Augusta Christine Fells (Moore) Savage (American, 1892-1962) plaster sculpture with bronze patina titled GAMIN along front edge, depicting a young African American male with a tilted cap and wrinkled shirt. Signed “Savage” vertically in rectangle on the backside. Created circa 1929. 9″ H x 5 3/4″ W x 4 3/8″ D. Biography (adapted from The Johnson Collection): Augusta Savage was a leading artist of the Harlem Renaissance. One of fourteen children born to a rural Florida preacher, she moved to New York in 1921 with less than $5 to her name to pursue the study of sculpture at the Cooper Union. Her skill in creating portrait busts of African Americans earned her praise, but she was denied admission to a women’s summer art program in France because of her race — an injustice that provoked national headlines. Her first “Gamin” sculpture was created in 1929 and was “a critical work not only to Savage’s career, but also as an embodiment of the Harlem Renaissance’s mission. The representation of the solemn, sensitive youth expressed the inherent dignity of an African American identity that many black artists sought to promote. Here, Savage captures an arrested moment, a sense of true immediacy; the child’s glance feels natural and uncontrived. While the subject is presumed to be her nephew, Ellis Ford, Gamin was conceived as a type rather than a portrait, representing one of the city’s countless street urchins. The critical and commercial success of Gamin catapulted Savage’s reputation far beyond Harlem art circles. The breakthrough sculpture garnered the attention of patrons and at last earned her a fellowship through the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to study in Paris. She arrived there in the autumn of 1929 and connected with fellow African American expatriates like Henry O. Tanner, Nancy Prophet, and Hale Woodruff. In late 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression, Savage returned to Harlem, where she concentrated on teaching and advocacy.” She established the Savage Studio of Arts & Crafts in 1932 and taught at the Harlem Community Arts Center and the Harlem Artists Guild, inspiring many future African American Artists. Provenance: private California collection, by descent from the estate of Clara D’Agostino, New York. CONDITION: A couple of shallow chips to hat brim, one to nose and another to the chin. All have been touched up with a blue color paint. Fleabite to one eyebrow and along the right side base edge. Scratching to the base.
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