Sunday, March 1, 2015

Augusta Fells Savage

Augusta Fells Savage- February 29, 1892 – March 27, 1962
I am always excited to learn of new artists and in particular women, who have gone unknown, and seemed to have disappeared into obscurity. A good friend posted information about one such gifted artists of the Harlem Renaissance, who was a talented sculptor, a dedicated teacher, and a strong activist.

 Augusta Fells Savage was the daughter of a Methodist minister, who forbade her to create her art as he deemed it to be a sinful activity. In spite of, and perhaps because of his recriminations and abuse, she ardently pursued her passion.

In 1920 she was admitted into Cooper Union where she excelled, but experienced discrimination, and eventual rejection into a summer art program, that she had applied for in France. She was rejected solely based on the colour of her skin. Immediately forging her commitment to civil rights, she began to publicly fight for equal rights, informing newspapers of this situation, that was in turn publicized throughout the United States and Europe.

Turning her focus on to creating sculpted portraits of W.E.B Dubois and Marcus Garvey, this effort led her to being an acclaimed artist of the Harlem Renaissance.
Through the funding raising efforts of many individuals in her home state of Florida and in New York, she eventually was able to attend the Parisian art school, the Acadèmie de la Grande Chaumière, in 1929. She exhibited her art at the Grand Palais, winning  awards for her work, and then traveled throughout Europe to study art and architecture.

Augusta returned from Europe to New York in the 1930s, where she then became the first African American elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. She then established the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in Harlem, where she taught art to anyone interested. In 1939, she was commissioned by the New York World’s Fair, creating a piece inspired by the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Unfortunately the sculpture it was destroyed at the close of the fair, as she did not have the financial means to transport the piece.

Augusta Fells Savage died in 1962 without fanfare or recognition of her creative, artistic talents and contributions. Much of her work has been lost to history and of unknown whereabouts. Fortunately 'Gamin' one of her most famous pieces is permanently displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

It always saddens me to learn of such women like Augusta Fells Savage, going unnoticed into obscurity, or not have been recorded within art history books. Finally at long last this is changing, and I am grateful to learn of this remarkable woman now, rather than never. Augusta Fells Savage is truly a gift to the rich history of African American Artists and who has left a wonderful legacy to the art world. 

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