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November 04, 2006

Francis on Manship, Columbia

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Some visitors may not know that occasional Blowhard Francis Morrone has a regular gig at The New York Sun, where he covers architecture, neighborhoods, and, occasionally, art. It's always worth searching out Francis' work, of course; he's one of the very best out there. But he's in especially good form in the current issue of the Sun. Here he writes a clear-eyed appreciation of the mid-century, kinda-modernist / kinda-traditionalist sculptor Paul Manship; and here he's eloquent and informative on the contributions of architect and planner Charles Follen McKim to the campus of Columbia University.

Francis also writes for The Classicist, the blog of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America. In a current posting, he reviews Time Out's recent guide to the Best Blocks in New York City. A first-rate passage:

What stands out is that the Time Out kids' choice of the best blocks included not one that is identified by modernist buildings -- indeed, scarcely one that even has a modernist building on it. This article was not written by architectural ideologues. In fact, the people who wrote it may very well think Zaha Hadid is cool, or they may very well, had they ranked 50 buildings rather than 50 blocks, have included plenty of modernist stuff. But the striking thing is that this is an article about where people actually, truly want to live.

And isn't that a beautiful example of the kind of approach to the arts that welike to promote around here!

Forget the eager fools who write propaganda for the chic-starchitecture industry, and for whom architecture and urbanism are little but excuses for "I'm more radical than you" design-chat. On a regular basis, Francis offers generous and rewarding heaps of the real thing.



posted by Michael at November 4, 2006


Yes, do click on the link to the Sun article.

I especially liked what Francis had to say (in what was almost an aside) regarding Saint-Gaudens, French and MacMonnies.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on November 4, 2006 9:06 PM

Manship is a little too stylized for me, but I share Francis' love for Saint-Gaudens, French and MacMonnies and have loved them for a long time.

Too often sculpture is treated like some kind of natural phenomenon -- just THERE. It's great to see them discussed and their creators named.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on November 4, 2006 10:48 PM

I googled Manship to get a better idea of what his work is about. I noticed, as one would expect from Francis' article, that his early work was quite Beaux-Art neoclassical-naturalistic (if charming in a sort of Rococco, 18th century way.) This makes it hard for me to entirely get behind Francis' notion of Manship as an archaic, or archaizing artist rather than a modern artist. Archaic art precedes, rather than follows from, a classical stage of art. This is logical, because classical art balances the design qualities and idealism of archaic art with a juidicious helping of naturalistic detail, thus blending the ideal with the sensual. I'm not sure I can buy Manship working this evolution the other way around. I would argue that "archaizing" is actually a pretty clear (and widely utilized) strategy of early-stage modernism, usually superceded within one artistic generation by more mature modernist approaches.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on November 4, 2006 11:52 PM

Manship: the last of the sculptors dedicated to just sculpting something beautiful. Well, sometimes it seems like that.

Posted by: ricpic on November 5, 2006 10:39 AM

In his "New York Sun" article about the Columbia campus, Francis mentions an essay by Hilary Ballon, but the link in the on-line article seems to be to something else. If Francis gets the time, or if anyone else knows, please post the name of the essay and where it can be found (or how it can be found via the supplied link).


Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on November 5, 2006 3:47 PM


Posted by: Francis Morrone on November 6, 2006 1:31 AM

Links to other "Abroad in New York" essays by Francis can be found here

Posted by: Dave Lull on November 6, 2006 11:45 AM

The essay by Hilary Ballon that Francis quotes from is "The Architecture of Columbia: Educational Visions in Conflict: A battleground of ideas, mission, relationship to city" and can be found here.

Posted by: Dave Lull on November 6, 2006 11:57 AM

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