Augusta Savage A ’25
Augusta Savage was a pioneering African American female artist whose work as a sculptor and educator made her a luminary of the Harlem Renaissance. She is best known for her sculpture called The Harp, based on James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” which was shown at the New York 1939 Worlds Fair.
Her works are shown in the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Yale University, Howard University, Hampton University, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the DuSable Museum of African-American History, as well as in private collections.
Her achievements include founding the Savage School of Arts and Crafts, being the first African American elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, a supervisor of artists for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project, and the first director of the Harlem Community Art Center.
She was born in Green Cove Springs, Florida February 2, 1892. She moved to New York City in the 1920s and studied art at the Cooper Union from 1922 to 1925.
During the 1920s, she became known as a portrait sculptor. Her works from this time include portraits of leading African Americans, W. E. B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. Augusta won a Julius Rosenwald fellowship in 1929, based in part on her sculpture of her nephew, titled Gamin. The fellowship allowed her to study in Paris, where she exhibited at the Grand Palais and won a second fellowship to continue her studies abroad for another year.
In 1932, Augusta returned to the United States and established a studio, located in Harlem called the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts. The studio was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and provided arts education to several African American Artists including Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis. She later became the first director of the Harlem Community Arts Center. Augusta was commissioned to create a sculpture for the 1939 New York World’s Fair that represented the musical contributions of African Americans. The final work, titled The Harp, incorporated singing African American Figures that symbolized the strings of a harp. In 1940, Augusta moved out of New York City to live the Catskill Mountains area. In 1988, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem, presented a retrospective of Augusta’s work, and In 1999, PBS featured her in the show ”I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts” in the segment ”I Make Me a World: Bright Like a sun’’.
The Harp can be seen on this page dedicated to 1939 New York World’s Fair. Link The Harp and many other works of Augusta’s works can be seen here on the website of the Augusta Savage Cultural Arts Center.
Her sculpture, Gamin, is in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art and her sculpture The Diving Boy c. 1939 is housed by The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.
The bronze casting of Gamin was featured on Antique Roadshow in 2014. The retail value of the sculpture was estimated at $20,000. Learn More
Additional biographical material about Augusta Savage from Bio is available here. Material on Augusta’s contribution to the Harlem Renaissance is available on the Kennedy Center for the Arts site here.
Augusta Savage was added to Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2008.
Augusta Savage was awarded The CUAA Augustus Saint-Gauden’s Award in 2014. Her Award is on display at the Augusta Savage Cultural Arts Center in her home town of Green Cove Springs, FL.