Born the seventh of fourteen children in Green Cove Springs, Florida, Augusta Savage exhibited a talent and interest in the arts at an early age. After a marriage that left her widowed at the age of 16, Savage moved to Jacksonville, Florida to earn a living sculpting portrait busts of prominent African Americans. In 1921, she moved to New York and enrolled in the Cooper Union. She received many fellowships and awards, allowing her to travel and study abroad. In 1932 Savage began a notable teaching career with the founding of the Savage School of Arts and Crafts in New York. As an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s, Savage worked with other important leaders, writers, musicians, and artists to celebrate the contributions of African American culture to American society. She overcame poverty, racism, and sexual discrimination to become one of twentieth-century America’s most prolific and influential sculptors. Because of her often difficult financial situation, Augusta Savage’s plaster originals were frequently destroyed before she could afford to have them cast in bronze.
Augusta Savage visited Ninah Cummer at her Jacksonville home in 1939 and presented The Diving Boy as a gift the following year. Originally placed at one end of a reflecting pond in Mrs. Cummer’s Italian Garden, the sculpture is typical of Savage’s interest in combining realistic details with psychologically penetrating expressiveness.
“It gives me courage to do things I’m scared of.” – Isabella, age 10
“This is the piece of artwork that I always seek out when my spirit needs lifting. It is often said that one’s attraction to a particular artwork has to do with your life’s experiences – ‘The Diving Boy’ reminds me of when my sons were young – they would step from the bath tub waiting for me to wrap them in a towel – the connection has nothing to do with diving, but the love and warmth of a mother’s love for her young sons.” – anonymous