Art can look so easy for the geniuses who created it. Yet many great artists had to go through years of struggle or suffering. Van Gogh is a great example, as is Monet. In his eighties, Monet had to have his brushes strapped to his arthritic hands and he was also almost completely blind. Frieda Kahlo lived a life of extreme physical pain and often painted while strapped into braces. These artists had immense struggles when they were creating their masterpieces. Famed artist August Saint-Gaudens is another example of this.
In New York City at the famed entrance to Central Park on Fifth Avenue is the beloved gold Victory Angel of the Sherman Monument. Today it is considered one of the great equestrian monuments in Western art. It took Saint-Gaudens eleven difficult years to create—a process that embraced all the high drama and lush settings of a great Masterpiece Theater series.
In 1892 Saint-Gaudens started the project, but inspiration eluded him for the design of the angel. In despair, he vacationed to Boulogne, France, where one day he observed a procession emerging from a dark alleyway into the bright sunlight of the town square. Several of the townspeople were dressed as characters for the town festival. In their midst strode the imposing golden-robed figure of an angel with glistening wings and long, curly locks. Awestruck, Saint-Gaudens wept, realizing he’d found his Victory Angel.
Back home, unable to find one model to satisfy his vision of the angel, Saint-Gaudens eventually used three different models for his sculpture. For the face and head he chose his close friend Henry Adams’ companion, the enchanting Elizabeth Cameron. Intelligent, magnetic and beautiful, Elizabeth became the belle of Parisian society, enthralling illustrious figures of the day, including Saint-Gaudens and Auguste Rodin.
During the years it took Saint-Gaudens to complete the work, he battled cancer, depression, personal scandal and his own fierce drive to create an expression of perfect beauty. His masterpiece was unveiled in a grand ceremony attended by New York’s mayor and many dignitaries. Throughout the entire ceremony he hid out in a backroom in fear of the critic’s reviews. The monument received high critical acclaim and was even praised as “one of the wonders of the world.”
The Victory Angel’s unique blend of grace, beauty, and strength still holds the power to awe and inspire. So the next time you go to the Apple store on Fifth Avenue, take a stroll across the street and gaze up at the golden angelic beauty. Reflect on her glorious past and the challenges she went through for us to receive her gifts.
Author: Sylvia Moss is a renowned fine arts photographer and author of the book “Angels of New York,” a stunning visual journey of the spectacular displays of angels that grace New York architecture. Sylvia brings her unique perspective as an international sound and energy healer to her work. She is passionate about helping people be well and transform with the healing energy of angels. Sylvia’s angels have been exhibited in many New York and US galleries, MoMA Wales, and private collections.[/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]