Paul Manship

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Cycle of Life by Paul Manship
American Indian by Paul Manship This piece is at Pickens Museum and is the only known existing copy.
American Indian by Paul Manship This piece is at Pickens Museum and is the only known existing copy.
Paul Manship

Paul Howard Manship (December 24, 1885 – January 28, 1966) was an American sculptor. He consistently created mythological pieces in a classical style, and was a major force in the Art Deco movement. He is well known for his large public commissions, including the iconic Prometheus in Rockefeller Center and the Celestial Sphere Woodrow Wilson Memorial in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also credited for designing the modern rendition of New York City's official seal


By the time he was fifteen years old, Paul Manship had decided he wanted to become a sculptor. He was born the day before Christmas, in 1885, in St. Paul, Minnesota, the youngest of seven children. After attending Mechanical Arts High School, he took evening classes at the St. Paul Institute School of Art, but left to work as a designer and illustrator.

In 1905 he enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City and after a few months of formal study became an assistant to the sculptor Solon Borglum, whom he considered a critical influence on his work. After further study he received a three-year scholarship to study in Rome where he fell under the spell of Greek antiquity and the beauty of classicism. He traveled extensively before returning to the United States in 1912 where he became an immediate success, launching a career that would last fifty years.

The critics and public unanimously acclaimed him a major new talent. There was a rising tide of enthusiasm for his graceful work, and he sold all of the ninety-six bronze statutes he showed in his first exhibition. One year later he received his first important commissions for garden and architectural sculpture from New York architects.

Early in his career Manship became attracted to animal sculptures and showed a great interest in mythical stories and characters. He became known for his freely modeled forms and dramatic gestures. ​“I like to express movement in my figures. It’s a fascinating problem which I’m always trying to solve,” he said. He also noted, ​“I’m not especially interested in anatomy, though naturally I’ve studied it. And, although I approve generally of normally correct proportions, what matters is the spirit which the artist puts into his creation—the vitality, the rhythm, the emotional effect.”

Some of Manship’s well-known works are the Prometheus Fountain in Rockefeller Center, the gates to the entrances of the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo, and the Time and Fates Sundial and Moods of Time sculptures installed in front of Trylon and Perisphere at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.

Nora Panzer Mythology and the Art of Paul Manship, teachers’ guide (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1989) Paul Manship turned his attention from painting to sculpture after discovering that he was color-blind. As a teenager, he devoted so much time to sculpting that he neglected his studies and dropped out of school. Manship’s early work was influenced by Rodin’s expressive style, but when the younger artist was awarded a three-year internship at the American Academy in Rome, he had the opportunity to study Greek and Roman art firsthand. He fell in love with archaic Greek sculpture, and also studied Egyptian, Asian, and Assyrian art. The sculptures that Manship created from this point were unusual because they were very stylized but still representational. The artist’s work was hugely popular upon his return from Rome, and he sold all ninety-six pieces from his first show in New York. Manship worked on a number of monumental projects, and became an influential sculptor in America. Artists openly borrowed and applied his style in many media, especially in illustration. By the end of his career, Manship had produced more than seven hundred works and won many prestigious medals. One of his most famous pieces is the fountain sculpture Prometheus at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Ancient Made Modern

Paul Manship’s sculpture visually defines a melding of ancient and modern sensibilities. One of America’s most celebrated sculptors of the early twentieth century, he is known for major public commissions such as Prometheus at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan and the Rainey Memorial Gates at the Bronx Zoo. Manship spent his student years at the American Academy in Rome. His time there was the foundational chapter in a long career, when his ideas and working methods were deeply influenced by the ancient works he studied. While abroad, Manship developed a repertoire of designs that he incorporated into his streamlined Art Deco style. Upon his return to New York City, his dramatic, energetic bronze sculptures reinterpreted the past for the modern age, attracting critical acclaim and establishing a new direction for American sculpture. Together with his signature bronzes, associated sketches and ancient artifacts illuminate how Manship became a master of his craft.

