Waylande Gregory Iron Bird Sculpture
A monumental 90" tall iron sculpture of a bird by the noted American artist Waylande Gregory. While mostly known for ...
moreA monumental 90" tall iron sculpture of a bird by the noted American artist Waylande Gregory. While mostly known for his ceramics this massive iron sculpture is straight out of his estate and depicts his signature rooster theme. A rare and most impressive outdoor sculpture.
A biography from Wikipedia follows: Waylande Desantis Gregory (1905 Baxter Springs, Kansas – 1971, New Jersey) was one of the most innovative and prolific American Art Deco ceramics sculptors of the early 20th century. His groundbreaking techniques enabled him to create monumental ceramic sculpture, such as the Fountain of the Atoms and Light Dispelling Darkness, which had hitherto not been possible. He was also an early seminal figure in the studio glass movement.
1 Major artistic impact.
2 Early life.
3 Adolescence and early adulthood.
4 Cowan period.
5 Cranbrook period.
6 New Jersey period.
7 Light Dispelling Darkness.
8 Fountain of the Atoms.
9 Later years.
Major artistic impact:
Waylande Gregory is one of the most influential ceramic sculptors of the 20th century, who had helped to shape the Art Deco period in America. Artistically, he had developed much of the Art Deco sculptural visual vocabulary in American art. In one of his more notable pieces, Salome, the horror of the decapitated St. John the Baptist is secondary to the lyricism of the near linear rhythm of Salome’s dance of the seven veils, expressive of pure form and motion. He combines both the erotic dance of the seven veils simultaneously with the decapitated head of St. John on a silver platter. Unlike his contemporaries at Cowan studios who followed in the footsteps of Austrian modern pottery exemplified by the Wiener Werkstätte, Waylande Gregory sought to create a distinctly American form, for instance, his second sculpture of Henry Fonda, capturing in essence what he felt were the best American traits.
Technically, his most direct contributions include development of methods for the creation of monumental ceramic sculptural works, and the development of revolutionary glazing and processing methods. After he had moved to New Jersey and begun to work with the large kilns at Atlantic terra cotta, he began to develop new techniques which made monumental ceramic sculpture possible. Prior to Waylande Gregory, ceramic sculpture was limited in size due to the tendency for clay to slump after being formed without being supported by an armature of metal or wood. Other methods included sculpting the entire piece in clay and then going back and hollowing out the clay on the inside. This would lead to problems with sagging during firing, and tendency to crack. As a result, there were many limitations to the prior two techniques. By using a honeycomb method of building up the ceramic sculpture from the inside out, similar to the way that wasps build up their nests, he was able to form the sculpture as a self-supporting whole prior to firing, and his sculptures would go through the firing process successfully without cracking. Unlike other ceramicists, who would fire the sculpture to bisque, and then glaze, he would form, glaze and then fire the sculpture only once for the finished art work.
He never used factory-made glazes, grinding and mixing all of the glazes himself, carefully controlling firing temperatures as well as kiln atmosphere to achieve the effects that he desired. Among his innovations are compressing of glaze powder into a crayon for sfograffito, and a patented process for fusing glass and ceramic together in a crackle pattern.
Waylande Gregory was born in Baxter, Kansas in 1905. His mother was a concert pianist and his father a farmer. From an early age he had shown precocious artistic talent, beginning with small sculptures of animals in earth, as well as prodigious musical talent, even composing his own pieces. He at one time declared that he would no longer play pieces by Bach but only original pieces by Waylande Gregory.
In 1913, his mother moved to Pittsburg, Kansas in order to gain better educational opportunities for her three sons. At age 11 he was enrolled at the laboratory grade school at State Manual Training Normal, a teacher’s college, where he was taught by student teachers who were under supervision. State Manual Training Normal would later become Pittsburg State University of Kansas, studying crafts including carpentry and ceramics.
Adolescence and early adulthood:
By the age of 14, he had made a bust of the school principal in only six sittings, as well as a ceramic statue called The Spirit of Athletics which is a composite of the best parts of his three classmates. While in high school, he had won awards for sculpture at the Kansas State Fair. After high school he had moved to Kansas City to attend the Art Institute, but immediately began to receive commissions for the sculptural decoration of the administration building at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, a statue of Pan for a Kansas City park, and a plaster relief sculpture for the Masonic Temple Building in Wichita. While at the Art Institute, he attracted the attention of Lorado Taft, a gay sculptor, primarily in bronze and marble, academically trained at the Êcole des Beaux Arts in Paris, who already had a reputation as a mentor to other American sculptors such as Janet Scudder. Lorado Taft had asked Waylande Gregory to be his assistant and to join him at the Art Institute of Chicago, at Midway Studios. For two years, he studied with Taft on and off. Taft would also bring him to Europe, to study classical Renaissance sculpture as well as to visit other artists in Europe. His experience with Lorado Taft would lead him to begin thinking of ceramic sculpture on a monumental scale.
In the meantime, at age 20, Waylande Gregory would direct the decoration and design of the Missouri Theater, the Hotel President in Kansas City, and the bas relief panels at Brandenburg field at Pittsburgh State University (Kansas). His most famous work at the Hotel President was the Aztec Room, the hotel's dining room, which he had decorated in Mayan plaster-of-Paris reliefs as interpreted in an Art Deco idiom. Beneath the circular calendar, he had placed a replica of an Aztec altar which had recently been excavated in Mexico, and which he had studied while in Chicago. The large sculpture of Quetzlcoatl, hidden lights and the reddish hue contributed to the Ambience of exoticism and mystery.
By 1928, his study under Lorado Taft ended as he was beginning to find that Taft’s academic style as well as the study of the casts of prominent Renaissance sculptures at the studio in Chicago did not suit him. After a long trip to Europe with Lorado Taft, he returned home, visually sated, ready to take the next step in his artistic development.
