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Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture
30 November 2011
Christie's Special Exhibition Gallery
Paul Manship (1885-1966)
'Flight of Europa'
inscribed 'P. MaNSHIP ©' (along the base)
bronze with verdigris patina
20¾ in. (52.7 cm.) high on a 2 in. (5.1 cm.) marble base
Cast in 1925.
Sotheby's, New York, 10 December 1981, lot 121.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
P. Vitry, Paul Manship, Paris, 1927, p. 46, pl. 25, another example illustrated.
The National Sculpture Society, American Sculptors Series 2: Paul Manship, New York, 1947, p. 15, another example illustrated.
E. Murtha, Paul Manship, New York, 1957, pp. 163-64, no. 177, pl. 30, another example illustrated.
T. Armstrong, et al., 200 Years of American Sculpture, New York, 1976, p. 124, another example illustrated.
H. Rand, Paul Manship, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1989, p. 68, another example illustrated.
J. Manship, Paul Manship, New York, 1989, pp. 92-93, 101, 106, 108-09, pl. 99, other examples illustrated.
Born in Minnesota, at the age of nineteen, Paul Manship traveled to New York to study alongside such sculptors as Herman MacNeil, Solon Borglum, Charles Grafly and Isidore Konti while intermittently attending classes at the Art Students League, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the New York School of Art, as his finances permitted. Most influenced by his work with Borglum, who was well known for his western themes, Manship gained a practical knowledge of animal anatomy that would prove valuable throughout his career. However, Isidore Konti's insistence that Manship apply for a three-year fellowship at the American Academy in Rome ultimately had the greatest impact on his career.
Declared the winner of the fellowship, Manship departed for Rome in 1909. He immersed himself in classical Greek, medieval and Renaissance art, but was most influenced by archaic Greek sculpture. Concerning two archaic statues, Manship said, "...we feel the power of design, the feeling for structure in line, the harmony in the divisions of spaces and masses--the simplicity of the flesh admirably contrasted by rich drapery, every line of which is drawn with precision. It is the decorative value of the line that is considered first. 'Nature is formalized to conform with the artist's idea of Beauty.' Just as the sculptor in modeling foliated forms to be used in architectural decoration reduced nature to its decorative essence and considered 'the relationship of lines and masses rather than reality,' so in these statues 'the artist has subordinated everything to his formal composition.' The entire statue can be considered a decorative form upon which all the detail is drawn rather than modeled." (as quoted in E. Murtha, Paul Manship, New York, 1957, p. 12) This statement embodies Manship's objectives as a sculptor and describes the style of his works from this period which were exhibited upon his return to New York with a remarkable response. His rising celebrity resulted in more exhibitions, awards, traveling shows and commissions. He used this period in his career to complete commissions, promote his new career and establish himself in the artistic and social circles of New York, as well as New England.
It was not long before Manship was once again enticed to set sail for Europe. 'Flight of Europa' was one of a number of sculptures he executed while working in Paris that solidified his acceptance into the mainstream of contemporary art. From the fall of 1921 to January of 1925 Manship completed 'Diana and Actaeon,' 'Europa and the Bull,' 'Flight of Europa,' 'Atalanta,' 'Adam and Eve' and 'Spear Thrower,' among others. These sculptures embodied a sculptural design that was entirely his own. They "represent Manship at his most characteristic, with their use of mythological subjects, nude figures in motion, stylized animals and plants, and highly decorative patterns in which the voids are as calculated as the solids." (J. Manship, Paul Manship, New York, 1989, p. 101)
The myth of Europa eloping with the bull, the disguised god Zeus, was appealing to Manship and became the source for two works, 'Europa and the Bull' and 'Flight of Europa'. His design is indicative of his knowledge of mythology and its role in archaic Greek sculpture. "The bull's agile power and the long-waisted maiden's heroic ease bespeak protohistoric legend. But Manship was not tyrannized by his ancient sources...Stanley Casson recognized its innovative design: 'The triangular shape of the whole composition brings with it great subtleties of balance in weight and in line.' Scattering patterned accents over the sculpture, Manship precisely balanced decorative details. He distributed sparkling elements of concentrated pattern, so the smooth simple forms do not culminate in a single climax, and no point on the work is far from another strong motif." (H. Rand, Paul Manship, Washington, D.C., 1989, p. 67) Manship did not rely solely on mythology as a source of subject matter. The concept of the dolphins was borrowed from his student, Gaston Lachaise. They leap into the stone solidifying the relationship between the sculpture and its base.
The forms of the female figure and the bull are somewhat formalized, muscular details of the bull, a reflection of his anatomy lessons with Borglum, reinforces the strength, agility and movement of the bull. The result is a delicate balance between the realistic and formal elements.
Edwin Murtha best summarizes Manship's career when he states "Taste, jewel-like surfaces, and vigorous forms unite some forty years of Manship's art. He has imposed ideal decorative patterns upon nature; and human and animal forms have been endowed by him with grace that only 'the old nonchalance of the hand' can bestow." (Paul Manship, p. 18)
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