Thursday, March 24, 2011

Further August Saupé

Two young German sculptors come to Australia, one to South Australia in the late 1870s, the other to Melbourne in September 1879, aboard the Sultan. They were probably students together in Berlin. In 1879–80 they collaborate on modeling and casting in Portland cement one of the costliest and most ambitious public monuments ever to be undertaken in Melbourne, the Exhibition Fountain in the Carlton Gardens. Afterwards the twenty-six or twenty-seven year-old Josef Hochgürtel, evidently senior partner in that enterprise, simply vanishes. Either he dies or, more probably, leaves the colony, though he is absent from any outbound passenger list. There is no trace of him in any published source that deals with nineteenth-century European sculpture, Australian colonial or any other sort of art, nor any other surviving work of art that can be connected with him even remotely, and the same is true of his collaborator, Carl August Lebericht Saupé. However, thanks to the National Library of Australia in Canberra, who have lately made available online huge runs of keyword-searchable colonial newspapers, a surprisingly detailed picture of the career of August Saupé, as he was known, can now be assembled in a matter of minutes, where previously it would have required weeks and months’ study of grainy microfilm, with no guarantee of discovering anything useful. On Monday, August 14, 1882, the South Australian Register reported (under “Sculpture”): “We have had an opportunity of inspecting some specimens of sculpture executed by Mr. August Saupe [sic], who has opened a studio in Pirie-street, and deserves recognition for his skill in modeling and designing. He has modeled a bust of His Worship the Mayor (Mr. E[dwin]. T[homas]. Smith [1830–1919]), preparatory to executing one in marble [untraced], and, judging from the clay study [untraced], has hit off the characteristic expression of Mr. Smith’s features with wonderful fidelity. A small statuette of Sir Redmond Barry [1813–1880] [untraced] has been produced by Mr. Saupe, who intends to compete for the prize offered for the best conception upon which to design a bronze statue of Sir Redmond in Melbourne. The figure is a full-length one, and represents the late Victorian judge in his cap and robes as Chancellor of the University. He stands erect, with one hand resting lightly upon a book placed upon a pedestal, and the right arm is disposed across the chest—a scroll is held in the hand. The left leg is slightly advanced, thrusting aside the robe and breaking the straight folds of the drapery in a very effective way, showing that the artist has studied artistic effect with true judgment. The whole attitude is easy, graceful, and natural, giving the figure an air of quiet dignity. The likeness appears to be a good one, with no harshness in the lines of the face. Mr. Saupe also has a design for the pedestal, which is to be sixteen feet high, and it has many meritorious points about it.” The posthumous Barry commission actually went to James Gilbert (1830–1885), who died before the work was completed. The statue was finished by Percival Ball (1845–1900), and still stands in front of the State Library of Victoria in Swanston Street. It bears a striking similarity to this detailed description of Saupé’s model. The Register resumed: “Amongst other specimens of his skill are several small figures [untraced] and a kind of tablet with thirteen niches—the central one occupied by a small figure of the Savior and the others by the twelve Apostles [untraced].” Two months later, on Saturday, October 28, the Advertiser reported: “We have been favored with a view of a bust [untraced] of His Excellency the Governor [Sir William Jervois, 1821–1897], nearly executed by Herr August Saupe [sic], who has within the past four months opened a studio in Pirie-street, opposite the Union Bank. The bust, which is life-size, pourtrays [sic] His Excellency in his full orders and decorations, and without exaggeration it may be said to be a life-like representation of the original. For fidelity and likeness the model excels even that executed by Herr Saupe of