For Dancer and Gazelles, Manship drew inspiration from the sinuous lines and rhythms of art from India and the East. Framed by the two prancing animals, his dancer sways to an offstage beat, swinging her skirt and shawl into decorative patterns that contrast with the gazelles' smooth finish. She communicates with the animals with her fluid gestures and enigmatic gaze, motioning one to join the dance, commanding the other to stay. The dancer's undulating motion is reminiscent of Indian sculptures of the god Siva; the choreography of her hand movements suggest the complex code of hand gestures, mudras, in Indian dance, drama, fine arts, and religion.
The flowing surfaces of Dancer and Gazelles exemplify Manship's virtuoso skill at transforming molten metal into highly articulated, almost drawn, surfaces. Manship consistently emphasized the silhouette, rather than three-dimensional volumes in his work, and his penchant for linearity is clear here: with its stylized figures mounted in a line along an extended rectangular base, Dancer and Gazelles demands frontal viewing.
Manship's aesthetic grew from his enthusiasm for archaic (pre-classical) Greek, Etruscan, and Asian art and from his consummate craftsmanship. It was influenced also by his feeling for sculpture as a close relative of architecture and akin to the new streamlined ornamental style now known as Art Deco. He would become one of the most sought-after American artists for public sculpture over the course of a long career. His Prometheus fountain in New York's Rockefeller Center Plaza is perhaps his best-known work.
The two original Dancer and Gazelles were life-size. The National Gallery's sculpture is one of twelve reduced versions.
Dancer and Gazelles
DIMENSIONS: 82.6 x 88.3 x 28.5 cm (32 1/2 x 34 3/4 x 11 1/4 in.)
COLLECTION: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Gift of Mrs. Houghton P. Metcalf
ACCESSION NUMBER: 1977.48.1