. The part with Augusta Savage begins 11:40 into the clip.

The artist’s father was a minister and didn’t want his daughter to be involved in the arts. As a child she used clay to sculpt animals. When her father found the artworks he scolded and beat her. Years later when she was in high school she sculpted the Virgin Mary. Immediately her father saw the beauty in her work and he was ashamed for having thought sculpting was a sinful practice.

The artist was married twice but both marriages ended after a few years time.

The artist gets married but her husband dies a few years later. The artist gives sculpting all her attention. She moves to New York and meets the Founder of the American School of Sculpting,  Mr. Solon Borglum.  He enjoys her work and gets the artist an interview with Cooper College. The artist is accepted straight away!

She went to college for two years finishing in 1923. By the late twenties she was teaching art in her own studio in Harlem.  She won an award to study in Rome, but the award covered tuition and not travel. The artist was unable to attend.

Soon after she won another award to study in France and this time she received help from her friends and family. She visited the ancient buildings that can be found in France, Belgium, and Germany.

Augusta Savage won a prestigious award for her sculpture titled ” Gamin,” featuring a young African- American boy. Gamin is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

The artist was a chief proponent of teaching art in Harlem. Her free art classes were so successful she decided to run her own school. She got grants from the Works Project Administration and started the school in 1937. Eleanor Roosevelt showed up for the opening day. The artist had become more of a teacher due to lack of an economy due to the Great Depression. She had returend from Europe in 1931.

She did a few public commissions and opened two galleries that couldn’t handle the tough economy. The artist ended up living on a farm in New York state the remainder of her life.

She worked in materials she could afford. Rarely did the artist use bronze, instead she used clay or plastic.

Augusta Savage passed away in 1962.

I enjoy this artist because of the constant struggles she had just to get by, yet she was able to still be a productive artist.  I think if she was an artist in the present she might garner as much acclaim as Kara Walker. Savage was adept at capturing the character of the human face in clay.

I have never tried a clay piece, but am eager to do so now!

A book out about the artist is out titled IN HER HANDS. The cost is $10 with shipping for a used version on

high price range:  Plaster version of Gamin for $40,800.

low price range: $10,000



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