Mr. E[dwin]. T[homas]. Smith, M.P., the Mayor of Adelaide, which has recently been admired by so many. We understand that His Excellency, who only sat three times, is highly satisfied with the result of the sculptor’s labors, and all who have seen the bust testify to the merit of the work. It may be mentioned that Herr Saupe, who studied at Dresden and Berlin, and took a prize at the Copenhagen [Pan-Nordic] Exhibition [of 1872], unlike some artists who have visited Adelaide, is staying in the city, where it is to be hoped his talents may receive such approbation and support as will induce him not to leave.” On April 28, 1884, the Adelaide Advertiser reported: “In Mr. Winckler’s wine saloon, opposite the Adelaide Town Hall, may be seen a splendid specimen in miniature of the sculptor’s art, representing John the Baptist preaching in the Wilderness [untraced]. The artist is Herr August Saupé, a German sculptor, evidently of considerable skill in his profession.” This may be the same “Hoh-relief copy [untraced] of [Bertil] Thorwaldsen’s ‘John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness [i.e. pediment of the Frue Kirke, now Copenhagen cathedral],’” that was listed among Saupé’s other contributions to the Class III section (“Sculpture, Statuary, and Artistic Modelling”) of the South Australian Court at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition which took place in London in 1886 (Official Catalogue of Exhibits in South Australian Court, Adelaide: Government Printer, 1886). In a lengthy letter to the editor of the South Australian Register, dated “Port Vincent, March 14, 1885,” and printed on the nineteenth under the heading “Dr. Haacke on Science in South Australia,” Dr. J[ohann]. W[ilhelm]. Haacke [1855–1912], formerly director of the South Australian Museum, complained: “The Australian sponges are being described by Dr. [Robert] von Lendenfeld [1858–1913], of Sydney. He has identified most of the species represented in the Adelaide Museum, but since the museum has been left to the care of nobody a confusion of the sponges has taken place, and a new collection will have to be formed, and to be sent to Dr. von Lendenfeld. Then I would suggest the advisability of forming a collection of painted plaster casts of fresh sponges. The dried skeletons give a very inadequate idea of living sponges, which in some cases are very beautiful; and in Mr. Saupe [sic], the sculptor, the colony possesses an artist who would be able to execute the painted plaster-casts. But I am afraid that Mr. Saupe, like other professional men, finds it very hard to make use of his talents in this colony.” One possible inference here is that Saupé had already undertaken work of this nature for the South Australian Museum, as is also suggested by what we know about the life-sized wax models of Aborigines [untraced] that he created for the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London in 1886. The following year, the Register reported (under “Miscellaneous,” Monday, September 6, 1886, p. 2): “On view at Wivell’s Art Gallery is a well-executed bust of Sir William Robinson, in plaster of paris [untraced], by M. Saupé, who has skillfully caught the expression of the Governor’s face and produced an excellent likeness. He intends to copy it in marble [untraced] for display at the Jubilee Exhibition. The originals of the two models of natives in the South Australian Court of the Indian and Colonial Exhibition are to be seen at Wivell’s, and are well worth inspection. They are modeled and coloured to the life. The artist, M. Saupé, has evidently spared no pains in working out every trifling detail of the physical characteristics. These faithful representations of South Australian aborigines are valuable from a scientific point of view, as the native type is fast disappearing, and these are really excellent.” Those models formed part of a remarkable installation that was described in great detail by the special correspondent of the Advertiser on Monday, May 10, 1886, and provides a vivid record of the prominent place allotted to Saupé’s work, and the remarkable context in which it was seen by thousands of visitors.
