“The combination, in both mental and material equipment, of appreciating the past while being awake to the present, is very evident in Annette Saint-Gaudens,” writes friend and writer, Frances Duncan. Annetta Johnson Saint-Gaudens (1869-1943) was a sculptor, activist, and member of the Cornish Art Colony.
Creating ideal works and portraits, Annetta often worked in relief and terra cotta miniatures. She is best remembered in New Hampshire for the bronze birdbath, now in the Meriden Bird Sanctuary, that she made to commemorate the presentation of Percy MacKaye’s Sanctuary: A Bird Masque. In 1913, she was awarded the MacMillan Prize from the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors and exhibited seven works in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.
Annetta Johnson began her art training at the Columbus Art School before coming to New York to study at the Art Students League. Instructor Augustus Saint-Gaudens identified her “as a student of the right feeling and with a firm foundation for sincere work” and asked the promising young artist to join his studio in 1894. For two years, she assisted the prominent sculptor create the General Logan Monument to be installed in Chicago.
Annetta Johnson also worked alongside Louis Saint-Gaudens, brother to Augustus and fellow sculptor himself, whom she married in 1898. The couple then moved to Ohio and gave birth to their son, Paul. At the request of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the three joined him in Cornish, New Hampshire in 1902. The family continued to summer there after her brother-in-law’s death in 1907 where she assisted her husband complete commissions and created ceramic and terra cotta pottery pieces herself. Aside from her original works, Annetta became the primary assistant to Louis and played important roles in the creation of sculptures attributed to her husband. This including modeling portions of Electricity at Union Station in Washington, DC and the final carving of Painting at the St. Louis Art Museum.
Throughout her life, Annetta remained a reformer and activist. She was a member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Equal Suffrage League in Cornish. In the last decade of her life, she advocated for international peacebuilding institutions writing that “No people wish war. They are driven by fear and abnormal appeals to their loyalty to country rather than humanity.” Her sculpture Salvation depicts a Christ-like figure rising above the suffering of militarism and alcohol.
She eventually moved to California where she continued sculpting and worked as an art educator. In 1927, she described her work in a public school, “I am teaching because of the tradition back of me. Surely the years of study and training that I have had ought to be given toward the upbuilding of the real American art, which may come with a younger generation. I have given them all they could take. They are not ready for very much. But then, nothing of value comes quickly nor easily.”
Link to page with example of her art.