“From Starfield to MARS: Paul Manship and his Artistic Legacy” is an exhibit conceived in two parts: “Art Deco at the Addison” explores sculptor Paul Manship’s artistic legacy and historical connection to Phillips Academy, and “Starfield through Contemporary Lenses” presents the works of four acclaimed Massachusetts artists and educators, all having recently completed year-long artist residencies at Manship’s beloved home, Starfield, in the village of Lanesville, an enclave in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Starfield was recently purchased from Manship’s descendants by a nonprofit with the goal of preserving the Manship legacy by restoring the historic property to house the Manship Art Residencies + Studios (MARS).
“Art Deco at the Addison” brings together some of Manship’s finest sculptures, numismatics and preliminary drawings from the permanent collection of the Addison Gallery. Many of the objects were donated by philanthropist Thomas Cochran, a Phillips Academy alum and the founder of the Addison Gallery, who had a long friendship with fellow Minnesotan, Paul Manship. Cochran acquired numerous works by Manship, and donated the cream to the Addison’s core collection in 1931.
Between the First and Second World Wars, Paul Manship was considered America’s greatest living sculptor. Architects sought to commission him for public sculpture, and wealthy and well-positioned collectors all wanted his work.
Manship’s meteoric rise began with the prestigious Prix de Rome. His three-year fellowship (1909–1912) allowed Manship to live and work at the American Academy in Rome, travel throughout Europe, and explore ancient Mediterranean art — Minoan, Assyrian, Egyptian, and especially the archaic art of Greece. This exposure influenced his style throughout his life. His years in Rome were extremely productive. When he returned home, he was acclaimed as a major American talent — his first exhibit of 96 bronzes cast in Rome completely sold out.
In focusing on the power of design, the simplicity of line and the rich decoration of archaic sculpture, Manship ascribed to the Art Deco style, an eclectic movement popular in the 1920s and ‘30s. Rather than depicting realistic proportions for his figures, he conveyed vitality, rhythm and spirit in his work. His sculptures are streamlined, displaying the primacy of line that contrasted with stylized geometric patterning in human hair, animal fur and drapery of cloth. His bronze works are distinguished also by their richly patinated surfaces.
Manship’s artistic strength was the reinterpretation of classical mythological themes that focused on the human figure and animals in action. In the current exhibit, “Flight of Night,” “Diana” and “Actaeon” are outstanding examples of Manship’s simplified modeling and fluid, rhythmic compositions. “Diana” and “Actaeon” together reveal Manship’s sculptural narrative, the female huntress vanquishing her male prey.