"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Monday, September 27, 2021

Robert Louis Stevenson

This low relief portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by Augustus Saint-Gaudens is on display in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It was modeled in 1887 cast in 1895 or later.

The medallion shows Stevenson writing in bed; It is inscribed: “To Robert Lovis Stevenson -- Avgvst Saint-Gavdens” and dated M·D·C·C·C·LXXXVII (1887).  

To Robert Lovis Stevenson -- Avgvst Saint-Gavdens


The background includes an untitled poem. The poem is from Stevenson's 1887 book Underwoods, with the title “To Will. H. Low.” It is the 11th poem in the first half of the book dedicated to poems in English, the rest are in Scots.
To Will. H. Low.

Youth now flees on feathered foot.
Faint and fainter sounds the flute,
Rarer songs of gods; and still
Somewhere on the sunny hill,
Or along the winding stream,
Through the willows, flits a dream;
Flits, but shows a smiling face,
Flees, but with so quaint a grace,
None can choose to stay at home,
All must follow, all must roam.

This is unborn beauty: she
Now in air floats high and free,
Takes the sun and breaks the blue; --
Late with stooping pinion flew
Raking hedgerow trees, and wet
Her wing in silver streams, and set
Shining foot on temple roof:
Now again she flies aloof,
Coasting mountain clouds and kiss't
By the evening's amethyst.

In wet wood and miry lane,
Still we pant and pound in vain;
Still with leaden foot we chace
Waning pinion, fainting face;
Still with grey hair we stumble on,
Till, behold, the vision gone!
Where hath fleeting beauty led?
To the doorway of the dead.
Life is over, life was gay:
We have come the primrose way.
 Low had introduced Stevenson and Saint-Gaudens. Stevenson is shown in bed because he was very ill at the time and often bedridden. 

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