Augusta Savage is arguably the greatest black sculptor of the 20th century but has never gotten the recognition she deserved. Born in the South in the late 1800s, she gained recognition during the Harlem Renaissance and earned commissions to do a bust of NAACP leader WEB Dubois and later Marcus Garvey. She won a scholarship at the prestigious Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts outside Paris, but it was withdrawn when they learned she was Black.
Perhaps one of her best-known works was ‘The Harp” commissioned for the World’s Fair of 1939. She said her inspiration for the sculpture was the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, which is often described as the Black national anthem. While recognized by contemporary artists, like so many during and post Depression, she struggled financially despite her talents.
She was instrumental in getting the Works Progress Administration to include Black artists in its Federal Art Project. Savage was the first African American to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors and later became the director of the Harlem Community Art Center. She believed that teaching others was far more important than creating art herself, and explained her motivation in an interview: “If I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work. No one could ask for more than that.” Beautiful work Augusta.