THE COLONIAL AND INDIAN EXHIBITION THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN COURT The court allotted to South Australia occupies nearly 12,00 feet, and is in the form of an obtuse T square, bounded on the north by the Canadian Court, on the east by Queensland, on the south by Victoria, and on the west by Fiji, having passages from all four points. Dividing these principal entrances are open spaces, furnished with seats made out of colonial timbers sent by your Adelaide commissioners. These seats are very plainly constructed, but show off the beautiful grain and polish of the ironbark, blackwood, and red gum. The main entrance is through a triumphal arch of rustic design, gaily decorated with flags and banners of Australian design, having emblematic devices upon them. In the centre of the arch appears the word “Adelaide;” on the right hand of this upon the lower column the mining district of Burra Burra is shown, and upon the opposite column “Mount Barker.” These are intended to be representative names of places in South Australia typical of the industries carried on. The “Burra” refers to mining, and following its arch are all the mineral specimens of Mr. Cloud and the Government Geologist, the stones and fossils of the colony; and an immense Gothic archway resting upon solidly built piers carries our exhibit of Wallaroo copper weighing upwards of 25 tons of the real article. That of the E. & A. Copper Company is enclosed in a handsome show-case, and is mostly composed of refined copper beaten out. On the other side Mount Barker leads to the display from the grain and wheat producing districts, the beautiful specimens of wax fruit models, all the implements used in agriculture, and generally the exhibits representative of our staple produce. Throughout the whole of the designs for decorative purposes a clear and distinct plan can be traced. Although Sir Arthur Blyth has been appointed the Executive Commissioner, yet his multifarious duties as Agent-General prevent him giving to those of an Executive Commissioner that attention the importance of them demands, so that the whole of the labor falls upon Sir Samuel Davenport. There is no man better qualified than Sir Samuel to fulfil the duties connected with the due representation of the colony here, and to conduct it to a successful issue. In deciding upon the names to be painted upon the panels of the walls it was a study with him to give prominence to places which every colonist would know, and that no district with any claim whatever to be that of a representative one should have its name left out of the 40 panels. The north is represented by Palmerston, Beltana, Port Augusta, Quorn, and other places; the south has Gambierton, Penola, and Beachport; the Murray district, Mannum, Goolwa, and Palmer; the Peninsula, Wallaroo, Moonta, and Kadina; whilst vineyards such as Tintara, Seppeltsfield, Magill, Auldana, and Pewsey Vale, together with fruit districts such as Highercombe, Angaston, Clare, and Craiglee, have been made, are celebrated by their names being placed in a niche in this temple of fame. The visitor entering our court by the archway on the right will find the walls divided into panels of about 10 feet each. The lower parts are painted a maroon color, against which are placed photographs frames in black-and-gold, and in this contrast they are well displayed, having the advantage of a good light upon them, so that visitors having rather hazy notions of Australia will see from our buildings that we are a little further advanced than many of them may be inclined to imagine, especially when they see the real bushman’s hut erected in part of our court. Above the photographs is a panel painted with a clear bluish tint, upon which a floral wreath is bent in semicircle shape. Each panel shows a distinctive fruit or flower, such as the orange, citron, cherry, apple, peach, &c., and these are not mere fancy sketches, but are absolutely faithful representations of our South Australian fruits. As the artist completed his work the fruits were each one by one compared with the models of wax fruits sent by your commission, and if any alteration was required either in form or color it was made there and then. As there are 40 panels it was felt by your commissioners that a few of them might be filled with drawings of Brown’s “Forest Flora,” and this has been done with a grand effect, these celebrated drawings being faithfully reproduced upon the walls on an enlarged scale. Above each of these floral wreaths appear the different names of towns in South Australia, and upon the roof reaching from the eaves to the glass frames, so as to cover the rafters, is suspended a valance, which is stenciled with wreaths of vines emblematic of the colony. From the entrance archway up to the point where the natural history scene commences this description of your decorations applies, but here a totally different design appears. The roof is covered over with light muslin, through which an Australian sky is represented by the aid of the painter, whose efforts have been successful in giving that tone to it which none but an Australian can understand. Underneath the sky is one grand representation of the flora and fauna of South Australia, views of our country and its natural features occupying a total floor space of about 2,00 feet and a wall space of upwards of 4,000 feet. Such a space could not have been available under the first application made by the Colton Government, who evidently did not know the requirements of the colony. We