We are well into spring and each day that brings a minute more of sunlight also brings a minute less of darkness. Because they capture this ebb and flow of time, I’m drawn to Paul Manship’s sculptures The Moods of Time. The four allegorical figures represent morning, day, evening, and night, and were created for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair as hour markers in a large sundial.
The sculptures embody the mood associated with each phase of the daily cycle. Manship used fluid, aerodynamic lines to create a sense of motion and to reflect the celestial passage. Morning sleepily yawns and stretches as he is roused by a rooster, trumpeter, and a small figure pulling the cloth of night from his body. Day carries the hot sun in his outstretched hands. Wind rushes through his hair as he races the two horses at his feet. His energy is juxtaposed with Evening who is lulled into drowsiness by owls as darkness sets in. Finally, Night soars above a cloud in a deep slumber. She is accompanied by the moon and two male figures while she takes her flight through dreams.
Paul Juley’s photos of The Moods of Time make the passage of time almost palpable. His camera’s slow shutter speed turned the World’s Fair visitors into a blur behind the sculptures, serving as a reminder that time is indeed moody and fleeting.
|Evening in Manship's garden|
“[The sculptures at the fair] summed up [Manship’s] obsession with time,” recalls the artist’s son John Manship. “He believed that a major purpose of art, especially art in the classical tradition, was to reconcile the passage of time with permanence.” Despite this vision, the sculptures were cast in staff (a plaster compound) and were discarded after the fair. Manship loved The Moods of Time so much that he eventually cast smaller bronze versions of the sculptures and even displayed the entire sundial in his personal garden. The originals, however, are gone forever, preserved only in the Juley photographs and in the snapshots taken by fair visitors.
The Moods of Time reminds me both of the permanence of time and the impermanence of the things around us. Morning flies into day, day into evening, evening into night. Things come and go in a blur.
Emily Moazami, Photograph Archivist, Smithsonian American Art Museum