Augustus Saint–Gaudens (American, 18481907)
Plaster; 8 5/8 x 16 7/8 in. (21.9 x 42.9 cm)
Gift of David and Joshua Gilder, 2002 (2002.445)
Among Saint-Gaudens' most technically innovative sculptures is a charming series of low-relief portraits of artists and friends completed during the late 1870s in Paris. This example, a compact rectangular portrait of the Richard Watson Gilder family, was the sculptor's most ambitious to date. It depicts the sitters in shoulder-length profile with Richard Gilder facing his wife Helena and two-year-old son Rodman. In 1879, the Gilders took an extended trip to Europe. In May, they sat for Saint-Gaudens in Paris for this family portrait, the sculptor's first multifigure relief. Gilder (18441909) was a close friend of Saint-Gaudens and an intimate of New York's genteel circle. He used his position at Scribner's Monthly and, after 1881, as editor of Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine to proselytize for younger, French-trained, American sculptors, Saint-Gaudens being his favorite. Gilder's wife, Helena de Kay (18461916), was a talented painter and a founder of the Art Students League. Rodman de Kay Gilder (18771953) became an author and married Comfort Tiffany, a daughter of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Later, in September 1879, Saint-Gaudens began extracting Rodman's likeness from the family relief to make an individual portrait (1994.50).