are even now cramped for room with a total space of over 12,000 feet. The scene representative of the colony opens on the sea-shore in the south-east. A sandy beach leads up to rocky cliffs, where a number of seals are disporting themselves on the rocks below.. One big fellow is fixed with his flippers to the green sea moss-covered rocks; another is just emerging out of the sea, his head and shoulders being above water,whilst a number of smaller ones are placed here and there picturesquely, realizing the sealing grounds of Kangaroo Island. Passing round the point we come to open country. Here real grass and trees are growing, and on the walls are depicted the flora of the island from drawings made by Mrs. Strawbridge. In a sheltered nook is seated the life-sized model by Saupe [sic] of an aboriginal kindling a fire by friction of the fire-sticks used by the blacks in their native state [see illustration above]. The termination of this point is abruptly broken by an entrance passage into the Canadian Court, over which rocks have been piled and grasses indigenous to the colony are shown growing. In his rocky eyrie the white-tailed eagle has built himself a nest, sea birds are perched here and there, and out of a cranny peeps a rock wallaby. Here and there birds of beautiful plumage are suspended in a really lifelike manner, whilst a little further on the scene becomes more mountainous in its character—more closely remembling Mount Barker and theMount Lofty Ranges. At the foot of a hill a mia-mia has been erected, and the models from the Adelaide Museum are fixed. The man coming in from hunting, and the lubra with the picanniny on her back, kneeling down lighting a fire to cook the opossum he has just brought in, present a realistic picture of Australian life such as few people in Australia have seen, and which will recall to the old pioneers of the colony incidents daily seen by them when the Adelaide tribe of blacks were camped near the now populous city. The whole of the background, covering a space of 1,500 feet, is occupied with a river scene. The Murray embouches [sic] from between precipitous high cliffs on the one side and a more decidedly pastoral country upon its left bank. Winding its way along, a sand-spit bars its passage, and a few snags and billabongs obstruct its flow until it nears the vicinity of Lake Alexandrina. A miniature copy of the lake has been made, and a bark canoe placed thereon, in which is a model of a fine black-fellow, whom Saupe vivifies by his art, stands, spear in hand, in the act of fishing. The scenery is principally drawn from pictures sent by Adelaide artists, but to give proper effect a little liberty has been taken with some of the views, though sufficient is shown to enable any one knowing the district to recognize the scenery of the place. Lake Alexandrina flows onward in its course until it reaches the termination of the upper portion of our court, where a descent of several feet is utilized to create a waterfall, which splashes and dashes along its rocky way past the back of the bush hut, and disappears towards the sea. Grouped in natural order are seen specimens of the kangaroo, emu, and most of our birds with beautiful plumage. Wombats burrow underground, rock wallabies peep forth from holes in the cliffs, and opossums clamber from branch to branch of the gumtrees. Upon the branches of a eucalyptus, a snake is stretched out at full length, his head slightly erect in the act of darting upon a little bird, which seems as if paralysed with fear. Suspended overhead with invisible wires are a number of other birds. One near the entrance deserves special mention. It is a laughing jackass holding a snake by the neck ready to dash it upon the ground. These, as I have already pointed out, are not mere fanciful sketches made by artists who have no data upon which to work, but as nearly as possible are taken from the drawings of Miss Fiveash, Mrs. Strawbridge, Miss Wehl, and others who have sent beautiful sketches of the flora of South Australia. The fauna of our country are shown with truthful vigor in al the stuffed specimens sent by Mr. Beazley of the Museum, and arranged here in order by Mr. Gerrard. Few of our own people have seen two kangaroos in the act of fighting. The combat, as represented in our court, is lifelike, and will, judging from the artists who have seen it, soon be as popular as Landseer’s picture of the combat between two stags. There is a general idea that the emu does not sit upon her eggs, but leaves them to be hatched in the sun. This idea will be dispelled for ever in the minds of the youngsters viewing the groups here, for in one corner of the scene an emu is sitting upon real eggs after the manner known by those who have seen these birds in the bush. An eagle is flying over the Mount Lofty ranges with a young kangaroo in its claws. The whole grouping of the scene is a lesson in Australian natural history, which will be of incalculable value to the rising generation in this—the old country. Prominent in the foreground is a pillar of black Kapunda marble, upon which is placed a bust of Sturt. It is almost pathetic to see the loving way in which Sir Samuel Davenport treats the bust of his old friend. Traits of Sturt’s character are mentioned to willing listeners who cannot help comparing the two men together. There is a great similarity between their characters, and the power each possessed of attracting loyal service from all with whom they come into contact is a particularly striking point of agreement between them.
