Paul Manship's unique synthesis of the academic principles of sculpture with a fresh, innovative approach to form established him as one of the most preeminent sculptors of the early 20th century. He was inspired by classical subject matter, which he presented through a distinctly simplified, modern style, distinguishing him from his contemporaries and garnering much critical acclaim and commercial success throughout in his career. "His modernism lay in the greater importance of form than subject to the effect of his works and the provocative combination of stylization and naturalism; his conceptualized treatment of form, in particular, signified originality." (S. Rather, Archaism, Modernism, and the Art of Paul Manship, Austin, Texas, 1993, p. 106) 'Indian' and 'Pronghorn Antelope', are superb and elegant manifestations of these principles that embody Manship's unique and timeless aesthetic.
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 work.
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 additional exhibitions, awards, traveling shows and commissions. During this period he completed several commissions, promoted his new career and established himself in the artistic and social circles of New York, as well as New England.
Modeled and cast in 1914, 'Indian' and 'Pronghorn Antelope' are beautiful examples of Manship's talent of rendering human and animal form in a fashion that is simultaneously classical and modern. Initially designed as a pair for two pedestals that flanked his mantelpiece in his New York apartment, 'Indian' and 'Pronghorn Antelope' became one of Manships most commercial designs. Here, Manship deftly fashions the musculature of both the figure and antelope to convey the momentary suspension of time as the hunter releases the bow and captures his target. "Manship activated the empty air between the Indian and his prey. The separation of the two sculptures serves as a kind of 'spark gap'--the imagined flight of the arrow as it lands in the side of the rearing antelope carries the gaze to the Indian, completing the circuit." (H. Rand, Paul Manship, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1989, p. 36) Beyond Manship's inherent intent of designing the present work as two separate forms, he further establishes distance between the subjects by incorporating differing grounds on each, underscoring the challenge of the hunt in a varied terrain and heightening the drama of the kill. This he achieves through a reduction of form and stylized lines a powerful narrative of the relationship between hunter and prey." In Manship's work nature is neither tamely imitated nor distorted. It is simplified and organized by the artist for a specific symbolic and sculptural purpose." (Murtha, Paul Manship, p. 16)
'Indian' and 'Pronghorn Antelope' were first exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1914. Upon seeing them exhibited, Herbert Pratt commissioned large-scale versions for the garden of his home on Glen Cove, Long Island. In his unpublished memoir, Manship recalled, "[Herbert Pratt] came to see me and said, 'Now, what do you think you want to charge me for these things? Don't hesitate to charge all you this you ought to have for them,' which was a great encouragement, for I would have been willing to accept any modest sum. So I made them large life-size figures, with a considerable amount of work involved, probably two years. I would have been delighted to do them for $5,000 at that time. So he said, 'Now you just tell me what you think would be a nice comfortable figure for these.' 'Well,' I said, 'do you think $15,000 would be too much to ask for them?' 'No,' he said. 'That's just right. That's fine.' So I thought that was a very encouraging way to treat a young sculptor. It meant that I really was free to do the best I could and add a little surplus possibly to keep me from worrying about the next turn of the wheel.'" (as quoted in J. Manship, Paul Manship, New York, 1989, p. 67)
'Indian' and 'Pronghorn Antelope' was cast in an edition of fifteen. At least eleven of the editions are in museum collections, most notably The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The Art Institute of Chicago.