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Paul Wayland Bartlett
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Paul Wayland Bartlett was schooled in France, living most of his life as an expatriot. His father, Truman H. Bartlett (1835 - 1923), also a neoclassical sculptor of portraits and monuments, who worked with Frémiet in Paris, insisted that the young Bartlett be schooled in Paris, rather than the United States, where he felt art education was inferior. Having often watched his father sculpt, Bartlett followed in his father’s footsteps. Paul was only fourteen when he exhibited his first work at the Paris Salon of 1879, a bust of his grandmother. The following year, he enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He studied and worked with animal specialist Emmanuel Frémiet, Pierre-Jules Cavalier, and with Rodin. Early in his career, he specialized in animal works, sculpting garden ornaments in various French studios with fellow sculptor Antoine Gardet. His style developed as a reflection of late 19th century French taste for formal elegance, impressionistic surfaces, and spontaneous effects. Known particularly for monumental commemorative and architectural sculptures, he dabbled in a wide variety of genres, including ideal sculptures, medallic portraiture, reliefs, and monumental historical figures. Bartlett frequently exhibited at the Paris Salons from the years of 1879 - 1887, winning a prize in 1897. His The Bear Tamer won an Honorable Mention in 1887. A full scale bronze of the work, cast by Gruet, was exhibited in the 1888 Salon, and won the Grand Prize for Sculpture. Sadly, Bartlett could not accept this prize because he had served on the Awards Jury. It remains one of the artist’s best known works, depicting a young man, well-muscled, wearing a loincloth with two bear cubs between his spread legs; he looks down at them, snapping his fingers. Today it is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. The work established his reputation in the United States and invited important commissions. Inspired by innovation in the decorative arts in France and the United States, in 1892, Bartlett established his own experimental Parisian foundry. In between major commissions, with the assistance of ceramicist Jean Carriès and founder Pierre Bingen, he used techniques of lost wax casting and chemical patination (dubbed the “Bartlett Formula”) to create small animal sculptures with a vibrant array of finishes. Though his involvement with the foundry declined in the following years, Bartlett retained his knowledge of and passion for creating varied patinas.
In 1893, he exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, where he showed The Indian Ghost Dancer, a decidedly North American subject. Modelled between 1888 - 1889, this work depicts a Native American, nude, in a state of rapture as he performs a ceremonial dance. Bartlett wished to validate his growing reputation in both France and America facilitated by the earlier exhibition of The Bear Tamer. Both works display a late 19th century depiction of attitudes toward race, but Bartlett addressed these characterizations within the expanding context of American sculpture. Bartlett’s first important public commission was a pair of bronze historical portrait figures of Columbus and Michelangelo for the reading room of the new Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. With these works the trajectory of his career changed, and he devoted himself to civic monuments. Lafayette, depicted astride a prancing warhorse with a raised sword, commissioned for the grounds of the Louvre, was one of his most important works. Publicly funded as an American tribute to Franco-American friendship, this work synthesizes Bartlett’s European artistic heritage with his American heritage, and his use of 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 (1901-1904; with John Quincy Adams Ward), and six allegorical figures on the facade of the New York Public Library (1909-1915), as well as the U.S. Capitol's Apotheosis of Democracy (1908-1916). 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 in 1925. Paul Bartlett received many honors throughout his lifetime. In 1895, he was named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. In 1916 he was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was also a member of the National Sculpture Society and the International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Gravers. A retrospective exhibition was held after his death, Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925): Sculptures, at the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, in 1929. Today, his works are found in many institutions, as well as on some of the most important buildings in the US and France.
-Abigail Hartmann Associates