Paul Manship: Ancient Made Modern’ Review: Classical Figures for the 20th Century

An exhibition traces the artistic evolution of the sculptor who created New York landmarks such as ‘Prometheus’ at Rockefeller Center

One early piece in the exhibition “ Paul Manship : Ancient Made Modern” at the Wadsworth Atheneum is a stunner, but not for the usual reasons. “Centaur and Mermaid” (1909) is a small, dull, lumpy piece of electroplated plaster. It is the polar opposite, artistically, of a pair of works near the end of the show, “Diana” and “Actaeon” (1925). They are dynamic bronze sculptures of the mythical pair with a powerful presence and dazzling patinas.

The path Paul Manship (1885-1966) took from one to the other forms the spine of this exhibition. Though long since overshadowed by abstract and later sculptors, Manship was for a time in the early decades of the 20th century the most important and popular sculptor in the U.S. Whether they know it or not, many people, especially residents and tourists in New York, have admired his works, which include the monumental gilded “Prometheus” (1934) at Rockefeller Center; the “Group of Bears” (1932, cast 1963) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and the “Rainey Memorial Gates” (1934) that include lions, tortoises and bears at the Bronx Zoo.

In other words, this exhibition reveals how Manship became Manship, how he melded his interests in ancient art and mythological tales with early 20th century sensibilities to make something new, a style that bloomed into Art Deco.

Born in St. Paul, Minn., Manship had studied art there, in Philadelphia and in New York when in 1909 he won the prestigious Rome Prize, with a three-year residency, from the American Academy in Rome. There, he imbibed the Renaissance and classical traditions of Italy, Greece and Egypt, and began to transform his art.

By 1912, he had made “Lyric Muse” in polished bronze—far better than that 1909 piece, but still a somewhat awkward kneeling pose for his subject. Another work, “David” (1914), made back in New York, also disappoints. As the label notes, creating a David was a rite of passage for a sculptor, and Manship’s rather flat David, with his odd head and barely visible slingshot, is a slender achievement.

Then comes “Centaur and Dryad” (modeled 1913, cast 1925), designed in the year that seems to be something of a turning point. It captures the moment when the half-man, half-horse beast clutches at the fleeing wood nymph. Keeping Greek and Renaissance sculpture in mind, Manship adds his own stylized elements in, for example, the dryad’s ribbed hair and flowing gown. He displays his penchant for patterns and decorative details in the ivy-strewn ground beneath the duo and the elaborate, low-relief frieze of drunken satyrs and dancing women on the pedestal. This is the Manship that has fame within reach.

Visitors can see this progress as they view Manship’s sculptures alongside examples of ancient objects like those he probably saw, such as a red-figure Greek vase (c. 525-10 B.C.) and an Assyrian relief panel from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (883-59 B.C.). Drawings illustrate how he later applied these studies in the studio. The ornamental elements of “Frieze Detail From Treasury of Siphnians, Delphi” (1912), for example, influenced the pedestal of “Centaur and Dryad,” and the curves of the plant in that same drawing turn up in the stalks he incorporated into “Diana” and “Actaeon.”

The exhibition reaches its peak with two large-scale installations. In 1914, Manship was commissioned to provide decoration for the neoclassical Greek headquarters of AT&T in Manhattan’s Financial District; he created four bronze, partially gilt panels depicting Earth, Fire, Wind and Water—each one almost 5½ feet long. When AT&T decided around 1980 to decamp to a new building, it took down the “The Four Elements” and replaced them with replicas; the originals (now in private hands) hang here.

Densely ornamented, “The Four Elements” embody what the exhibition curator, Erin Monroe, calls the “mashup” of Manship’s style—a blend of Renaissance, classical and South Asian styles. “Earth” is a bare-breasted, crowned woman with an Indian profile, at rest with fruits and animals; “Water,” also a supple nude woman but with classical features, holds a ship and a Greek trident while riding a dolphin through a foamy sea. “Fire” and “Wind” are personified by muscular male nudes, one holding a torch and the other aloft in the clouds. Each includes typical Manship traits—stylized elements (the hair, for example), repeated patterns (in the flames, the birds’ wings, on the borders), and movement or, at least, drama.

And then there are his brilliantly composed “Diana” and “Actaeon.” She, having been surprised while she was bathing, has fired her arrow at him, turning him into a stag. They run in opposite directions, their graceful bodies in midair. With their strong lines, they are superbly crafted, another Manship hallmark.

