Friday, 26 November 2010

American Master: The Sculptural Art of Paul H. Manship

Paul Howard Manship

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He is widely considered to be one of the most influential and premiere American sculptors of the 20th century, and even though is name may not be immediately recognizable or spring to one's mind, several of his classically-inspired works certainly are. This is particularly true of some of his most familiar, large public commissions such as the gilded, 18-foot-high figure of the Titan Prometheus (1933), prominently situated at the centre of the Rockefeller Plaza courtyard. Likewise, of the many honours he received during his life in recognition of his work, his membership into the French Legion of Honour and his election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters were perhaps his greatest approbations. (Source:, 2010).

Prometheus - Rockefeller Center, 1933
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AE medal - 1918
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Paul Howard Manship, the great American sculptor, was born in St. Paul's Minnesota on December 25th, 1885. Manship studied at the St. Paul Institute of Arts, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and, in 1909, he won the Prix de Rome for which he received a scholarship to study at the American Academy in Rome (1909-1911) where he took an interest in ancient sculpture. But prior to his travels to Italy, Manship arrived in New York City in 1905, where he apprenticed at the studios of George Bridgman and Jo Davidson, experts in human anatomy and portrait sculpting. (, undated;, undated)

It was during his years in Europe that Manship traveled extensively - especially through Italy and Greece - and developed a deep affinity for the highly disciplined aesthetic principles of Archaic Greek, Egyptian, Assyrian and Minoan art and sculpture. These ancient cultures would become a continual source of inspiration for Manship throughout his artistic career, continually drawing upon mythological themes and figures for his subject matter. He expertly learned to synthesise the traditions and aesthetics of classical sculpture with his own to create a thoroughly modern aesthetic uniquely his own; his works have since become the epitomic examples of the Art Deco style in America, to where he returned in 1912. (Source:, undated;, 2006).





Decorative frieze panels of The Four Elements commissioned for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company,
New York - 1914
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In 1921, Manship worked in England at the studio of John Singer Sargent and  from 1922-1926, Manship lived in Paris. In the late 1920s, his friend, the architect Eric Gugler, brought back to America a glass-etched constellation sphere from his travels through Germany. Inspired by this celestial sphere, Manship endeavoured to learn, through independent research, all he can about astronomy. He purposefully sought authorities in the field in order to create his own, scientifically accurate globe of the constellation. He further enhanced his knowledge through stargazing and by visiting New York's Hayden Planetarium; with his creatively artistic mind, his fascination was with the mythology and mythological figures of the heavens. (Source:, 2010,, 2006)

Centaur and Dryad - 1913
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During his lifetime, Paul Manship produced over 700 works of art, and in his heyday of the 1920s and 1930s, employed many assistants - two of whom, Gaston Lachaise and Leo Friedlander went on to become artists in their own rights -  in several studios to fulfill the innumerable commissions he received. In 1966, Manship died at the age of 80 in New York City. (Source:, 2010)

Dancer and Gazelles - 1916

Spring - 1949

Maenad - 1953
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Models of Night sculpture for the 1939-40 World's Fair
Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, 1939 - Life Magazine

Paul Manship with models of sundial sculpture for the 1939-40 World's Fair
Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, 1939 - Life Magazine
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Time and the Fates of Man Sundial - 1938
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Time and the Fates of Man - World's Fair, 1939

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Playfulness - 1912
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Pronghorn Antelope (companion of Indian Hunter below) - 1914
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Indian Hunter - 1914

Little Brother - 1912-14

Salomé - 1915

Flight of Night - 1916

Atalanta - 1921

Flight of Europa - 1925

Indian Hunter with his Dog - 1926

Actaeon - 1924

Diana - 1924

Evening - 1938

Mankind Figures "Maiden" - 1933
Rockefeller Center

Mankind Figures "Youth" - 1933
Rockefeller Center

Abraham Lincoln the Hoosier Youth - 1929

General Robert E. Lee - 1936
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Diana - (companion to Actaeon) 1924

Actaeon - (companion to Diana) 1924
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Society of Medalists, Dionysus - 1930
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Spear Thrower - 1921
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Seals of the U.S., New York State: Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority - 1956

John F. Kennedy Inaugural Medal - 1961
Medal for the Art Director's Club in New York
(The medal is awarded annually in recognition of excellence in the field of advertising, graphic design, illustration and photography.)
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Lying Doe - 1932
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Pair of candelabra - 1927

The Rainey Memorial Gates - the Bronx Zoo
Erected in 1934 in memory of Paul Rainey

To commemorate Paul Rainey who passed away at sea in 1923, his sister, Grace Rainey Rogers, commissioned Paul Manship in 1926 to create the Rainey Memorial Gates at the Bronx Zoo, erected in 1934. (Scheier, J., 2006).

The Rainey Memorial Gates - detail

The Rainey Memorial Gates - detail

Group of Bears - 1932 

Group of Bears - detail

Group of Bears - detail

Group of Bears - detail
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The Lehman Gates, Central Park's Children's Zoo

Opened in 1961, the gates for the Lehman Children's Zoo were donated by Governor and Mrs. Herbert Lehman in commemoration of their 50th wedding anniversary. The theme of the gates are singing and dancing boys and animals. The central figure is that of a dancing boy flanked by goats on either side of him; two other boys, positioned on the end posts, provide the playful music on panpipes. Manship has also included birds in between the figures, who appear to have just alighted upon the gate's vegetal curlicue vine. (Source:, 2010;, 2010) 

The Lehman Gates - detail
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Detail of boy playing the panpipe - The Lehman Gates

World War I Aero Memorial - 1950
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Anne and Eric Gugler - 1932
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Recommended reading:

Paul Manship: Changing Taste in America (1985), by Dayton Art Institute & Hudson River Museum: Minnesota Museum of Art

Drawings by Paul Manship: The Minnesota Museum of Art Collection (1987), by Carol H. Smith & Minnesota Museum of Art: The Museum

Paul Manship (1989), by Paul Manship & Harry Rand: The Smithsonian Institution Press

Archaism, Modernism, and the Art of Paul Manship (1993), by Susan Rather: University of Texas Press

1 comment:

  1. Now I haven't seen everything you have, but this reminds me of Carl Milles, a Swedish sculptor who lived and worked about the same time as Paul Manship.