Paul Howard Manship was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 24, 1885, the son of Charles H. and Mary Etta (Friend) Manship. The sculptor considered it a good omen that he was vorn the seventh child of a seventh daughter. Manship began to draw in emulation of his sister Adeline and later through example of his brother Luther who was an engraver. His early art studies were at the St. Paul School of Art. At first his studies were directed at becoming a painter, however when he discovered he was color blind he decided to pursue a career as a sculptor. When he went east to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Art Students League of New York his teachers and mentors included Hermon Atkins MacNeil, George Bridgeman,Solon Borglum, Charles Grafly and Isidore Konti.
In 1909 he won the highly sought-after American Prix de Rome which allowed him to study at the American Academy in Rome from 1909 until 1912. While in Europe he became interested in Archaic and pre-classical works, his own work began to take on some archaic and classical features. His simplification of line and detail appealed to those who wished to move beyond the Beaux-Arts classical realism prevalent in the day. Also, his view of and use of a more traditional “beauty” as well as an avoidance of the more radical and abstract trends in art made his works attractive to more conservative art collectors. Manship’s work is often considered to be a major precursor to Art Deco.
Manship produced over 700 works and always employed assistants of the highest quality. Although not known as a portraitist, he did produce statues and busts of Theodore Roosevelt, Samuel Osgood, John D. Rockefeller, Robert Frost and our own John Hancock. Manship was very adept at low relief and used these skills to produce a large number of coins and medals, one of his later ones being the John F. Kennedy innaugural medal.
Manship served on the board of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and chaired the board. Manship’s extensive papers, maquettes and sculptures are housed in the museum’s archives.