“The Pilgrim” by artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO

“The Pilgrim” by artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO

[Erika Doss] When I first saw this statue, I was reminded of similarly threatening, scary characters: Bela Lugosi in Dracula, or a shadowy, threatening character in any number of horror films. I’m Erika Doss. I’ve written several books on public art in America. We don’t think of Philadelphia when we think of Puritans and Pilgrims. So, one might ask what is a large, bronze sculpture of a rather severe looking pilgrim doing here in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia? [Joe Conforti] In the late 1800’s, there’s a revival of interest in Puritanism. [Doss] Joe Conforti is the author of several books on New England. [Conforti] In the late 19th century, America was changing. Increasing numbers of non-English immigrants are flooding into America and there was concern that the colonial traditions that had made America strong were being undermined. [Doss] Anxieties about these millions of new immigrants, bringing with them different ideas about politics, religion. [Conforti] So we begin to see the founding of New England Societies all over the country- in Saint Louis, in Cincinnati, as far away from New England as San Francisco. [Doss] And Philadelphia was one of the significant headquarters. [Conforti] These societies… [Doss] These groups of fairly affluent and elite, white men came together and celebrated themselves. [Conforti] And the figure of the Puritan is trotted out, theres a series of statues. [Doss] Pilgrims and Puritans up and down America’s east coast. [Gregory Schwarz] Well, you’re looking at the monument thats entitled “The Pilgrim.” It’s by Augusts Saint-Gaudens. [Doss] Greg Schwarz is the Chief of Interpretation at the August Saint-Gaudens Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire. [Schwarz] “The Pilgrim” actually is a later version of an earlier sculpture that he did which is in Springfield, Massachusetts. That first sculpture, “The Puritan” was intended as a portrait of the founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, Deacon Samuel Chapin. In 1903, the New England Society of Pennsylvania asked Saint-Gaudens to essentially create a duplicate of “The Puritan.” [Doss] It was dedicated in 1905 in front of Philadelphia City Hall and then in 1920 it was moved to Fairmount Park. [Schwarz] Even though the sculpture you’re looking at is very similar to “The Puritan” in Massachusetts, its not an exact replica. For this later version, he took the book in the figures hand, turned it around, and actually labeled it across the spine “Holy Bible.” He also changed the sculpture’s face. [Doss] He makes the face even thinner and more severe. [Schwarz] And more what he perceived as “New England” in character. [Doss] There definitely is a push back. People protesting some of this, what we might call Puritan revival. [Conforti] This cultural imperialism of New England, if I can use that term. [Doss] Mark Twain is one of the leaders of this. He pokes fun at Puritans in speeches and lectures and published writings, because he, like Augustus Saint-Gaudens, sees the irony in promoting these severe founders of the 17th century who at the same time are blood thirsty. [Conforti] Indians were killed, witches were persecuted. [Doss] Augustus Saint-Gaudens is keen to that kind of contradiction, not terribly fond of New World Puritanism. So in a sense, theres a great irony in having Augustus Saint-Gaudens sculpt a statue called “The Pilgrim.”

2 Replies to ““The Pilgrim” by artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO”

  1. Are you scared, feeling threatened by a beautiful bronze sculpture? Does their supposed severity inspire your severe review? Erica get real. Are you totally unappreciative of a group of religious refugees, that did have conviction, that evolved into New England free thought. These men and women should not be mocked by you. Visitors are here to see the sculpture and really don't need your audio distractions and depreciations. Thanks for the video, redo the audio to more properly represent your sponsor, the Association FOR Public Art.

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