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Edna Manley

(1900—1987) sculptor


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Jamaican sculptor, born Edna Swithenbank in Bournemouth, the daughter of an English clergyman and a Jamaican mother. She studied sculpture in London, at the Royal Academy and elsewhere. In 1921 she married her cousin Norman Manley and settled with him in Jamaica, where he had a distinguished career as a barrister and later as a politician, doing more than anyone else to lead the island to self-government. Edna Manley's sculpture to some extent formed an artistic counterpart to her husband's political activities, for she is regarded as the fountainhead of the nationalistic ‘Jamaican Art Movement’; several of her works have become icons of a period when black Jamaicans were seeking self-determination, notably Negro Aroused (1935, NG, Kingston), a powerfully stylized piece in carved mahogany. In the 1940s Manley's work became more intimate, but from the 1950s she did numerous large-scale public commissions, including He Cometh Forth (1962), an allegory of Jamaican independence in the Sheraton Hotel, Kingston. After the death of her husband in 1969, her work tended to grow more introspective (Angel, 1970, Kingston parish church). In the last two years of her life she gave up sculpture for painting.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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