“Paul Manship: Ancient Made Modern,” on view through July 3, doesn’t cover his entire career. Of his many animal sculptures, for example, only two, “Pronghorn Antelope” (1914) and “Great Horned Owl” (c. 1932), are here. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the owl is the latest work in the exhibition. By the 1940s, Manship was seen as lacking in imagination—relegated to the Art Deco era. But that shouldn’t diminish appreciation for the many beautiful sculptures he did create, no small achievement.

Previously Unknown Paul Manship Bronze Relief Model From His “Celestial Sphere” To Headline James D. Julia's February, 2018 Fine Art, Asian & Antiques Auction

Cycle of Life by Paul Manship

This breathtaking, signed rarity is consigned directly from the Manship family and includes a letter from Paul Manship confirming its purpose as a model for a key element of his Celestial Sphere masterpiece.

Important and rare “Sagittarius” Bronze by Paul Manship, a relief from a model of his work “Celestial Sphere.”

We are thrilled to be able to offer this breathtaking Paul Manship bronze to our customers on behalf of the Manship family. Its design, full provenance, and place in history truly put it in a profound league of its own. - Bill Gage, Department Head, James D. Julia Inc. FAIRFIELD, MAINE (PRWEB) NOVEMBER 09, 2017

James D. Julia Inc., one of North America’s top 10 antique auctioneers, is honored to present an important Paul Manship (American, 1885-1966) bronze at its upcoming Fine Art, Asian & Antiques Auction sale to be held February 7, 8 & 9, 2018. The truly out of this world discovery is from a model for his monumental “Celestial Sphere” masterpiece. The Celestial Sphere is recognized universally as a symbol of hope and peace and is among the finest works by Manship, unquestionably one of the foremost, highly respected, and influential American artists of the “Art Deco” period. The significance of this new Manship discovery cannot be underestimated.

The Celestial Sphere is best known as the memorial created to honor the founding father of the League of Nations, President Woodrow Wilson, at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The League of Nations officially became the United Nations in 1945. The 12’ Swiss version, installed in 1939, features 85 separately modeled constellations of the universe featured in both hemispheres - including the Sagittarius zodiac sign on offer through Julia’s sale. A smaller version of the Celestial Sphere, scaled to 5’ with 66 constellations, was produced for the Aero Memorial in Aviator Park in Philadelphia to honor aviators who died in World War I, while a 20” version dated 1934 is on display at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum. The University received it as a bequest in 1943 from Grenville Winthrop who purchased it through Martin Birnbaum in New York in 1935.

This once-in-a-lifetime offering, until most recently, hung unceremoniously for decades over a fireplace in the Manship family home. This Sagittarius sculpture appears faithfully in snapshots taken at gatherings over the years. The model itself measures 18-1/2” high by 19-1/2” wide. It depicts the half human, half horse archer centaur with his drawn bow and arrow, a series of stars, a crown, and the words “Sagittarius,” “Corona,” and “Australis.” Corona Australis is a constellation in the Southern hemisphere; its name translates to "southern crown." This sculpture is signed both by the artist and by the foundry in the bronze; the words “Manship,” “A. Valsuani,” and “cire perdue” (lost wax casting) are clearly legible on the reverse. This first time ever offered model has been vetted and authenticated as a life-time cast authorized and overseen by Paul Manship by Rebecca Reynolds, a Manship scholar and curator who was formerly with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and currently is the board President for the Manship Artists Residency + Studios.

Manship, a Capricorn whose birthday was December 24, missed out on being a Sagittarius by three days (Sagittarians are born from November 22 – December 21.) Perhaps he had special affinity for this Sagittarius piece because it radiates curiosity, energy, exploration, optimism, and the eternal quest to know the meaning of life - all things important to him, and the key personality traits of the Sagittarius zodiac sign.

