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Anna Lyman Gray and Augustus Saint-Gaudens

The Perkins School for the Blind has a bronze relief exhibited by the renowned American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. How it got here involves almost a quarter century of service for the Kindergarten.

Tiled portrait of Augustus Saint-Gaudens painted portrait and photographic portrait of Anna Lyman Gray.

Tiled portraits of Augustus Saint-Gaudens painted by Ellen Emmet Rand, circa 1904 and 19th century photographic portrait of Anna Lyman Gray. Saint-Gaudens portrait courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia and Gray portrait courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Introduction

In 1947 Eleanor Lyman Gray Tudor (1876-1964) donated a bronze plaque to Perkins School for the Blind. The plaque was of a bronze relief of her Mother, Anna Lyman Gray by the renowned American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Commissioned by her husband, the plaque was donated to Perkins in recognition of her 25 year service to the Ladies Visiting Committee to the Kindergarten and placed in the Lower School Central Lobby (“Intramural Notes”). Today, the plaque, which has received conservation treatment, is located in the Howe Building Lobby where it showcases the work Gray did on behalf of Perkins’ Kindergarten students by a celebrated artist remembered for his influence on “American identity and public memory” (“Augustus”). 

The conserved Anna Lyman Gray bronze relief.
The newly conserved portrait of Anny Lyman Gray bronze relief with gold leaf resting on a dark wooden frame.

A bronze relief

A portrait plaque of Anna Lyman Gray presents her in profile looking towards the left. She is seated with her arms draped over the arm rests of a chair, while her hands are clasped together above her lap. Gray is wearing an evening dress, with her hair styled in a bun. The plaque includes an inscription at the top that reads, Cornish New Hampshire October MDCCCCII (1902). Saint-Gauden’s monogram, A ST G,  is located near the edge of the painting above the chair arms. The bronze relief is 35 inches tall by 25.5 inches wide. The plaque is mounted on a carved wooden backing. An inscription placed within a carved wreath of roses at the bottom reads, Anna Lyman Gray. Carved grapes also decorate the bottom of the piece.

Anna Lyman Gray 

Early life

Anna Lyman Sophia Mason Gray (1853 – 1932) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was the Reverend Charles Mason, Rector of Grace Church in Boston. In 1873 she married Major John Chipman Gray (1839-1915) a Civil War Veteran. Before and after the war Gray practiced law. He taught and lectured at Harvard Law School for 44 years, was the founding editor of founding Editor of American Law Review and founded a law firm that continues to exist today as Ropes & Gray. A leading authority on property law, during his life, his writing is still cited today, particularly (Moran xiii). The Grays had a son, Roland Gray, and a daughter, Eleanor Lyman Gray Tudor. 

The Ladies’ Visiting Committee

From 1905 to 1930 Anna Lyman Gray served as the President of the Ladies’ Visiting Committee, which was founded in 1888 to raise funds for the Kindergarten for the Blind (“Perkins Holds”). She was also an annual subscriber for this cause and donated fruit for the Kindergarten for holidays including Christmas and Easter (“Acknowledgements,” 343-344). Meetings were also held at her residence. When she decided to retire, there was a celebration of her contributions during the Founders’ Day events in 1930. The edition of the The Lantern records the following: 

“The brief remarks made by Mrs. John Chipman Gray, president of the Ladies’ Visiting Committee for a quarter of a century, touched a note of sadness, for this beloved and consecrated friends of the school had come to give them her farewell and bid them Godspeed under her successor, feeling that the time had come for her to relinquish the work in which she had aided and supported Mr. Anagnos from the early days of his enterprise.

After the singing of “America the Beautiful,” during which a little Greek boy with his country’s flag and a little Greek girl stood proudly, like sentinels, on either side of Mr. Anagnos’ bust, the little pupils marched out, while many lingered to exchange greetings and comments of appreciation of Mrs. Gray’s long and valued service, of the devotion and loyalty of other friends, of the happiness of the children, and of the rich rewards brought about by Mr. Anagnos’ unswerving and self-sacrificing labors on behalf of this unique and beautiful little school” (“Perkins Holds”).

Legacy

Aside from her work for the Kindergarten, Gray served on the Massachusetts General Hospital Ladies Visiting Committee for 47 years. There she is remembered to have campaigned to include foreign-language books in the committee’s program of providing reading materials to patients. The Gray’s children donated a version of the relief in marble to Massachusetts General Hospital (“Portrait”). A bronze version of the same work was donated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1920 by Mr. and Mrs. John Chipman Gray (“Anna Lyman Gray”).

Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Early life

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) was born in Ireland to a French father and Irish mother before emigrating to the United States as an infant. After working as a cameo cutter and taking art classes in New York City, he traveled to France to study sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1867 (Tolles). In 1870 Saint-Gaudens left Paris to study art and architecture in Rome where he met his wife, Augusta Fisher Homer. She was an American art student from Roxbury, Massachusetts who was deaf. They were married in 1877 and had a son named Homer Saint-Gaudens.

Art career

Saint-Gauden began getting commissions in Rome but in 1872 he returned to the United States for portrait commissions of prominent New Yorkers (Tolles). His renown grew in 1881 with a public monument to the Union Admiral David Glasgow Farragut in Manhattan (“Augustus”).  In 1876 Saint-Gaudens began getting Civil War commemorative commissions which included notable works such as the Abraham Lincoln: The Man in Chicago and the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial on Boston Common. A December 22, 1891 issue of the Boston Transcript lists Perkins Founding Director and abolitionist, Samuel Gridley Howe as one of Bostonians who were the “original promoters” of the Boston memorial (“Shaw Monument’). Because of his prolific career, Saint-Gaudens is recognized as playing a significant role in supporting the advancement of public art in the United States (“Augustus”). 

Cornish Art Colony

In 1900, Saint-Gaudens began to live in Cornish, New Hampshire full time. He formed the Cornish Art Colony in 1885 while living there during the summers, which brought a variety of artists including writers, actores, and landscape designers. (“Cornish Colony”). It was in Cornish that he created the Anna Lyman Gray relief, along with the assistance of Frances Grimes (1869-1963) (Dryfhout 251). In 1901, Grimes was hired by Saint-Gaudens 1901 as an assistant and according to Hassler, et al., “She was involved in all aspects of Saint-Gaudens’s studio operation, but in particular she carved and finished marbles and modeled portrait reliefs under his direction” (515). Other known versions of this piece include a marble version at the Warren Library at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a bronze version at the  Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Legacy

In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt had commissioned Saint-Gaudens to redesign the ten and twenty-dollar gold coins which the artist did not live to see minted (“United States”). By the time of his death in 1907, Saint-Gaudens was considered the foremost American sculptor of his time and is credited with changing the aesthetic of American sculpture from a Neoclassical style to a more naturalistic one (Tolles).  Aside from his artwork the legacy of Saint-Gaudens includes private tutelage and teaching at the Art Students League of New York. Many acclaimed sculpturists were taught or apprenticed by him, notably many women. These sculpturists include, Fredrick MacMonnies, Henry Hering, Helen Farnsworth Mears, Mary Lawrence, and Elsie Ward Hering.The home and studios of Saint-Gaudens in Cornish are open to the public as part of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park.

Works cited

“Anna Lyman Gray.” Museum of Fine Arts Boston, available on collections.mfa.org. Accessed July 19, 2023.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens.” Person, National Park Service, Available on nps.gov. Accessed July 25, 2023

Dryfhout, John H. The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. University Press of New England, 2008. Available on Google Books. Accessed July 18, 2023.

Hassler, Donna J., et al. “Frances Grimes 1869-1963.” American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: A catalogue of works by artists born between 1865 and 1885. United States, The Museum, 1999, pp 515-517. Available on Google Books.

Intramural Notes.” The Lantern, 15, December 1947, p. 2.  Available on the Internet Archive.

Moran, Gerald Paul. John Chipman Gray: The Harvard Brahmin of Property Law. Carolina Academic Press 2010.

Perkins Holds Founders Day Observance.” The Watertown Sun, 27, November, 1930, pg. 12. Available on the Internet Archive.

“Portrait of Anna Lyman Gray (1853-1932).” Bulfinch by floor, Massachusetts General Hospital,  available on russellmuseum.org. Accessed July 19, 2023.

The Shaw Monument.” Boston Transcript, 22, December, 1891. p. 110. Perkins Institution Scrapbook of Clippings Jan. 1891–March 1892, available on the Internet Archive.

Tolles, Thayer. “Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. 2004 October, available on metmuseum.org. Accessed July 25, 2022.

United States Twenty-dollar Gold Piece.” Accession Number: 1979.486.8, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, available on metmuseum.org. Accessed July 25, 2022.

Suggested citation:

Hale, Jen. “Anna Lyman Gray and Augustus Saint-Gaudens” Perkins Archives Blog, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown MA, August 15, 2023.

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