The beauty of the country landscape of southwestern New Hampshire  could inspire anyone to turn out great works of art. Imagine, then, what it did for a great artist like Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the master sculptor of the American Renaissance at the turn of the 20th century.
Best known for the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston  and the statue of William Tecumseh Sherman in New York’s Central Park , Saint-Gaudens established his summer studio in the town of Cornish in 1885. At the height of his powers in 1900, he was struck with colon cancer while living in Paris, and returned to live in the area year-round, continuing to turn out great work and teach students in the art of sculpture.
Named Aspet after his father’s hometown in France, the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site (139 Saint-Gaudens Rd., Cornish, 603/675-2175, www.sgnhs.org , 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. late May–Oct.; grounds only Nov.–late May, $5 adults, free youth and children under 16) is now a wild fantasia of gardens, terraces, barns, and pergolas in the middle of the New Hampshire  countryside.
The sculptor drew a colony of artists to him on the site, including writer Willa Cather, fellow sculptor Daniel Chester French, and painter Maxfield Parrish (who, it’s said, was inspired by the brilliant vistas in Cornish to create the famous cerulean blue “Parrish sky”). For nearly a decade, the artists lived a Bohemian lifestyle of mutual inspiration.
Tours of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Sitetake in six buildings, including the artist’s studio and a carriage house with antique carriages, as well as terraced perennial gardens studded with fine sculpture and artwork.