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|The Graphic Arts
It will be necessary to retrace our steps to take up a series of galleries all along the outer curve of the building. They are devoted to illustrations, miniatures, stained glass, plaques, and the many expressions of graphic art we know as black and white, charcoal and pencil drawing, monotypes, lithotints, etchings, and so on. With Whistler's etchings on one end of the arch, we find Howard Pyle at the other.
Pyle, since his death a few years ago, is recognized as the most important of American illustrators. His art is most intellectual. It commands immediate respect for its historical interest, which is based on more than mere knowledge of the story illustrated. His milieu is always right, distinctly so when he deals with the West Indian buccaneers. His sense of colour is simple and dignified. It has the typical breadth and decorative feeling that men like Jules Guérin and Maxfield Parrish developed. Pyle was not an ordinary illustrator. His interest in his work showed much depth and great originality. There is nobody to take his place. In the small adjoining gallery (41) his black and white drawings strengthen one's impression of this versatile man's art.
Here we have Guérin in all the glory of his rich colour harmonies, which have made the Exposition famous. Painstaking and conscientious as his art is, it is always full of power of suggestion. Every square inch of his most agreeably framed decorations is well considered, with nothing left to accidental effect. Still, they are full of freedom, very loose in handling, and always convincing. To choose the best among his eight is very difficult, although his "Cemetery on the Golden Horn" on longer study does not seem to be free from a certain artificiality of colour, in the reddish hue of the reflected sunlight on the cypresses. The "Blue Mosque at Cairo" is wonderfully poetic, and his "Temple of Sunium" has all the tragic feeling of the classic ruins of Asia Minor. Opposite Guérin Mr. and Mrs. Hale display unusual refinement and grace of form in a unit wall of drawings and pastels. Mrs. Hale's drawings are the quintessence of delicacy, without possessing any of the sugary disagreeable sweetness of so many of our popular illustrators. Mr. Hale's pastels are no less enchanting in his outdoor compositions in many soft greens - a difficult colour to deal with. The many other things in this gallery are all worth studying in their conservatism and radicalism.
Miniatures abound here and endless sighs are heard of entranced ladies who have succumbed to the sentimental insipidness of these misplaced artistic efforts. Miniature painting holds no charm for me. Most of them are technical stunts and concessions to a faddism which has never had anything to do with the real problem of painting. Practically all of the miniatures in the cases are very well done, but when I think of the physical discomfort of adjusting one's eyes to this pigmy world, then I cannot help feeling that, considering the low cost of canvas, a great effort deal of fine effort has been wasted. Looking at miniatures, I am always reminded of the man who spent several years of his useless life in writing the Old Testament on the back of a postage stamp.
McLure Hamilton has a fascinating group of anatomical sketches in this small gallery. They are all charming fragments of a lady one would like to know more about. As drawings they are spirited and full of rhythmic linework. Their fragrant rococo style brings one back into that original atmosphere the destinies of which were so largely controlled by similar attractions. The apotheosis in his collection is furnished by a drawing of a recently abandoned or to-be-occupied nest, presented in a most suggestive manner. In the cases plaques and medallions abound, the interest of which is largely attributable to Fraser's excellent work.
This room continues to hold one's interest, with some small pieces of plastic art, all of great merit.
Watercolours make up the chief problems of study in this long room, without convincing one that we have any too many great painters in this medium. The best thing among the many commonplace paintings is a marine by Woodbury which takes you far out on the open sea. In spite of its size it is a big picture, one of the really big ones in any medium in the whole exhibition. All of Woodbury's paintings are big in their way, and prove what can be done in this medium. Many other things here are only coloured photographs and technical experiments, the exceptions being Dawson's clever flower studies, Miss Schille's market scenes, and Henry McCarter's "King of Tara". Murphy's small Venetian sketches are not so good as they seem at first.
Things look up considerably in the last of the galleries on the north. A fine watercolour by Mrs. Mathews, good drawings by Sandona and Fortune, exposition sketches by Donna Schuster, decorative designs by Lucy Hurry, are all compelling in their way, while in the cases are any number of good caricatures, and especially worthy of mention the bird designs by Charles Emile Heil.
Across the vestibule the graphic arts are continued, beginning with colour lithographs and monotypes, and continued with etchings. George Senseney, Arthur Dow, Helen Hyde, Pedro Lemos, Clark Hobart, and others too numerous to mention excite considerable interest. A battle of elephants by Anna Vaughan Hyatt is worthy of study on account of its unusual subject, so handled.
This room is entirely devoted to etching and is full of good people. Auerbach Levy has some portraits splendidly characterized. Arthur Covey, Mahonri Young, Lester Hornby, Clifford Addams, and Robert Harshe are all equally well represented, in their many fine etchings, and Perham Nahl with some monotypes of fine quality.
Contains George Aid, Frank Armington, D. C. Sturges (reminiscent of Zorn), and Ernest Roth. Franklin T. Wood's dry-point portraits are noteworthy as examples of a very difficult technique.
Galleries 31 and 30.
Pennell's admirable lithographs and etchings of various scenes are so descriptive, aside from their technical excellence, that they are not in need of further recommendation. And neither are Mullgardt's lithographs nor those of Worth Ryder next door.
The general character of all of these somewhat inconspicuous galleries is most satisfactory. They contain in well-arranged fashion the real art of the people, the things that people who cannot afford to buy paintings can easily afford to own. Original etchings, mezzotints, and wood block prints and other process work often more truly contain the real point of artistic effort than big paintings done laborously with no other interest than to make a large painting for some show. It is gratifying and it speaks well for our public to see so many of these small works of art sold and scattered among the public. Only in this way can we hope to make our exhibition useful to artist and public alike. Mr. Harshe, Mr. Trask's able and conscientious assistant, has put much labor and thought into the arrangement of these many cases and wallspaces, in a really instructive way. It does not seem necessary to go into the meaning of the many examples of graphic art. They are often self-explanatory, particularly where used for illustration, and so far as their technical production is concerned, it is too big a subject to fit into the physical confines of this book.
Much of this work to all indications, is going to remain with us, and the success of our exposition can hardly be measured better than by the ever-increasing number of purchasers. Art has to live, and in our country it exists only by the patronage which comes directly from the people, since federal, state and municipal governments seldom contribute toward its support. Not until the community feels it a privilege rather than a duty to give substantial encouragement to our artists will they ever feel completely at home or will they be able to do their best work.
Art is becoming more of a necessity in our midst, while not so long ago it was more or less an affected interest of the rich. We have all the conditions and the talent to allow us to push ahead into the front rank of the art of the world, and an exposition like this gives more than encouraging evidence of the awakening spirit of national American art. May this exposition mark an epoch in the art of America! - and particularly of the West, as other expositions have in the westward march of civilization, which has now found its goal where it must either achieve or perish. For us to stand still or to return to the pre-exposition period would be calamity. We have here in California, of all the states of the Union, conditions to offer, which, if properly availed of, would give us a unique position on the continent. Climatically and historically we have all the stimulating necessities for a great art, and it is our duty to take advantage of them.