Sculptors of Cape Ann

By Steven Law



Other artists took their grounding with Grafly and other great teachers into new directions. Some entered competitions. Others, like Hancock, worked at commissions and accomplished independent compositions based on subjects they observed and felt inspired to create.

Paul Manship, noted for his Prometheus in Rockefeller Center, had studied with Bridgeman, Hermon MacNeil, Solon Borglum and Grafly, and had also received the Rome Prize. While in Europe, Manship's fascination with archaic Greek sculptures resulted in a stylistic shift in his sculpting. According to Hancock, "When Paul Manship applied an archaistic treatment to the naturalistic poses of the figure, I think it was the first time it had ever been done." Manship's stylized work was a precursor to the Art Deco decorative style. Manship's Playfulness depicts a mother playing with her child. Created in Rome in 1912, it is one of Manship's earliest works in which he employs these archaistic elements.

Another Grafly student and Cape Ann native, Katharine Lane Weems, discovered other influences. In 1918, at the age of nineteen, Weems traveled from her parents home in Manchester, Massachusetts, to Annisquam to visit sculptress Anna Hyatt Huntington, who like Manship, had studied with MacNeil and Borglum.

Huntington, perhaps inspired by her father, an eminent zoology professor, had chosen to study and sculpt animals. For years, she had observed animals at the Bostock's Live Animal Show in Boston and the Bronx Zoo, modeling Great Danes, jaguars, lions, and elephants. Three years prior to Weems' visit, Huntington's heroic equestrian monument Joan of Arc was unveiled in New York City.

In her book, Katharine Lane Weems: Sculpture and Drawings, Louise Todd Ambler states that Huntington encouraged Weems by suggesting she model a cow. After modeling the cow, a horse and then two reliefs, Weems enrolled at the Museum School in Boston the following year, again supported by Huntington, and began her work with Grafly. Hancock said:

Grafly, having been warned to treat Kay (Weems) gently because her father was a great patron of the Boston Museum, was, at first, harsh, almost cruel towards her. But Kay had a splendid grounding thanks to Grafly: she could sculpt medals, figures, portrait reliefs, but, like Huntington, her real love was animals: she understood them. Eventually, Grafly came to admire her work enormously.

Ambler noted that with the exception of the Rhinoceroses, commissioned for the Biological Laboratories at Harvard University, Weems did not accomplish the large-scale works characteristic of Huntington. Ambler added that often Huntington's animals are ferocious, fighting and raging in some way, while Weems' were mostly domestic or studied in zoos.

Another Grafly student, George Demetrios, emigrated from Macedonia to settle on Cape Ann near Grafly. Hancock offered, "Demetrios learned everything he knew from Grafly and teachers in Paris. Then, with the use of simple planes and hard edges, evolved a style of simplified forms." Like Grafly, Demetrios specialized in portraits, especially facial expressions. Sauna Boy, a youth pouring a bucket of water over his head, was inspired by the Cape's Finnish descendants. Demetrios eventually became a revered teacher of drawing.

Some of the artists included in Sculptors of Cape Ann moved to Cape Ann after studying in Boston with Bela Pratt, another teacher in the Beaux-Art tradition. "Pratt's methods might have differed from Grafly's," Hancock said, "but there was little difference in his conception of art."

Pratt was an accomplished numismatist. One of his star pupils, Richard Recchia, became Pratt's assistant after a year in Paris. In 1913, he was asked to design an entablature relief panel for the Evans Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Two years later, Recchia won top prizes at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Recchia encouraged another great sculptor, Anthony De Francisi, to move to Cape Ann. De Francisi had apprenticed in New York with MacNeil, George Brewster, Philip Martiny, and Adolf Weinman. Then, according to his daughter, Gilda Slate, "he went out on his own, and soon after, entered the competition for the peace dollar."

Slate said her father modeled his entry piece after her mother. "She had a lovely profile, and (he chose her) because Dad was afraid that professional models would tell other sculptors about his design." On the flip side of the work, De Francisi inscribed "peace" at the base of a rocky crag upon which a proud eagle was perched. De Francisi won the competition.

"This country welcomed my dad from Italy," Slate said. "He appreciated the freedom and success he experienced here. I think my favorite piece of Dad's in the Rockport Art Association exhibition is a sketch he made for the Lincoln Memorial Competition, which has a great deal of expression in the stance and in the face, the compassion and cerebral qualities that Lincoln had as well as some of the natural grace of a president."

Another specialist in medals and numismatic work, Ulysses A. Ricci, came to Rockport because of De Francisi. Having studied with Bridgeman and James Earle Frasher, Ricci also sculpted architectural ornament and decoration. His Boy with Grapes depicts a youthful stance, while Portrait of a Man conveys a serious, learned impression.

Albert H. Atkins, another Pratt student, evolved linear, decorative pieces, and specialized in religious sculpture. His David and Peace are featured in the Rockport exhibit along with the works of George Aarons. Aarons, from Lithuania, studied with both Pratt and Jo Davidson at the Beaux-Arts Institute in New York and settled on Cape Ann in 1945. Aarons sought to express human anguish: suffering, struggle, pleasure, and pain.

Sculptors of Cape Ann: From Medals to Monuments includes more than two hundred pieces: medals, medallions, portrait heads, busts and reliefs, figures, statues and statuettes of figures, animals and insects, garden statuary, scale models for public monuments, decorative ornamental works, ecclesiastical sculpture, drawings, and reliefs. These pieces reflect a legacy of learning and ability imparted by great sculptor/ teachers of the past.


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