There is no question that collectors, museums, and Art Deco organizations around the world will have interest in this significant Manship discovery. Adding to the excitement is the fact that this bronze is accompanied by a note penned by Manship describing the piece and its purpose. In a letter dated July 3, 1956 Paul Manship writes in part to his nephews, “…from a model of the celestial sphere I made some years ago and represent constellations of the sky – Sagittarius = the zodiacal sign = Nov 22 to Dec 21-22 with the Corona Australis = the little band of stars is the outline of the milky way…curved as to conform to the sphere which is about 5 ft. in diameter = I made the sphere larger – about 12 ft. as a Woodrow Wilson Memorial at the Garden of the United Nations Bld. at Geneva Switz.”

According to James D. Julia’s Fine Art, Asian & Antiques Department Head, “We are thrilled to be able to offer this breathtaking Paul Manship bronze to our customers on behalf of the Manship family. Its design, full provenance, and place in history truly put it in a profound league of its own. The importance and pride of the sculptures were not lost on Paul’s nephew Will, who retained and coveted his sculpture and handed it down through the family over time. We are honored that the family has decided to place the Sagittarius sculpture model into our trusted hands for sale in our highly-anticipated February, 2018 auction.”

For more information on this Paul Manship Sagittarius bronze relief model and our February 7-9, 2018 Fine Art, Asian & Antiques sale, please visit

About James D. Julia, Inc.: James D. Julia, Inc., one of the top ten antique auction houses in North America as measured by annual sales, is headquartered in Fairfield, Maine. The company also has an office in Boston, Massachusetts. In business for almost 50 years, the company conducts high-end antique, collectible, and fine art auctions throughout the year. James D. Julia has routinely established new world records through its sales events. The company consists of three key divisions, including Rare Firearms; Fine Art, Asian & Antiques; and Rare Lamps, Glass & Fine Jewelry. Each division is regarded for its excellence and is staffed with world-class specialists to guarantee fair and professional authentication, identification, and valuation services. For more information on James D. Julia, Inc., please visit

Paul Manship, Centaur and Dryad

Centaur and Dryad by Paul Manship With Centaur and Dryad, Manship melds the Archaic Greek love of etched patterns, smooth surfaces, and sinuous lines with the modern interest in abstraction, resulting in an intense presentation of passion and desire. As the centaur rears back on his hind legs, the centaur’s right arm encircles the dryad. Her garment flares out behind, secured only by a single band below her breast, revealing her body for display. She turns her head away from the centaur’s hot breath as he pulls her shoulder toward him in the opposite direction.

One of the most celebrated American sculptors of the early-twentieth century, Paul Manship (1885–1966) blended ancient motifs with a modern sensibility. A close look at one of his important early works, Centaur and Dryad, 1913, on view in Paul Manship: Ancient Made Modern, reveals how he masterfully blended different artistic styles and traditions to create a distinctive, fresh look.


At age twenty-three, Manship became the youngest recipient to receive the prestigious Rome Prize. The prize was accompanied by a three-year fellowship at the American Academy in Rome and in the fall of 1909, Manship left New York City for Italy. Over the next three years he became immersed in Italy’s artistic riches, from ancient artifacts to Renaissance masterpieces. He also traveled to Greece and Egypt.

Born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, these travels abroad opened his eyes to distant cultures and stirred his imagination. Shortly after his arrival to the American Academy in Rome, Manship wrote to his family back home, exclaiming “Rome is a great place —each day I find new places of interest…I’m having the time of my young life.”

During his fellowship, Manship began sculpting allegorical and mythological subjects in bronze, a medium that would define his career. As early as 1909, he began to devise a composition featuring a centaur, or half-man and half-horse, and a female figure, seen in the clay model on the shelf in his studio. Over the next several years, Manship worked through various designs for the sculpture before arriving to the final version in 1913.

Centaur and Dryad relates to the story of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine (equivalent to the Roman god Bacchus) and his followers, who often appeared mad or frenzied as a result of drinking too much. This helps contextualize the eroticism of the centaur who lustfully clutches an innocent dryad, or wood nymph.

The spirited narrative of revelry and debauchery continues around the base, whose horizontal design was modeled after architectural friezes. On the long sides, intoxicated satyrs lure maenads (or bacchantes in Roman mythology), female devotees of Dionysus, whose name derived from the Greek word meaning “mad.” All the figures dance wildly with bare feet and free-flowing hairstyles, symbolizing their uninhibited behavior.

