Nothing excites me more than uncovering dirt on an item I find. Figuring out who made it, who designed it and why it was created. This drive took me on a mission last month to see for myself what could be found!
I was at an estate sale at a vacant property picking up a cool Cosco stool and picking through to find things of interest to resell. Just before I settled up, I noticed this table top sculpture of a nude girl. I am pretty sure I turned to my husband and said, 'My Aunt (deceased) would love her. We are taking her.' Added her to my pile, paid and away we went. I thought she would be a great add to my ceramic Rodin 'The Kiss' my same Aunt gave me years ago which is on my bookshelf. My nude was a mess of moss, mold and 3 years of no climate control in a home rotting next to a small creek. I brought her home and gingerly cleaned her. What was she made of? Could be stone but maybe plaster? I discovered her signature....B. Mankowski. Some Google time later, I found out that Mr Mankowski was indeed a published working sculptor, born Oct 30, 1902 in Germany, he moved to New York City in 1928 and was naturalized in 1933. Having done various commissioned sculptures in mediums like granite and bronze, he also was a medalist designing and casting medals for different organizations. Some of his greatest works were done as a hired Works Progress Administration NEW DEAL artist. So who is my lady, referred to in two online auction references as KNEELING NUDE? How many of her were cast? What is she made of?
I found a reference to the Bruno Mankowski Papers being held at the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C., available to the public by reservation. My kids were hot to visit D.C. and it would make a great vacation for a long weekend, so I booked and away we went!
I showed up at my appointment time after a 4 or 5 block walk from our hotel. Meanwhile, the rest of the family tackled the Metro and were off to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I checked in with security/reception at the front desk, was issued a visitors badge and was sent to proper floor. Another receptionist got me set up with a locker. I did travel light but I was only allowed to bring a PENCIL (no ink), tablet and I was allowed a phone to take pictures, but had to follow copyright procedures. I entered a small research room with a photocopier and a desk areas, one of which had a gal already researching. My totes were all ready for me and I was given the run down on procedures. The boxes needed to remain in the order presented and I was given an acrylic placeholder with which I inserted behind the folder I was removing so I could easily put it back. Photo copies were allowed if I took the entire folder to the copier and kept it in order, returning to the tote when I was finished. Pictures were allowed but needed to include a copyright notice....think watermark. Ok. Got it!
I picked the smaller of the two totes to start with. The documents smelled like my violin case....rosin perhaps? It was pleasing and exciting! The first items I perused were biographical write ups. Typical press release format. Nothing too detailed. No reference to spouse or family. I then started getting into project correspondence. One of Mankowski's WPA projects was a piece to be hung over the Postmaster's door in the Chesterfield, SC post office. I was able to follow the whole project including progress billings through these letters. I also found many original newspaper clippings. He had a large piece entered in the NY Worlds Fair and his work (also through WPA) to recreate a sandstone sculpture on the east Pediment of the Capitol in granite was well documented. There were many original photos of works, my guess is publicity shots by a hired professional he used in NYC, newspaper clippings from publicity during installation of the larger projects like the capitol and worlds fair sculptures. It was fabulous to see and touch these items and I felt terribly lucky to do so. You see, many items get digitized and surely at some point, these records will be too.
I just checked my photos which were time stamped, and I was 2 hours into viewing and I am most certain I squealed when I opened a folder to find a glossy magazine stock brochure on my KNEELING NUDE! There she was! Complete with a write up. He made her to sell. Probably a limited edition piece. She was hand cast in Foundry Stone. No answers found to the number produced or where they were sold. There is a logo on the back: Sc. I have been in contact with the National Sculpture Society, which Mankowski was a member of and more recently Sculpture Center of NYC which I am awaiting a reply. Sculpture Center does sell limited edition runs from their current artists so hoping I am on the right track. I do believe she was made in the very early 1970's as there was reference to 1969 on the brochure with the list of accomplishments.
My research continues, I am thrilled to have gotten this far and really am happy to be able to coordinate this trip. With that said, I would like to keep a record of KNEELING NUDE sculptures! Please email me if you find one or have one in your collection! I would love to know the story of when and where you found yours and keep a little log on my page to bring us together. I really do not suspect many were made so as they turn up and people start googling, I am sure my blog will pop up. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for following along! This is the second time I was able to access information from a museum library! Treasure and support our museums! xo Malissa
I will be working on adding many new listings in my shops prepping for the holidays. Make sure you are following all of my shops! My kids are back in school next week so I hope to knock out some restorations before the cold weather sets in. Many things have been moving out and thank you for your support!
ebay shop: madmodworldvintage
shop local at FLEETWOOD ANTIQUE MALL, route 222 just south of Kutztown , PA. WED-SUN 10-6