Masterpieces

Sculptures and Medals  

Public monuments

By the last decades of the 19th century, some American sculptors in Paris began to execute large-scale works for permanent public display. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of the most prominent American sculptors in Paris during those years. His production was varied, including free-standing sculptures, portraits, medals, and monumental works like Amor Caritas (1885), which is in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay. For Saint-Gaudens, this delicately molded angel with outstretched wings represented an eternal feminine principle. He returned to the subject repeatedly, executing numerous versions in marble and bronze between 1880 and his death in 1898.

Frederick MacMonnies’ nude Bacchante (1893) caused one of the era’s most significant controversies surrounding a work of public art. In 1896, its installation at the Boston Public Library occasioned a vocal protest from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union that ultimately resulted in its removal. Critics of the sculpture thought the nude figure “insipidly frivolous”. However, the cast of the sculpture that the sculptor had donated to the Musée du Luxembourg in 1894 aroused no outcry, but ornamented the gardens there for many years.

Paul Wayland Bartlett’s monumental equestrian sculpture, Monument to La Fayette, can still be seen in a prominent Parisian location. An American committee chose Bartlett to execute the work, which was intended to stand as a monument to Franco-American friendship. The colossal monument stood in a prominent place in the courtyard of the Louvre museum from 1908 until 1983, when the museum’s renovation forced its move to the nearby Cours la Reine. Other American sculptures are visible in public locations throughout the city. Malvina Hoffman’s bronze of the famous Russian dancers Anna Pavlova and Mikhail Mordkin, The Bacchanale (Pavlova and Mordkin) was erected on the grounds of the Musée de Luxembourg in 1919.

But several remarkable monuments erected by American artists are notable today for their absence, rather than their continued presence. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and John Bradley Storrs both erected tremendous monuments on the French coast to commemorate the American casualties of the First World War. Storrs’ American Memorial was erected near Brest in 1937; Whitney’s Monument to the Landing of the American Troops was erected in Saint-Nazaire in 1926. Both were subsequently destroyed by the bombs of the Second World War.