Paul Howard Manship American, 1885-1966


Paul Manship’s significance as one of America’s foremost sculptors of the early twentieth century lay in his ability to combine a modernist approach to form within the bounds of figurative art.  The variety of his subjects, the infinite beauty of his lines and the pure delight he found in the human figure all contribute to his outstanding reputation.


Manship was born in 1885 in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he studied painting and sculpture in the evenings at the St. Paul Institute between 1892 and 1903.  He spent two years as a free lance designer and illustrator before moving to New York City in 1905.  At the Art Students League in New York, Manship came under the tutelage of George Bridgman and Jo Davidson, both specialists in anatomy and portrait sculpture.


It was about this time the young Manship assisted the distinguished older sculptor, Solon Borglum, who was doing large-scale equestrian monuments at the time.  His first body of work, which included Horses in a Storm of 1906, reflects Borglum’s impressionistic style.


In 1906, Manship took life-modeling classes with Charles Grafly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in 1908 he worked in the studio of the French-trained, Viennese-born Isidore Konti, who fostered his interest in classical sculpture.


Manship’s official recognition came early when, in 1909, he won the American Prix de Rome, which provided a studio and an allowance, which he used for travel throughout Italy and Greece.  He drew extensively on the rich traditions embodied in Minoan friezes, archaic Greek statues, ancient Egyptian and Assyrian reliefs, as well as Italian Renaissance bronzes.


When he returned to the United States in 1912, Manship brought with him a number of carefully finished pieces, including his Mask of Silenus, Lyric Muse and Centaur and Dryad, all of which drew for their inspiration on archaic sources but also offered collectors a pseudo-modernism in their silhouetted forms, smoothly finished surfaces and stylized features.


Manship’s success was immediate.  At the exhibition held by the Architectural League in 1913 and at the National Academy Design annual of the same year, he became the newest prodigy on the American art scene.  His next personal triumph came in 1916 with his one-man exhibition at the Berlin Photographic Gallery in New York City, at which the stellar attraction was his newly created Dancer and Gazelles, a rhythmic creation that captured the spirit of Indian art with a free-flowing grace that found parallels in the advanced choreography of Isadora Duncan and the exotic costumes of Leon Bakst, designed for the Ballet Russe.


Honors continued to be heaped upon Paul Manship as his position as the leader of the younger men of the academic group became more evident.  IN 1918, the Metropolitan Museum of Art honored him by selecting him to design the J.P.Morgan Memorial.   The American Institute of Architects presented him with its fold medal in 1921 and in 1923 he was appointed the annual professor of sculpture at the American Academy in Rome.


Architects soon discovered that Manship’s streamlined forms were well suited to modern buildings and city plazas.  His earliest architectural commission was in 1914 for four bronze reliefs of the Elements to adorn the façade of the Western Union Building, New York.  Later, he would produce the famous gilded figure of the mythical fire-giver, Prometheus at Rockefeller Center.  By far his most demanding project, however, came in 1926 with the commission for the Paul Rainey Memorial Gateway, a melange of twenty different species of birds and animals at the New York Zoological Park in the Bronx.


Over the length of his career, Manship produced more than seven hundred works.  To handle the many orders that came to him in the 1920s and 1930s, he employed a number of assistants, including Gaston Lachaise.  Several studios were maintained, not only in New York but later, in Lanesville, Massachusetts, in Paris and Rome.  Manship’s fame was solidified with a retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London in 1935 and, later, one-man shows at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1937 and the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1945.  His work is represented in numerous collections both here and abroad, among them the Minnesota Museum of Art, St. Paul, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., The Boston Museum of Fine arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in many other public and private collections.

Museums and Public Collections

Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts

Akron Art Museum, Ohio

Amon Carter Museum, Texas

Art Institute of Chicago, Washington D.C.

Ball State Museum of Art, Indiana

Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Utah

Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio

Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio

Colby College Museum of Art, Maine

Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

Currier Gallery of Art, New Hampshire

Dayton Art Institute, Ohio

Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California

Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York

Huntington Sculpture Garden at Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana

Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California

Maryland State Archives

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Minnesota Museum of American Art, Saint Paul

Museum of the National Academy of Design, New York City

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

Speed Art Museum, Kentucky

Huntington Library, California

Walker Art Center, Minnesota

Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania

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