The success and failure of Polygnotos Vagis
This is what I would call the success of Polynotos Vagis (1892-1965)-- the Greek who came to New York at 17 --- served in the Navy --- went to art school -- and in 1923 came under the patronage of that great name in American modern art, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. (above piece from 1938)
And this looks like a Rodin portrait (it's of the sculptor's grandfather) and it won him museum-world recognition at the beginning of his career in 1922.
Another nice piece from a year later -- still under the shadow of Rodin.
Bit what a difference a decade makes! Was this piece, from 1932, done by William Zorach ? It's right there in that dreamy social idealism of the New York Sculptors Guild. Very enjoyable -- I admire it -- and this might have been the high point of his career -- with a one-man show at the Brooklyn Museum.
And I enjoy this "Nereid" -- although this is where he begins to turn a corner -- that eventually leads to this:
(above piece is titled "Eagle with rabbit")
and -- gasp -- this:
So what happened ?
Maybe he got sick -- or depressed -- or homesick -- or lonely -- whatever --- I don't know --but I do think he got neglected over the last 25 years of his life. The artworld that had summoned and nurtured his talent -- during what I would call the golden age of American sculpture -- abandoned him -- and eventually he abandoned it -- and his new country -- sending his lifetime of work back to the Greek island of Thasos from which he came -- and on which a small museum currently maintains his legacy.
There were many expatriate Europeans who came to America and seemed to fit right in: Lachaise, Nadelman, Jennewein, Polasek, Maldarelli etc. But I suspect that as a Greek -- he might have felt pretty lonely in the world of high-culture in which he made his living.
(note: my interpretation of his life is almost the complete inverse of an essay published on his Greek musem's website here -- and it should be noted that the two rocks shown in the above image recently sold at auction at Sotheby's.
So maybe today he finally is being honored as a pioneer of "found objects" ?
I guess there's no accounting for taste.
(note: apparently, at one point, he had pieces in the permanent collection of the Met, the MOMA, the Whitney, the Brooklyn, and the Toledo museums of art -- but looking online -- none of them mention him on their sites. But still -- he's the only
Greek sculptor of the past century to have any kind of legacy on the internet.
Yiannoulis Halepa, Thanasis Aparti, Antonios Zohos, and Michalis Tobros are even more neglected than he is.)