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|The Galleries of the Exposition
A Critical Review of the Paintings, Statuary and the Graphic Arts in The
Palace of Fine Arts at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Assistant Professor of Decorative Design, University of California and
Member of the International Jury of Awards in the Department of Fine
Arts of the Exposition
Paul Elder and Company
Publishers - San Francisco
Copyright, 1915, By
Paul Elder & Company
All of the illustrations in this book are used with the permission of
the Department of Fine Arts of the Panama - International Exposition
Second Edition, Revised
To John E. D. Trask
Director of the Department of Fine Arts of the Panama-Pacific
International Exposition, untiring worker and able executive
Introduction - An Historical Review. The Function of Art.
The Foreign Nations
- Philippine Islands
- The Orient
The United States
- One-Man Rooms
- Gari Melchers
- Mathews and McComas
- General Collection
The Graphic Arts - Conclusion
Bibliography - A list of helpful reference books and periodicals for the
student and lover of art.
Index to Galleries
List of Illustrations
Phyllis - John W. Alexander (Frontispiece)
Woman and Child: Rose Scarf - Mary Cassatt
Morning in the Provence - Henri Georget
The Promenade - Gustave Pierre
The Procession - Ettore Tito
The Fortune Teller - F. Luis Mora
Water Fall - Elmer Schofield
The Peacemaker - Ernest L. Blumenschein
The White Vase - Hugh H. Breckenridge
Winter in the Forest - Anshelm Schultzberg
Winter at Amsterdam - Willem Witsen
In the Rhine Meadows - Heinrich Von Zugel
The Mirror - Dennis Miller Bunker
Coming of the Line Storm - Frederick J. Waugh
Lavender and Old Ivory - Lilian Westcott Hale
Green and Violet: Portrait of Mrs. E. Milicent Cobden - James McNeill Whistler
The Dreamer - Edmund C. Tarbell
Whistling Boy - Frank Duveneck
Self Portrait - William Merritt Chase
Spanish Courtyard - John Singer Sargent
Oaks of the Monte - Francis McComas
Blue Depths - William Ritschel
Floating Ice: Early Morning - Charles Rosen
The Land of Heart's Desire - William Wendt
The Housemaid - William McGregor Paxton
My House in Winter - Charles Morris Young
Quarry: Evening - Daniel Garber
Beyond - Chester Beach
In the Studio - Ellen Emmet Rand
Eucalypti, Berkeley Hills - Eugen Neuhaus
Floor Plan, Palace of Fine Arts
The artistic appeals of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition through architecture and the allied decorative arts are so engrossing that one yields to the call of the independent Fine Arts only with considerable reluctance. The visitor, however, finds himself cleverly tempted by numerous stray bits of detached sculpture, effectively placed amidst shrubbery near the Laguna, and almost without knowing he is drawn into that enchanting colonnade which leads one to the spacious portals of the Palace of Fine Arts.
It was a vast undertaking to gather such numbers of pictures together, but the reward was great - not only to have gratified one's sense of beauty, but to have contributed toward a broader civilization, on the Pacific Coast specifically, and for the world in general besides. It must be admitted that it was no small task, in the face of many very unusual adverse circumstances, to bring together here the art of the world. Mr. John E. D. Trask deserves unstinted praise for the perseverance with which, under most trying circumstances, unusual enough to defeat almost any collective undertaking, he brought together this highly creditable collection of art. Wartime conditions abroad and the great distance to the Pacific Coast, not to speak of difficulties of physical transportation, called for a singularly capable executive, such as John E. D. Trask has proved himself to be, and the world should gratefully acknowledge a big piece of work well done. I do not believe the art exhibition needs any apologies. Its general character is such as fully to satisfy the standards of former international expositions.
It seems only rational that, with the notorious absence of any important permanent exhibition of works of art on the Pacific Coast, an effort should have been made to present within the exhibit the development of the art of easel painting since its inception, because it seems impossible to do justice to any phase of art without an opportunity of comparison, such as the exposition affords. The retrospective aspects of the exhibition are absorbingly interesting, not so much for the presentation of any eminently great works of art as for the splendid chance for first-hand comparison of different periods. Painting is relatively so new an art that the earliest paintings we know of do not differ materially in a technical sense from our present-day work. Archaeology has disinterred various badly preserved and unpresentable relics of old arts such as sculpture and architecture. It is little so with pictures. Painting is really the most recent of all the fine arts. It must seem almost unbelievable that the greatest periods of architecture and sculpture had become classic when painting made its début as an independent art. It is true enough that the Assyrians and Egyptians used colour, but not in the sense of the modern easel painter. We are also informed, rather less than more reliably, that a gentleman by the name of Apelles, in the days of Phidias, painted still-lifes so naturally that birds were tempted to peck at them, and we know much more accurately of the many delightful bits of wall-painting the rich man of Pompeii and Herculaneum used to have put on his walls, but the easel painting is a creation of modern times.
