|Home -> Other California Books -> Art-Lovers Guide to the Exposition -> Court of Palms and Court of Flowers|
The Court of Palms and the Court of Flowers
In these two courts, which pierce the walled city on the south, opposite the Palace of Horticulture and opposite Festival Hall, is to be found the purest expression of that spirit of the Italian Renaissance which hovers over so much of the Exposition architecture. Here, too, one finds Jules Guerin's color scheme at its richest. Both courts necessarily lack the cloistral charm of the Court of Abundance, since they have the fourth sides open. But what they lack in the sense of enclosure they make up in sunniness and joyous color. They are restful and warm and quiet - and artistically they are among the most perfect and most harmonious units on the grounds.
The Court of Palms
The Court of Palms is directly opposite the Palace of Horticulture, between the Education and Liberal Arts Palaces, and adjoins the Court of the Four Seasons. The charming sunken garden and simple pool reflect the colored colonnade, arches and towers with a sense of rest that is a relief and stimulant after walking miles of exhibit halls. Although really nearly two acres in area, the court seems small and intimate. The proportions are good, and the planting particularly fortunate.
The architecture is Renaissance, and is suggestive of the interior courts of the palaces of the Italian nobles. The colonnade columns are Ionic. The high attic story or frieze above the colonnade is remarkably rich, with its orange brown panels garlanded with green and red fruits, and decorated with Caryatid pilasters. It is worthy of study for the way in which architect, sculptor and color director have co-operated. The Italian Towers, terminating the colonnades, are among the finest bits of architectural design in the whole building group. Though only a fraction of the height of the Tower of Jewels, they convey much better the impression of reaching high into the heavens, of aspiration and uplift. They are more satisfying, too, in their combination of architectural forms, and they carry out notably well the delicate but luxuriant color scheme of the court. The unusual repeated pattern which fills the large wall panels of the towers is worthy of attention.
The architect of the court was George W. Kelham.
Sculpture. The only really important statue in the court is that which stands at the opening on the Avenue of Palms - called The End of the Trail. An Indian, bowed at last under the storm, sits astride a dejected horse utter weariness, discouragement, lost hope, expressed in every line of man and animal. Some see in the statue only the abject despair of a horse and rider when the consciousness finally comes that the trail is definitely lost in the wilderness; and it is notable enough as an expression of this tragic theme. But others, remembering the history of the Indian, see here an eloquent and pathetic reminder of a race that has seemingly come to the end of its trail. As a portrayal of this racial tragedy the group is even more remarkable than as an expression of the hopelessness of a lost man and horse.
The statue is hardly in key with its architectural surroundings; but its comparatively isolated position prevents it from seeming an intrusive element in the court. Considered alone it is more individual, more expressive of independent and deep moving thought, than any other sculpture in the grounds. There is far more of real earnestness here than is usual in exposition sculpture. The thing is significant, too, for the native note. It is worthy of serious study as indicating one of the most important tendencies of American sculpture when not tied to the purely decorative. The sculptor was James Earl Fraser.
The minor sculptures in this court consist of the Caryatides by John Bateman and A. Stirling Calder; the spandrels, by Albert Weinert; "The Fairy," by Carl Gruppe, which crowns the Italian Towers; and the classic vases at the portals.
The mural paintings in this court are disappointing. Two are surprisingly poor, considering the high reputation of the artists, and the third is badly placed. The tympanum in the portal at the east side of the court is filled by Charles W. Holloway's panel, The Pursuit of Pleasure. This is a conventional treatment of the subject, in which a number of youths and maidens turn lackadaisically to a winged figure of Pleasure. There is a pleasing lightness of touch, and the bright reds and blues are in keeping with the spirit of the court - but the thing is, somehow, insipid. This panel is more pleasing under illumination. In the opposite portal is Childe Hassam's painting, Fruits and Flowers. This again is a conventional treatment, showing very obviously vegetable and human fruits and flowers. The arrangement is tediously symmetric, the coloring is rather weak, and there is a wooden stiffness about the figures. The panel makes a pleasant spot of color, but is by no means up to the standard of the canvases in Hassam's room in the Palace of Fine Arts.
The panel over the main doorway, at the north end of the court, is by Arthur F. Mathews, and is far superior to the other two, though unfortunately placed in a dark spot. It is called by the artist A Victorious Spirit. The central figure, gorgeously suggesting the Spirit of Enlightment, protects Youth from the discordant elements of life from materialism and brute force, as represented by the rearing horse and militant rider. Youth is attended by the peace-bringing elements of life, by Religion, Philosophy or Education, and the Arts. The symbolism here is sound, the composition and drawing unusually good, and the coloring quite wonderful - especially in the orange-yellow robe of the Spirit. The full deep colors are in sharp contrast with those of most of the Exposition murals.
No one should leave this court without first pausing to enjoy the vista through the north doorway, showing Albert Jaeger's spirited Sacrificial Bulls on the Agriculture and Food Products Palaces, the long colonnade of the Court of the Four Seasons, and the bit of bay and hills beyond.
The Court of Flowers
The Court of Flowers is opposite to Festival Hall, between the Mines and Varied Industries Palaces. The first impression, as one comes to it, is that here is a replica of the colorful Court of Palms. But many differences become evident after a few moments' study.
The architecture is Italian Renaissance, but of a more richly decorative sort than in the Court of Palms. There is more overlaid ornament, and on the whole, less simplicity and quietness and more varied interest. The columns here are Corinthian, arranged in pairs. The gallery above the colonnade adds to the suggestion of the sunny South. The Italian Towers, while similar in feeling to those of the other court, are different in the arrangement of elements, though equally successful. The color decoration is again notable.
It is hardly necessary to add that George W. Kelham designed this court too.
Sculpture. The center of the court is dominated by Edgar Walter's Beauty and the Beast Fountain. The surmounting statue is a curious combination of graceful lines and grotesque effects. The strange Beast is no less fantastic than the young lady herself - she who has adorned her fair body with nothing more than a Spring hat and a pair of sandals. It is probably this near-nudeness, without pure nakedness, that creates the jarring note of the group Certainly there is a bizarre touch that somewhat offsets the sinuous charm of the figure. Under the upper basin are four piping Pans, not notable individually, but adding to the decorative effect. The wall around the lower pool carries a playful frieze of animals in low relief.
The Pioneer is the title of the equestrian statue at the south end of the court, on the Avenue of Palms. The man is typically the Western pioneer, as every resident of the Pacific Coast has known him - a patriarchal figure who foreran civilization here in the West of America as he has in all other new lands. Head up, axe and gun in hand, looking straight forward, he is a fine visualization of the "Forty-niner." He is, too, an interesting racial contrast to the Indian of "The End of the Trail." One wonders, however, about the horse, with the elaborate trappings that clearly belong to another era - to the days of Spanish conquest, perhaps. Certainly horse and rider do not seem to be conceived in the same spirit. The group lacks, too, that vital intensity of feeling and that emotional strength which distinguish "The End of the Trail," the companion-statue in the Court of Palms. The "Pioneer" is by Solon Borglum.
The minor sculpture here consists of A. Stirling Calder's attractive "Flower Girl," repeated in the niches along the loggia; dignified Lions, by Albert Laessle, flanking the three portals; and again Carl Gruppe's "The Fairy," atop the Italian Towers.