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Determining the Facts

Reading 3: The Cornish Colony

The arrival of Saint-Gaudens to Cornish, New Hampshire, in the summer of 1885 marked the beginning of the Cornish Colony. He brought three assistants to work with him in the barn studio: his brother, Louis Saint-Gaudens, Frederick MacMonnies, and Philip Martiny. They were the first in a long series of helpers, many of whom went on to important careers of their own.

That first summer, a friend and painter, George de Forest Brush, also came to Cornish and camped with his wife near the ravine just below the house. Brush had lived out west among American Indians for many years, and the tepee he built for a summer dwelling greatly amused Saint-Gaudens and his neighbors. The next spring Thomas W. Dewing, another painter, rented a house nearby. As the scenic attractions of Cornish became more widely known, that small group began to grow. Other artists found Cornish a delightful spot in which to spend a rural summer working among congenial spirits.

This circle of talented individuals drew others from moneyed and social circles. Italianate villas rose on hillsides and in abandoned pastures. Embellished with sunken gardens, marble fountains, and artfully developed villas, a farm community turned into what local people sometimes called "Little New York." The swirl of this upper-class Bohemia was lively and elegant, but Thomas Dewing said there were "too many picture hats" and tennis rackets, and left to seek a more secluded spot in the backwoods of Maine.

In 1905 the Cornish Colony celebrated the 20th anniversary of the sculptorís coming to Cornish by holding a masque (a play based on early Greek drama) at the foot of the field below the house. Seventy members of the colony worked together to provide the music, settings, costumes, scripts, and acting for an audience of more than twice that number. A small Greek temple was erected in the grove of large pines that once stood there. Originally made of plaster, it was later reproduced in marble and became the family burial place.

Today the artists who made up the Cornish Colony are gone, and with them a colorful era has passed. But at Saint-Gaudensí home, now preserved as Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, the well-kept house, carefully designed gardens, and studios still conjure up images of a bygone age--an age that nurtured and enchanted a singular company of artists at Cornish.

Questions for Reading 3

1. Who was the most important member of the Cornish Colony?

2. What type of people made up the Cornish Colony over the years? What attracted them to this New England town?

3. Why do you think all of these artists and writers chose to spend their summers living and working in the same place?

4. How did the presence of the Cornish Colony change the community? What did local residents call the colony? Why?

5. What was the 1905 masque? Why was it held?

Reading 3 was compiled from the National Park Serviceís visitorís guide for Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.

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