Saturday, February 22, 2014

AUGUSTA SAVAGE'S 1939 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR SCULPTURE, "THE HARP"


  
Photo above, of Augusta Savage (center) detailing parts of her sculpture, "The Harp". From the archives of the New York Public Library, Catalog Call # MssCol 223

Augusta Savage (b. Augusta Christine Fells) was a sculptor and teacher associated with The 306 Group of artists during the Harlem Renaissance. Named after the art studio at 306 West 141st Street, this place saw the likes of black artists such as Charles Alston, Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence.

Savage was commissioned to create a sculpture for the 1939 New York World's Fair. This massive work, exhibited in the Court of Contemporary Arts, was entitled "The Harp" and was influenced by James Weldon
Johnson's song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

The sculpture depicted a group of twelve stylized black singers in graduated heights symbolizing the strings of a harp. The sounding board was formed by the hand and arm of God, and a kneeling man holding music represented the foot pedal. No funds were available to cast "The Harp", nor were there any facilities to store it. After the fair closed in 1940, "The Harp" was demolished, as were many other works of art created for the fair.