In the 1867 my great-grandfather, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, at the age of nineteen went to Paris for the first time to study sculpture. He was one of few American artists to be admitted to the prestigious and highly regarded Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
I visited the school recently and admired the grandness and beauty of such an old building that dates back to 1648. Other famous artists such as Edgar Degas, Renoir, and Mary Cassatt to name just a few also studied there.
I could not help but think of my great grandfather who at such a young age studied hard and was so well rewarded. He was fortunate that he was quite fluent in French because his French father taught him from the day he was born.
He was at the Exposition when the Eiffel Tower was first displayed in 1889, celebrating one hundred years since the French Revolution. It had a 20 year permit to remain and then in 1909 be torn down. However it proved to be valuable for scientific purposes and so was granted to remain.
Gus, as my great-grandfather was affectionately called, was more impressed with the statue of Joan of Arc by Paul Dubois which he declared to be one of the finest statues in the world.
In April of 1900 at the Paris Exposition, Saint-Gaudens was very proud and pleased to have his statue of General Sherman and a plaster cast of The Shaw Memorial on display. There he won Grand Prize and was named a member of the Society des Beau-Arts. Today the Sherman monument stands near the entrance to Central Park and the Shaw Memorial is in the Boston Common.
I have read about my great-grandfather describing the beautiful Luxembourg and Tulieres Gardens, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Champs Elysees where he often stopped at a local cafe. He had studios near the Luxembourg gardens during his many trips to Paris and other parts of France.
The Opera House was opened in 1875 which was a place Saint-Gaudens went to frequently. He loved opera and classical music with Beethoven and Mozart two of his favorite composers. He had a wonderful tenor voice and often hummed or sang the Andante of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
What an exciting, thrilling, and spiritual experience it has been for me to visit the places where my great-grandfather had once been. When my grandfather was a young boy about 12 years old he lived in Paris for about a year and went to school at a lycée. He also spoke fluent French learning from his father.
As I have spent these beautiful fall days here in Paris I have shed tears of pride and love for a man I never met. However, I know him at a spiritual level because of the great and endearing love I had for and received from my grandfather, his son.
I hope you have enjoyed your time with me in Paris. This beautiful and bustling city is the first stop in my celebration of one year of remission from cancer.
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