|Manship rarely entered competitions for commissions, and when he did he was rarely successful. However, as president and member of numerous art organizations and government advisory committees, Paul Manship used his authority to elevate the public standard of taste at a time when fine craftsmanship was being sacrificed to commercialism and machine-age technology. While a member of the Smithsonian Art Commission for over twenty-five years, he lobbied to ensure that sculpture continued to play an integral role in the decoration of public buildings and grounds. He received many honors|
Celestial Sphere; 1934
Palais des Nations, Geneva
|during his lifetime, the two most important being membership in
the French Legion of Honor and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Despite his former
popularity, Manship's fame faded after World War II when commercial tastes in sculpture changed to favor
abstraction over representational art. Manship believed that for sculpture to be effective it must reflect the
deepest ideals of a society rather than simply the personal ideas of the artist. His dissatisfaction with
sculpture in his later years was that he felt it didn't attempt to express anything meaningful to any but a
small, self-appointed elite. He continued to produce works that are considered masterpieces of sculpture
and to receive important public commissions, but news of these achievements went unnoticed in the press.
Throughout art history, the most unlikely reputations have been revived: John Singer Sargent was vilified after his death, and it took more than thirty years for the wheel of fashion to turn back to him. And so too, Manship's reputation started to improve in the early 1980's, heralded by a rise in auction prices, and the revival has continued steadily ever since. John once compared his father's position in American twentieth-century sculpture with that of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in French art of the nineteenth. Both had studied in Rome and never escaped from it's influence: in their old age, both had set themself against radical tendencies, a stance that led them to be criticized and abused. But now Ingres's greatness is recognized, as we will also come to recognize Manship's. Paul Manship believed it is essential for a sculptor to be complete by exercising his talents in all genres. He tried almost everything, and even when his work was unsuccessful it was distinctively his own, for his style united all his disparate inventions. That style, which began in eclecticism and passed through the stylization of Art Deco, was distilled at the end into a personal expression of the classical tradition.
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