Paul Manship 1885–1966
Born and raised in Minnesota, Paul Manship began his career as a painter but quickly switched to sculpture as a result of his color blindness. What was a handicap for a painter became an advantage as a sculptor; his eyes could concentrate on form over color and he developed an incredible sensitivity to line, form, and shape. After saving up enough money he moved to New York City at the age of nineteen and enrolled in the Arts Student League. While studying in New York he had his most formative experience as an artist, an apprenticeship with Solon Borglum (1868-1922) who was working on two equestrian monuments at the time. Manship worked primarily on animal figures for the master, which would go on to serve him well throughout the entirety of his career.
In 1909, Manship became the youngest sculptor to be awarded the prestigious American Prix de Rome. Three years of traveling through Italy and Greece exposed him to a wealth of ancient art and greatly influenced his developing artistic style. He returned to New York in 1912, eager to make a name for himself, and won a gold medal for his work at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. After several more prosperous years in America, he moved with his family to London where he worked in artist and longtime friend John Singer Sargent’s studio in the summer of 1921. He then moved to Paris, continuing to work on important commissions in America, including the Rainey Memorial Gates at the Bronx Zoo, which were commissioned in the mid-1920s, and his famous Prometheus sculpture at Rockefeller Center in the 1930s. He was also given an important site on the main mall for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York where he created a monumental sundial set in a large reflecting pool.
Upon returning to America in the 1940s, Manship was at the pinnacle of his career and received honors from all corners of the globe: membership in the Academia Nacional de las Bellas Artes in Argentina (1944), the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1946), and L'Accademia di San Luca in Rome (1952). Throughout his career he was the recipient of many awards, including the French Legion of Honor (1929), the gold medal for sculpture by the National Institute of Arts (1945), and he was also elected president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1948) as well as the Century Club (1950). He continued working on public commissions throughout the 1950s and 60s, including two sets of gates for Central Park in New York City, all the while perfecting his melding of antique and modern styles into uniquely classicizing sculptures that are admired to this day.
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