In the late autumn of 1886, Saupé made a death mask (untraced) of the Reverend Alexander Rutherford Russell, Dean of Adelaide, “with the view of executing any bust, medallion, or other similar memento that it might be desirable to have” (Advertiser, Tuesday, May 25, 1886, p. 4). At the Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition of 1887, Saupé (of “Stepney”) received an award in the second order of merit for “medallions in plaster of Paris” (untraced, South Australian Register, Thursday, October 6, 1887, p. 7), which were presumably the same medallions that were sent to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886, viz. “(2) Medallion of the Hon. Sir Henry Ayers, K.C.M.G., President Legislative Council [untraced]. (3) Medallion of late Rev. James Way, Bible Christian Minister [untraced]. (4) Medallion of Dr. Way [untraced]. (5) Medallion of the late Dr. Cha[rle]s. Gosse [untraced].” Earlier in the year Saupé was involved in an effort to form a South Australian Association of Artists, the better “to secure a local Art Court at the Jubilee Exhibition” (South Australian Register, Wednesday, April 20, 1887, p. 6), and to use that event as a foundation for a more permanent institutional framework for professional artists in Adelaide. Two years later, in 1888, Saupé had moved to Victoria, and exhibited “busts in plaster of Paris” in the Victorian court at the Centennial International Exhibition. He appears in the catalogue misspelled as “Souipe, A.” of 15 Flinders Lane (Centennial International Exhibition: The Official Catalogue of Exhibits, under Class 11, “General Application of the Arts of Drawing and Modelling,” Vol. 1, p. 45, no. 69.) By 1890 Saupé appears to have settled in Richmond, where he turned his hand to inventing. In March he applied for letters patent for a method of burning gypsum by heated air (Victoria Government Gazette, No. 25, Friday, March 14, 1890, p. 1017) and a hearing was scheduled for April 15 at the Patent Office in Lonsdale Street. The following year he was prospecting for gold and other minerals. On Wednesday, November 18, the South Australian Register reported: “Mr. Saupe [sic], a miner, who for some time past has been searching in the Hundred of Myponga for quicksilver has brought some promising-looking specimens to the city. He says he has spent £600 in prospecting, and claims now to have made a favorable discovery. A few weeks ago the Government Geologist reported unfavorably as to the prospects of finding quicksilver [see “Alleged Discovery of Mercury,” South Australian Register, Friday, April 10, 1891, p. 7], but Mr. Saupé has now driven 100 ft. into a hill in another place about seven miles from Willunga. In the stuff he has in town quicksilver can be seen with the naked eye. A Syndicate is being formed to take over the claims. Mr. Saupe says that he also has hopes of finding payable gold and coal, assays having given 4 oz. to the ton of the former precious metal.” Two years later year Saupé (now “of Melbourne”) took out another provisional patent for “improvements in gold-extracting machinery,” viz. “a machine for treating tailings and alluvial soil and to extract fine gold from crushed quartz” (South Australian Register, Wednesday, June 21, 1893, p. 3, and Wednesday, May 17, p. 7), and reappeared nine years later, back in Richmond (at 85 Coppin Street) in connection with “improvements in the methods and apparatus for vertical rock drilling.” Presumably his work on this invention led him to discoverof small but apparently viable quantities of gold at Myponga, south of Yankalilla (July 1903), and at Wonna, near Terowie (March 1904). Through all this he evidently held onto his profession as an artist, because on Wednesday, April 10, 1901, the Adelaide Advertiser reported under “Personal” (p. 5): Mr. A. Saupe [sic], R.A., [sic] sculptor, of Melbourne, has now on view at his studio a beautiful bust of the Duke of Cornwall and York [untraced], and also one of [Field Marshal] Lord Roberts [V.C., K.G., K.P., G.C.B., O.M., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., P.C.] [untraced], both of which have just been completed by him. Mr. Saupe, who is a gold medallist, and won first prize [sic] at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition for his [two] life size figures of Australian blacks, is now, says the Melbourne “Age,” engaged in modeling a bust of King Edward VII [untraced]. In his earlier days he was a fellow student with the Princess Royal, Dowager-Empress of Germany, and