Adams Memorial

image for Adams Memorial
Gallery Label
"Clover" Adams, wife of the writer Henry Adams, committed suicide in 1885 by drinking chemicals used to develop photographs. Adams, who steadfastly refused to discuss his wife's death, commissioned Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a memorial that would express the Buddhist idea of nirvana, a state of being beyond joy and sorrow. In Adams's circle of artists and writers, the old Christian certainties seemed inadequate after the violence of the Civil War, the industrialization of America, and Darwin's theories of evolution. Saint-Gaudens's ambiguous figure reflects the search for new insights into the mysteries of life and death. The shrouded being is neither male nor female, neither triumphant nor downcast. Its message is inscrutable. Clover's gravesite in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. quickly became a tourist attraction, but Adams resisted all attempts to sentimentalize the memorial as a symbol of grief.
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
Artist
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, born Dublin, Ireland 1848-died Cornish, NH 1907
Founder
Roman Bronze Works
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase
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Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department
Painting and Sculpture
On View
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2nd Floor, East Wing
modeled 1886-1891, cast 1969
Object number
1970.11
Topic
Figure female\full length
Allegory\passion\grief
Monument\tomb\Adams
Medium
bronze
Dimensions
69 7/8 x 39 7/8 x 44 1/2 in. (177.4 x 101.4 x 112.9 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Type
Sculpture