About Augusta Savage

"I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work."

Augusta Savage, born Augusta Christine Fells (February 29, 1892 – March 27, 1962) was an African-American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a teacher and her studio was important to the careers of a rising generation of artists who would become nationally known. She worked for equal rights for African Americans in the arts.

Augusta Fells (Savage) was born in Green Cove Springs (near Jacksonville), Florida, on February 29, 1892, to Edward Fells, a Methodist minister, and Cornelia Murphy. She began making clay figures as a child, mostly small animals, but her father was a poor Methodist minister who strongly opposed his daughter’s early interest in art. "My father licked me four or five times a week," Savage once recalled, "and almost whipped all the art out of me." This was because at that time, he believed her sculpture to be a sinful practice, based upon his interpretation of the "graven images" portion of the Bible. She persevered, and the principal of her new high school in West Palm Beach, where her family relocated in 1915,[5] encouraged her talent and allowed her to teach a clay modeling class. This began a lifelong commitment to teaching as well as to art.

In 1907, Augusta Fells married John T. Moore. Her only child, Irene Connie Moore, was born the next year. John died shortly thereafter. In 1915, she married James Savage; she kept the name of Savage throughout her life. After their divorce in the early 1920s, Augusta Savage moved back to West Palm Beach.

Knowledge of Savage's talent and struggles became widespread in the African-American community; fund-raising parties were held in Harlem and Greenwich Village, and African-American women's groups and teachers from Florida A&M all sent her money for studies abroad. In 1929, with assistance as well from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, Savage enrolled and attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, a leading Paris art school. In Paris, she studied with the sculptor Charles Despiau. She exhibited and won awards in two Salons and one Exposition. She toured France, Belgium, and Germany, researching sculpture in cathedrals and museums.