had the honour of receiving a commission from the late Queen Victoria for a bust in marble of the late Prince Alice [untraced]. He also executed a bust of the King of Saxony [untraced]. Amongst his local works are busts of Sir William Robinson, Sir William Jervois, Sir Samuel Davenport [untraced], Sir Henry Ayers [untraced], and Sir E[dwin]. T[homas]. Smith, of Adelaide.” The bust of Lord Roberts lingered for several years, because on Tuesday, October 2, 1906 (p. 4), the South Australian Register reported: “The well-known sculptor, Herr Saupe [sic], R.A., [sic] has executed a striking bust of Lord Roberts in full military orders and decorations, which is being exhibited for the first time in Adelaide at Fruhling’s studios, [62] Rundle street. This is the original model, is life-size, and should be valuable to any one interested in artistic work and military matters.” The same morning, the Advertiser (p. 8) printed exactly the same advertorial, but added: “Herr Saupe was specially complimented by the Prince of Wales when in Melbourne on a bust of His Royal Highness, and has also exceuted busts of Sir W[illiam]. [Francis] D[rummond]. Jervois, Sir William Robinson, and Sir Samuel Davenport, &c.” On Tuesday, June 18, 1912 (p. 7), the Sydney Morning Herald reported under “General Notes”: Mr. August Saupe [sic], a sculptor, of Balaclava (Vic.) draws the attention of the building trade and architectural profession to the fact that in Australia there are large deposits of gypsum, but these, he says, are sadly heglected. Mr. Saupe claims that this gypsum is a natural cement and could be easily converted into such a material as waterproof mortar, a kind of carbonate of magnesia lime, at half the cost of the imported plaster of Paris. Mr. Saupe states that millions of tons of this material are lying unobserved in all the States, and that it has been proven by experts that Australian gypsum has all the virtues of the imported material. He thinks that if the public could be convinced of its good qualities by an exhibition of the different kinds of plasters, in the shape of casts of ornaments, figures, and architectural models, then architects and builders might be encouraged to use it in preference to the imported article, and to the advantage of the public.”

Here, then, is a considerable body of work. If we take these shreds of press comment at face value, beyond his involvement with the Exhibition Fountain by Josef Hochgürtel, between 1880 and 1901 August Saupé produced in Adelaide and Melbourne eight, maybe nine portrait busts, four of incumbent governors and public gentlemen; at least five plaster medallions, possibly more; two life-sized polychrome wax figures; the Barry modello; some sort of screen or retable housing Christ and the twelve Apostles; a replica of Thorvaldsen’s St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness, or else his own interpretation of the same subject, and at least one death mask. He occupied at least two full-scale studios in Adelaide, so there must have been more works in clay and/or plaster, and at least a few of them surely survive somewhere, gathering dust. Yet despite Saupé’s flair for self-promotion—the claims about student days in Berlin with the Empress Frederick, that portrait bust of King Albert of Saxony and an almost certainly unverifiable posthumous portrait bust of the Grand Duchess of Hesse are decidedly shrill, and presumably reflect the artist’s desire carefully to differentiate himself from Kennedy, that ostler with the rude tools, as well as the artistic but amateur Mesdames Gray, Strawbridge, Fiveash, and Wehl. Meanwhile such projects as the portrait busts of Lord Roberts and the future King George V were obviously strategic. Yet Saupé’s ambitious sculptural practice ultimately through the mid-1890s gave way to prospecting for quicksilver and gold. His effort in 1912 to talk up local gypsum, with which his first patent application dealt more than twenty years earlier, is infinitely sad. It was, after all, sixty years since Thomas Woolner reached the same conclusions, and, in the absence of any imported plaster of paris, used local gypsum to make the plaster for his own portrait medallions. Perhaps if August Saupé had arrived in the Australian colonies ten, twenty, thirty years earlier, he might have been remembered. Instead, like Josef Hochgürtel, he and most of his work have simply vanished.

Carl August Lebericht Saupé died in Melbourne in 1913.

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