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Philip Shelton Sears

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Philip Shelton Sears
Sculptor-busts and statue
American, (1867–1953)
Philip Shelton Sears was born in 1867 in Boston, to a privileged family. He attended Harvard College, where he completed his undergraduate degree in 1889 and a law degree in 1892. While at Harvard, he gained fame as a tennis player, winning both singles and doubles intercollegiate titles. He practiced law in Boston for twenty-five years.

During World War I, Sears abandoned his law career and took up sculpture. He served as adjutant general at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, modeling clay and carving wood figures of the soldiers in his spare time. He continued this past-time after stationed in France. Returning from the War, he began study at the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with sculptor Charles Grafly and under the tutelage of Daniel Chester French.

Midway through the 1920s, Sears established a studio in the Brookline neighborhood of Boston; from 1925 to 1938, he exhibited at many group shows, including those at the Boston Fine Art Club and the Museum of Fine Arts. He also had three shows at the Guild of Boston Artists.

His own athleticism and body awareness influenced his art; his figures were keenly observed and executed. During the course of his artistic career, he created statuettes, fountains, portraits, memorials, sun dials, and bas-reliefs. Among the best known of his works is Pumunangwet (He Who Shoots At Stars) from 1929, depicting a Native American brave standing with his bow raised upward over his head after the release of his heavens-bound arrow. A heroic-sized edition was commissioned for the exterior of the Indian Museum at Harvard, Massachusetts (part of the Fruitlands Museum) by Clara Endicott Sears, his cousin.

Some of his most compelling works are Man Diving (1926), A Triumphant Athlete (1924), Piping Boy, and Stepping Stones (1923). All employed the same slim male model, and the works illustrate the musculature of the body during different athletic pursuits.

During the 1920s, a World War I memorial was created for the town on Manchester-by-the-Sea illustrating a Doughboy, standing erect with one arm raised in salute as another holds an American Flag. He also sculpted portraits of public figures of the day, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to author Ella Lyman Cabot. Also notable is Football Coach (1925) portraying Harvard coach Percy D. Haughman crouching at the sidelines watching his prayers. After gaining a reputation for his figurative works in and around Boston, Philip S. Sears died at his Brookline home on March 10, 1953.

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