The ends of the base were decorated with pairs of griffins.


As Manship refined Centaur and Dryad he continued to travel throughout the Mediterranean. He made his first trip to Greece in 1912, an experience that profoundly shaped his artistic development, especially in relation to the addition of exquisite surface details to his sculptures. His vast personal archive contains sketches, photographs, and letters that document his experiences and the places he visited.

Highlights included the archaeological sites and museums in Athens, Delphi, and Olympia. Manship recounted many of these excursions in letters to his fiancé Isabel. Impressed by the Parthenon in Athens, he wrote, “You know I became one of the worshippers of Athena, where upon the Acropolis I bow down before the expressions of majesty as told by the most grand of all peoples.”

Manship closely studied the sculptural decorations on sacred temples and buildings, making pages and pages of sketches which he later referenced in the studio. These sketchbook pages contain detailed drawings of specific patterns and designs he saw on the mouldings carved into ancient buildings.

Similar ornamental details can be seen in Centaur and Dryad. Take for example the floral motif running along the long edges of the base, above the carved figures. The motif creates an attractive border between the story unfolding on the base and the central figures above.

Another stylistic influence was ancient statuary, called korai and their male counterparts, kouros, which spurred Manship's interest in—some say obsession with—early Greek or Archaic art. Immediately following his trip to Greece, Manship delivered a lecture at the American Academy in Rome titled “The Decorative Value of Greek Sculpture.” He extolled the virtues of “the marvelous decorative qualities in all Greek Art,” and emphasized the Archaic period in particular.

One of the best collections of these ancient relics was on display at the Acropolis Museum, which Manship visited on several occasions. He made both full-length sketches, such as his drawing of the Peplos Kore, and close-up drawings of their garments.

He copied the patterns and even noted the colors (see the inscription on the full-length sketch) found on the borders of their clothing.

Manship freely appropriated similar bands of floral and geometric patterns into the overall design scheme of his bronzes. Notice the “Greek key” motif featured in his pencil sketches, which appears on the border of dryad’s garment.

The inspiration for Manship’s low-relief carving technique can be traced to these Archaic sculptures. The beautifully stylized hair on the centaur and dryad, in particular, recall the importance of line and linearity in Manship’s figures which one critic observed, “strike one as being drawn rather than modelled.”

The ornamentation that Manship so admired on these carved figures was also found on everyday objects from ancient Greece, such as this lekythos, or flask used to store oil, ointment, or perfume, in the museum’s collection. Manship would have seen similar ancient artifacts in museums abroad. This terracotta vessel was painted with elaborate imagery and patterning. The silhouetted forms rendered in two dimensions echoed the sculptured details of the Archaic korai.

New York

Upon his return to New York City, Manship made his professional debut in the 1913 exhibition at the Architectural League. Among the works shown were six of his statuettes he made in Rome, including Centaur and Dryad. (As is the case with bronze sculpture, multiple editions can be made over time. The Wadsworth Atheneum’s was cast at a later date, 1925, for a client named James Robertson). The exhibition received rave reviews. Critics such as Kenyon Cox described Manship as a “genuine talent” and full of originality. Others praised the young artist’s “mixed style” which distinguished his work from the static realism of his predecessors. He became an overnight sensation.

Centaur and Dryad was awarded the Helen Foster Barnett Prize from the National Academy Design. Yet at the same time, the sculpture’s provocative subject matter caused a scandal in New York City. The February issue of Metropolitan Magazine contained illustrations of Centaur and Dryad and another sculpture, Satyr and Sleeping Nymph. The Postmaster General of New York deemed the imagery “indecent” and “bestial.” He censored the issue and refused to distribute it to subscribers. The magazine publisher, H. J. Whigham, sued the Postmaster and won. The magazine was circulated with only a slight delay but not before reports of the dispute spread nationwide. Whigham publicly defended his decision to include Manship’s award-winning sculptures, citing their significance to national art and culture and his commitment to “readers [across] the country” seeing the works. The scandal did not overshadow Manship’s rising popularity or his professional success. He went on to become a revered sculptor of the twentieth century.


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