Paul Wayland Bartlett


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Sculptor. Known particularly for monumental commemorative and architectural sculpture, he resided for most of his life in Paris. His style reflected late-nineteenth-century French taste for formal elegance, impressionistic surfaces, and spontaneous effects. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, he was schooled in France and received his artistic training at the École des Beaux-Arts. He worked also with animal specialist Emmanuel Frémiet and with Rodin. One of his best-known works, the bronze Bear Tamer (Metropolitan Museum, 1887) established his international reputation. Depicting a lithe and nearly nude young man with two cubs, its vivacity, easy naturalism, and complex three-dimensional structure demonstrate the young sculptor's mastery of current French practice. Subsequently, Bartlett specialized in bronze animal subjects before receiving his first important public commission, a pair of bronze historical portrait figures, Columbus (1897) and Michelangelo (1898), for the reading room of the new Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. These inaugurated a career thereafter devoted primarily to idealizing civic monuments. Among the most important, his equestrian bronze Lafayette (1898–1908) for the grounds of the Louvre dramatically presents the Revolutionary War commander astride a vigorous steed with sword raised. This publicly funded American tribute to friendship with France represents as well Bartlett's ongoing aspiration to harmonize his European artistic heritage with American themes. His major public sculptures in the United States include the New York Stock Exchange's pediment decoration, Integrity Protecting the Works of Man (1901–4; with John Quincy Adams Ward), and six allegorical figures on the facade of the New York Public Library (1909–15), as well as the U.S. Capitol's Apotheosis of Democracy (1908–16). To facilitate work on this pediment grouping for the House of Representatives wing, late in 1908 he established a studio in Washington. Subsequently he divided his time between the capital and Paris, where he died.

His father, Truman Bartlett (1835–1923), was a sculptor of portraits and monuments. A teacher and art historian as well, Truman Howe Bartlett was born in Dorset, Vermont, and, like his son, worked with Frémiet in Paris. He also knew Rodin and in 1889 published an important series of articles about his work. His pioneering Art Life of William Rimmer, Sculptor, Painter, and Physician (1882) remains an important source.

Subjects: Art.

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