The sole reason for this can hardly be explained better than by pointing out the long-standing lack of a suitable medium which would permit the making of finer paintings, other than wall and decorative paintings. The old tempera medium was hardly suited to finer work, since it was a makeshift of very inadequate working qualities. Briefly, the method consisted of mixing any pigment or paint in powder form with any suitable sticky substance which would make it adhere to a surface. Sticky substances frequently used were the tree gums collected from certain fruit-trees, including the fig and the cherry. This crude method is known by the word "tempera," which comes from the Latin "temperare," to modify or mix, and denotes merely any alteration of the original pigment. Tempera painting, as the only technique known, was really a great blessing to the world, since it prevented the wholesale production in a short time of such vast quantities of pictures as the world nowadays is asked to enjoy. I am not so sure that the two brothers, the Flemish painters Hubert and Jan van Eyck, who are said to have given us the modern oil method, are really so much deserving of praise, since their improved method of painting with oils caused a production of paintings half of which might much better have remained unpainted. The one thing that can be said of all paintings made before their day is that they were painted for a practical purpose. They had to fit into certain physical conditions, architectural or other. Most modern paintings are simply painted on a gambler's chance of finding suitable surroundings afterwards. Nowadays a picture is produced with the one idea of separating it from the rest of the world by a more or less hideous gold frame, the design of which in many cases is out of all relation to the picture as well as to the wall. In fact, most frames impress one as nothing but attempts to make them as costly as possible.
I imagine that practically all true painters would rather do their pictures under and for a given physical condition, to support and be supported by architecture; but with the unfortunate present-day elimination of paintings from most architectural problems, most artists have to paint their pictures for an imaginary condition. The present production of paintings has become absolutely unmindful of the true, function of a painting, which is to decorate in collaboration with the other arts - architecture and sculpture.
It is necessary to bear these facts in mind in trying to do justice to a large aggregate of canvases in an international exhibition, or any exhibition. Thousands of pictures, created by a host of different artists, are temporarily thrown together. The result, of course, can never be entirely satisfying. Many devices are employed to overcome this very disturbing condition and with varying success. The hanging of pictures against neutral backgrounds, the grouping of works of one man, the selection of works of similar tonality, colour schemes, technique, subject, style, etc. - these are all well known methods of trying to overcome the essential artificiality of the methods of exhibition of modern paintings. I doubt whether so long as we insist upon art exhibitions of the conventionally accepted type, we shall ever be able to present pictures with due regard to their meaning. We must not make the mistake of blaming a director of an exhibition for a difficulty which he cannot possibly overcome. So long as painters turn out thousands of pictures, we can expect only the results which are much in evidence in all modern exhibitions. The fault is entirely with the artist, who is forever painting easel pictures, and neglecting the great field of decorative painting. On investigation of our exhibition we shall find that the good picture - that is, the picture of a certain respectful attitude toward its function, which is largely decorative - is far less injured by unavoidable neighbors than the loud-mouthed canvas of the "Look! Here I am!" variety, which is afraid of being overlooked. Art exhibitions of the generally adopted modern type are logically intolerable, and the only solution of the problem of the correct presentation of pictures is to display fewer of them, within certain individual rooms, designed by artists, where a few pictures will take their place with their surroundings in a unity of artistic expression.
It is certainly no small task to enjoy a large exhibit like ours and to preserve one's peace of mind. The purpose of these pages is to assist in guiding the uninitiated, in his visit and in retrospect, without depriving him of the pleasure of personal observation and investigation. It is not to be expected that all pictures exhibited should be of a superior kind. If so, we should never be able to learn to recognize the good among the bad. So many pictures are only experiments. Only by having the opportunity for comparison can we learn to discriminate. The predominant characteristic of our art exhibition is its instructive value in teaching the development of painting by successive periods, sometimes represented and some times only indicated. The person who never had the opportunity to visit the larger historical collections of paintings abroad, could here obtain an idea of the many changes in subjects, as well as in technique, which have taken place in the relatively short existence of the art of painting. It is unfortunately true that the majority of people are not at all interested in the technical procedure of the making of the picture, but wholly in the subject matter. If this be pleasing, the picture is apt to be declared a success. The artist, on the other hand, and to my mind very justly, looks primarily for what he calls good painting, and a simple statement of these two points of view explains a great deal of very deplorable friction between the artist and the willing and enthusiastic layman, who is constantly discouraged by finding that his artist friend greets his pet canvas with a cynical smile.
The subject of the appreciation of pictures from a theoretical point of view is not exactly the purpose of this book. So enormous is it that it could be dealt with adequately only in a separate volume the writing of which I look forward to with joyful anticipation. What I should like to do - and I should be very glad if I could succeed - is to bring the public a little closer to the artist's point of view through the discussion of the merit of certain notable works of art. It is my conviction that it is the manifestations of an artists artistic conscience which make exhibitions good, and not the question whether the public likes certain pictures or not. Only by constant study, a serious attitude, and a willingness to follow the artist into his realm can the public hope fully to enjoy the meaning of the artist's endeavors.