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Paul Manship
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
St. Paul
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
New York City
America’s best-known sculptor during the first half of the 20th century, Paul Manship drew inspiration from Archaic Greek, Indian and ancient Egyptian art to create a signature style that was an important part of the Art Deco tradition. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota on Christmas Eve, 1885, Manship was an indifferent student in high school but took night classes at the St. Paul Institute of Art and resolved to become an artist. Color blindness led him to abandon painting for sculpture. He left school at the age of seventeen without graduating and worked in St. Paul as a commercial artist and designer. In 1905 he left St. Paul for New York City, where he studied under George Brant Bridgman (1864-1943) and Jo Davidson (1883-1952) at the Art Students League and took a job as an assistant to the sculptor Solon Hannibal Borglum (1868-1922). After studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia under Charles Grafly (1862-1929) for the academic year 1907-08 and taking a trip to Spain in the summer of 1908, Manship returned to New York where he became the assistant to the sculptor Isidore Konti (1862-1938). Encouraged by Konti to apply for the American Prix de Rome, a three-year scholarship at the American Academy in Rome, he won the scholarship. In Rome he was exposed to the art of ancient Greece and Rome and traveled to Greece and elsewhere in Europe. His fascination with Archaic Greek sculpture informed his art thereafter. After returning to New York City in 1912, Manship married Isabel McIlwaine (1883-1974) on New Year’s Day, 1913. A show of 92 of his sculptures at the Architectural League of New York put him on the artistic map: all 92 bronzes were sold and his works received critical acclaim. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased one of the five copies cast of his “Centaur and Dryad” (Murtha 28) in 1913, which received the Helen Foster Barnett Prize when shown with nine other of his sculptures that year at the National Academy of Design. Manship was elected an associate member of the Academy in 1914. His bronze “Duck Girl” (M. 16) was awarded the George D. Weidner Gold Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy exhibition of 1914, and the work was purchased by the City of Philadelphia. The following year Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute organized a traveling show of 38 of his sculptures. Manship exhibited ten bronzes at San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and received a gold medal. The next year he was elected a full member of the National Academy. His commissions included garden sculptures for estates of the wealthy, exterior decorations for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company building in Manhattan and sculptures for a church in Providence, R.I. His first solo exhibition in New York City was mounted in 1916. He served with the American Red Cross in Italy during World War I. Manship returned to New York City for two years, then moved to Europe, first to London and then Paris. He taught at the American Academy in Rome during the winter of 1922-23. After buying brownstones in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 1925 and creating a studio, Manship returned to New York City in 1926 but maintained a studio in Paris to handle the growing number of commissions. He would travel frequently to Europe for the rest of his life. He had created portrait busts during the previous decade, such as that of John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937, M. 105) in 1918, and continued to execute portrait commissions during the 1920s. Some of his notable monumental commissions were a Soldiers Monument installed in Thiaucourt, France (1926, M. 195), the Prometheus Fountain in New York’s Rockefeller Plaza (1934, M. 338, 339 and 340), the Paul J. Rainey Memorial Gateway in New York’s Bronx Zoo (1934, M. 344), the “Woodrow Wilson Memorial—Celestial Sphere” at the League of Nations, Geneva, Switzerland (1939, M. 399) and the Inaugural Medal for President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933, M. 332). After World War II Manship’s work fell out of favor in many quarters, although he received commissions for the Inaugural Medal for President John F. Kennedy (1961) and a statute of President Theodore Roosevelt for his memorial in Washington (1966). Manship was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1920, the French Legion of Honor in 1929, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1931 and The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1932 (serving as president 1948-52). Manship chaired the Smithsonian Institution’s Fine Arts Commission, which oversaw the National Collection of Fine Arts (now the National Museum of American Art), from 1936 until his death. He died from an apparent heart attack in 1966 at his home in New York City. Under his will the sculptures and drawings in his estate were divided between the St. Paul Art Center (now the Minnesota Museum of Art) and the National Collection of Fine Arts. (TNB 11/2015) Selected bibliography: Manship, John. Paul Manship. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989. Rand, Harry. Paul Manship. Exhibition catalogue. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.