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Group of Bears

In 1926, Paul Manship was commissioned to build the Paul J. Rainey Memorial Gateway at the Bronx Zoo. The double gates stand over thirty-four feet high and forty-two feet wide, cost $250,000 to create, and took almost fifteen years to complete. Above the left gate, Manship modeled three bears. When the gates were complete, he issued independent casts of this assemblage to recoup some of the gateway's enormous costs. Group of Bears is one of these casts and is less than half the size of the original. Manship maintained the poses of the animals but adjusted them from a profile to a frontal composition. This perspective makes the bears look more like a triple portrait than three individual animals. In fact, the artist modeled all three animals from careful life study of one of the zoo's bears. Manship did not give them much detail or surface decoration because the sculptures were originally made to stand over twenty feet above the viewer.

Credit: Gift of the artist

1939
Bronze
83.8 x 69.8 x 49.5 cm
1963.14.1
Image and text: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2024

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