In 1928, he had left Midland Studios and joined R. Guy Cowan in Rocky River, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, where he and his colleague, Viktor Schreckengost became the leading sculptors of the Cowan Pottery studio. Unlike his contemporaries at the Cowan Studio, who were primarily influenced by Viennese modern pottery, Wiener Werkstätte, Waylande Gregory was much more influenced by the Cleveland School as well as by leading American bronze sculptor Paul Manship who had also worked for Cowan.
Cowan studio works are generally table-top-sized sculptures done in limited editions. His most famous sculptures from this period are Europa, Nautch Dancer, and Burlesque, as well as Salome and Margarita. Salome combines the essential horror of the story of John the Baptist, his beheading, as well as Salome’s veil dance. However, the horror of the event is muted, becoming secondary to an expression of the line, movement and dynamics of the drapery and human movement. Salome won first prize at the Cleveland Museum of Art May Show of 1929. His Cowan work is characterized by smooth, linear, flowing forms.
In 1930 he married his wife Yolanda, a Hungarian immigrant. Their relationship appeared to evolve to be based more on friendship than sexual love. Although she could be very critical, she was always very supportive of him as an artist. Due to the onset of the Great Depression, Cowan Studios closed their doors in 1931, bringing this chapter of Waylande Gregory’s career to a close.
In 1931, Waylande Gregory became artist in residence at the Cranbrook Academy at Bloomfield Hills in Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Here he was able to further develop his craft as, for the first time, he had access to the precise control of an electric kiln. His sculpture evolved into more Italianate forms, with more volume and weight than prior. Also, it was here he began to develop his sense of color more thoroughly, commenting that the “Chinese loved everything vivid and rich in tone, but we as a nation are just beginning to grow up to it.” One of his most notable pieces is the terracotta sculpture of the Two Clowns on Unicycles, a complex piece of two clowns back-to-back, one playing a tuba, the other juggling poodles. The sculpture is vividly colored, unlike much American sculpture of the time, which was monochrome bronze. Other notable sculptures from this period are Ichabod Crane and the Kansas Madonna. In 1933, this period came to a close after a row with the manager of the Cranbrook Academy. The kilns had been shut down over a banker’s holiday, ruining many of his works in progress.
New Jersey period:
In 1933, he and his wife Yolanda had moved to Perth Amboy where he had set up a workshop in the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company. This is where he developed his technique for the creation of monumental ceramic works utilizing an internal honeycomb-like structure, building the statue from the inside outward. As director of the New Jersey WPA, he began work on the monumental Light Dispelling Darkness which still stands in Roosevelt Park in Edison, New Jersey. Some photos are included in this article on the recently restored fountain. Others have been published in an article in Weird New Jersey.
Gregory working on Light Dispelling Darkness in June 1937.
Light Dispelling Darkness:
Light Dispelling Darkness laid much of the technical groundwork for The Fountain of the Atom. It exhibits a heroic theme of combating evil through knowledge. It is a terracotta globe surrounding a shaft of relief figures of a scientist, artist, engineer, and muscular, un-shirted men apparently representing Industrial workers or working-class people. On the outside are six figures representing conquest, war, famine, death, greed and materialism fleeing the forces of science and knowledge, an appropriate theme for Edison, NJ. Out of the six figures, four of them contain the horses of the Apocalypse.
Fountain of the Atoms:
The Fountain of the Atoms was made for the 1939 World’s Fair. It is composed of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water, surrounded by eight electrons, four male and four female, similar to amorini. He described the electrons as, “elemental little savages of boundless electrical energy, dancing to the rhythm of sculptured bolts of lightning-like flashes in brilliant colored glazes, their buoyant shaped bodies of richly modeled terracotta clays in warm colors.” The four elements were grouped around illuminated tubes of glass which were topped by a flame, and carried water at the top of the fountain. Pictures of the maquette for earth and one of the electrons have been published. The fountain of the atoms was paired with his sculptural tableau, American Imports and Exports.
Having achieved critical success and reached the peak of his artistic powers in the 1930s, Waylande Gregory receded from the spotlight of publicity in later years. Conflict with his main art-gallery dealer and poor decisions regarding the pricing of his art, caused the popularity of his major works to decline. He began to make limited-edition works for large department stores such as Hammacher Schlemmer. One of the most famous of these is the table setting with dishes and centerpieces done on a theme of polo players, a favorite subject which he liked to watch at Schley Field in Far Hills. In 1942, he filed for a patent for his process of fusing glass to ceramic. In the remaining years, he would make money by teaching art classes, and made regular appearances on the television show, Ding Dong School. Things began to look up in the 1960s as he had acquired a patron in the form of Barbara Farmer who had begun arrangements to build a new arts center in Middlefield, Massachusetts. The hopeful prospects came to an abrupt end when she was murdered by her husband who suspected her of conducting an affair with Gregory. He returned to New Jersey to resume his work, but he was never the same after that incident.
As he became older, he began to have problems handling the heavy weight of ceramic for his monumental sculpture and began to branch out into hammered metal and lightweight materials such as foam, intended for later rendering in ceramic. His hammered lead sculpture The Dreamer won a silver medal from the National Sculpture Society in 1970. less
- 36ʺW × 36ʺD × 90ʺH
- Item Type
- Vintage, Antique or Pre-owned
- Good Condition, Original Condition Unaltered, Some Imperfections
- Condition Notes
Wear consistent with age and use. Minor losses. Minor structural damages.
Good. some bent pieces and missing paint. Wear consistent with age and use. Minor losses. Minor structural damages.
Good. some bent pieces and missing paint. less
- Waylande Desantis Gregory
- Place of Origin
- United States of America
- Art Subject
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