Saturday, September 19, 2009

Artists of Lanesville - PAUL MANSHIP

This excerpt is from A Village at Lane's Cove by Barbara H Erkkila recently reprinted and available through Ten Pound Island Book Company. Barbara was the best chronicler of Lanesville and also authored the book Hammers on Stone-The History of Cape Ann Granite available in bookshops around Rockport and Gloucester, and The Cape Ann Museum giftshop.

Paul Manship, internationally known sculptor, and his wife, Isabel, made many friends when they came to Lanesville in the 1940s to live in their summer home overlooking Butman’s Pit. The sculptor died in 1966 at the age of eighty after a life filled with art, begun when a student at the American Academy in Rome at the age of twenty-three.

It is said that Mr. Manship was an artist who kept alive the traditions of the great works of Greece and Renaissance Italy whether he was modeling the young Abraham Lincoln for Fort Wayne, Indiana, a Greek goddess or the Little Country Mouse.

Probably the best known work of Mr. Manship’s is “Prometheus Bringing Fire from Heaven” finished in 1934, located in the sunken plaza, Rockefeller Center, New York City. Below the flying figure is a circle bearing in low relief the signs of the Zodiac. His most famous animal groups complete with six-foot high bronze bears, ten gilded bronze-birds, a deer, a lion, a baboon and a leopard with silver spots, are worked into a double-arched forty-two foot gate called the Paul J. Rainey Memorial Gateway in the Zoological Park in New York, also finished in 1934.

Mr. Manship’s sure, strong technique is demonstrated in his animal figures. He made them seem friendly-not in an overwhelming manner, but just enough to allow young and old a little smile of pleasure on seeing them. Many of his animal figures can be seen in Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina.

The sculptor was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on Christmas Eve, 1885. By the time he was fifteen, he was making masks of his family and was ready to study design. A few months at the Art Students League followed, and then he became an assistant to the sculptor, Solon Borglum. In 1906 Mr. Manship studied for a while under Charles Grafly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but at that time, he had no interest in portrait sculpture, so he sailed to Spain. While in Europe he became an assistant to Isadore Konti for two years and there he learned much about the technique of modeling.

Paul Manship was married to Isabel McIlwaine in Grace Church, New York, January 1, 1913. Two years later he had his first traveling exhibit, a collection of thirty-eight works, mostly bronze statuettes. His first daughter, Pauline Frances, was born in 1913. When the baby was three weeks old, he modeled his little daughter, a work which was acclaimed at once for its sensitivity and delicacy of design. In 1914 he was awarded the George Widener Memorial Gold Medal for his statue “Duck Girl.”

Although Mr. Manship created many statues of Greek gods and goddesses, he was never restricted to mythological subjects. At one period, the years before 1920, he was influenced by the East. The “Dancer and Gazelles” is one of his exacting bronzes, the “Woodrow Wilson Celestial Sphere” in the Gardens of the Palace of the United Nations at Geneva is another. Imagine the challenge of accurately fixing stars and positioning sixty-six constellations, and yet achieving that clean, uncluttered look for which Mr. Manship was famous. Friends coming to visit usually found him out on the terrace in the early dark, his arm around one of his three daughters, pointing to one constellation or another in that particular segment of sky while the other children eagerly joined in.

It was about 1944 when the Manships’ daughter, Pauline, married a Lanesville young man, Ilmari Natti, and went to live in a quarryman’s house near Moving Rock. The sculptor knew Cape Ann had a large number of artists, both permanent and summer residents, so he bought land off Leverett Street including two quarries, moved a house over from Pigeon Cove to the rim of Butman’s Pit and redesigned it to include a large picture window. Outside he planned a green lawn, but it was a real challenge since the entire area was covered with sharp granite chips left by paving cutters long ago. Villagers, at first skeptical, then admiring, saw him set up a grape arbor supported by massive lengths of a derrick boom and mast found in the quarry. Then he leveled off and paved an area for a terrace and found polished granite for a table and benches. Later, he grew wild blueberry bushes as a low hedge handy to the kitchen door.

Mr. Manship hunted for a large barn, for it was wartime and lumber was not available. Lorenzo Berry’s ox barn at Bay View proved to be just the thing. It was brought down in sections and rebuilt close to the house. Facing the old quarry road and warmth of the sun, the renovated barn became the sculptor’s summer studio and exhibition building, at times holding 200 models and studies representing most of his work to that date. His small “den” was an old grain room just inside the door where he could disappear to work. Hung as a curtain were lengths of fishing line with lead sinkers to hold them vertically against weathered boards. Outside he coaxed his first espaliered fruit tree to grow. He was as proud of this as he was of his latest work or his grandchildren. Later, he designed a pergola overlooking Canney’s Pit.

During one of the first Cape Ann Festivals of the Arts, the Manships opened their home and studio for a Finnish-type coffee party to which hundreds came. People admired the bronze and plaster models, especially on the upper terrace where the sculptor had placed his large sundial called “Time and the Fates.” This was surrounded by his four “Moods of Time” which he did for the World’s Fair of 1939 in New York. The highlight that day was a scene from the play “Life with Father” with the two playwrights, Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay attending with their wives.

Mr. Manship gained still more prominence with his work for the World War I1 Memorial at Anzio, Italy, entitled the “Portal of Freedom,” “Memory,” 1952; “Immortality,” 1952; “Comrades in Arms,” 1953 and the “Altar Triptych,” 1955. He also sculpted small items such as ashtrays with signs of the Zodiac, medals for special friends and for his family, a sculpture for Steuben crystal and even a Four Freedoms Postage Stamp for the United States Government.

As other people collect photographs of their children growing up, Paul Manship had his own “album” of studies of his son, his three daughters and his wife in terra cotta and marble. When he retired, he continued to work in his den or in his New York studio, continuing his album with his first grandchild, Anne Murtha.

In 1961 Mr. Manship was awarded the “Oscar” of the art world, the international prize of San Luca in a program at the Borghese Palace in Florence, Italy. At that time the sculptor said, “If I have absorbed something of the light and spirit of Florence it has been a gain that has lasted me all through my life’s work."

Mr. Manship’s final work, one he never saw set in place, was the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial on a small island in the Potomac below the Georgetown Bridge. People walk across a narrow causeway to visit the area.

In 1966 the great sculptor died at age eighty of a heart attack while in his New York apartment. Shortly after, his son John found in the pocket of his father’s dressing gown a scrap of paper on which was written, “The primary impulse in the Arts is to give permanence to the fleeting moment, to bid it stay, because we cannot bear to lose it.”


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