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Guide to the Harlem Renaissance sculptor Augusta Savage.

Guide to Harlem Renaissance sculptor Augusta Savage

This guide will assist users and scholars in locating information and artwork by renowned Harlem Renaissance Sculptor, Art Administrator and Educator Augusta Savage by providing information about the largest known collection of artwork by the artist in a public institution. Included is information about primary resources, books and visual materials.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing"

This image is the official postcard issued by the 1939 New York World's Fair. The title references The Negro National Anthem written by James Weldon Johnson noted author, songwriter, lawyer, educator and civil rights activist. 

Artist Biography


                                                                                 Gamin, 1930 , Bronze 16.75 x 6 x 3.5"

Augusta Christine Fells was born in (b. February 29, 1892 - d. March 29, 1962) Green Cove Springs, Florida the seventh child of fourteen children born to Cornelia and Edward Fells. She was a precocious child and began sculpting from nature and making little animals from clay. She marries for the first time at 15, gives birth to a daughter, and shortly thereafter becomes widowed.   In 1915 Savage marries a carpenter named John Savage whom also passes away. Savage displays her sculpture and sells several of her creations at a fair in West Palm Beach, impressing the Fair's superintendent whom encourages her to pursue her talent and move to New York City .

 In 1921, with a letter of recommendation, Savage arrives in New York City to study sculpture at Cooper Union.  She frequents the 135th Street Branch Library located in Harlem, known today as The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, attending lectures and participating in poetry readings.  Her talent as a sculptor is immediately recognized, and the library commissions her to sculpt a portrait bust of W.E.B. DuBois (whereabouts unknown).  She begins to sculpt several notable portraits of leading Harlemites growing her reputation and her skills while earning money. Savage publishes her poetry in Negro World, a newspaper founded by Marcus Garvey, and sculpts a portrait bust of him. Savage also meets and marries her third husband, Robert Posten, secretary general in Garvey's U.N.I. A. (United Negro Improvement Association). Savage teaches art locally while still pursuing her studies and career as a sculptor. In 1923 Augusta wins a fellowship to attend the Fountainebleu School of the Arts in France, but after the white Americans awardees realized she was an African American the award was rescinded. In 1929, Savage's sculpture Gamin wins her a Rosenwald Fellowship and she travels to Paris to study at the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere.                                              

Considered one of the most influential artist in Harlem in the 30s, she was the first African American artist elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors and in 1932 she opens the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts. In 1935 she was a founding member of the Harlem Artist Guild. The Guild was formed to advocate for opportunities for Harlem artists especially on Federal Works Projects.  In 1937 Augusta was director of the Harlem Community Art Center which was the model art center in the country. Her leadership and stature in the art community enabled her to land a commission to create a work for the 1939's World's Fair. Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Harp) was a 16-foot plaster sculpture located at the entrance of the Contemporary Arts Building. Unfortunately, the work was demolished at the end of the Fair as Augusta was unable to procure funding to have the sculpture cast in Bronze.

Curator, Art & Artifacts Division