WHEN George Bellows painted “Anne,” Art Institute, Chicago (rig. 177), he left no doubt about a child’s personality. That child will live as does Little Nell and Rose of Lyme Regis. She is distinctive among her friends or non-friends because she is. Mr. Bellows is representing life. He may not see it from our angle – at times his angle of vision is displeasing, which, however, is a matter of personal likes or prejudice if you please, yet he sees life in the living; and when his transcriptions are full of wholesome sentiment (not sentimentality, as in the “Saw-dust Trail”) he is making pictures for all time. Take the “Cliff Dwellers,” for instance, where the people who live among the skyscrapers are seen scurrying hither and thither, each intent on a particular pursuit or contentedly doing nothing, and the whole expressed in delicious colour notes and enveloped in an atmosphere of joy and hope. What could give greater satisfaction in the pictorial qualities of decoration and helpful sentiment?
George Bellows was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1882, and lives in New York City. He was a pupil of Robert Henri and is now developing along lines under his own artistic guidance.
A word of caution is not to be despised by the young artists who are making history in the art world today. Remember that “to make out of a fine art a fad is not inherently the gift of a heart artist.” The arts – poetry, music, architecture, sculpture, and painting – are the great purifying influences ‘of man-kind, and one born with genius for one of these is inspired of God for a great work.
If ever an artist had all sorts and conditions of subjects at his very window ledge in all seasons, at all times of day and night, with people of all grades, it is George Luks at Jumel Place, Edgecomb Road, New York City. “Evening” (Fig. 178) is one of scores of the pictures posed for him just across the road from his studio. Mr. Luks is a true naturalist for, accepting the wind-sown forest as the only really artistic grouping of trees, he catches his children and mothers and grandmothers on the fly and avoids the artificial pose. What a glorious scene it is! The sun lingers to kiss every hair, every dimple and every wrinkle as if loathe to leave a group so full of the joy of life. Those little ones are the backbone of our great republic. Mr. Luks, in strong, simple lines and beautiful colour, certainly is solving the problem of better babies.
No two children ever were any more be-witching than “Annie and Dora” (Fig. 179). They captivate us, yet I doubt pur power to win them unless we are absolutely sincere in our advances. Little waifs, who are you? and where do you come from? Murillo’s beggar boys were never happier in the sunny south-land than are you in the storm-threatening, changeable New York City winter. Your clothes are the cast-offs of some poor little rich girls and your umbrella probably was the sport of the wind, but what care you? You are nourished under excitement and variety, and a picture-man is only an added drop to your cup of happiness. Mr. Luks, we bid you “God speed” in catching such waifs – your pictures of those bright, joyous creatures of nature will live so long as there are human hearts to love them.
Miss Elizabeth Nourse lives in Paris and, following much the same lines as Miss Cassatt, paints mothers and nurses and children, making them tangible realities. We, too, feel the sobs of the hurt child in “Consolation” (Fig. 180) and can almost hear the crooning tone of the mother as she comforts the little one. Miss Nourse is specially sensitive to the mothering instinct, strong in the heart of most women, and in direct simple lines she makes her appeal to us. We would stop – of course we would – to learn the cause of the child’s grief and our hearts would be the warmer after a word from the mother. Common occurrences – the hurt child seeking mother-comfort – we might almost say trying ones at times, yet how dull and colourless life would be without the hurts and the comfort that is sure to come from somewhere. Miss Nourse is holding our interest and in each new work we are conscious of a widening sympathy and a deeper knowledge – she sees life in the living.
Another artist who is picturing people in the parks and along the river drives and at the “Picnic” (Fig. 181) is Gifford Beal. That the artist appreciates the effect of light and air on distant scenes is without question. His splendid arrangement, glorious colour and moving quality of the picnic group are those of a real crowd seen through the medium of light and air. Yet, dare we suggest, these play strange pranks as we approach nearer to see some pictures of Mr. Beal’s. We are keenly alive to the necessity of a breadth of treatment in picturing a restless crowd of living things enveloped in a quivering medium and we also know that our eyes do not see distant things in detail. Is it not possible, however, that liberty in the use of the medium is becoming license when a picture gives no impression at all unless a volume of light and air ten feet and more in thickness is between the beholder and the picture?
Mr. Beal’s “Autumn in the City” (rig. 182) is as comprehensive in treatment as in subject. He gives us the sense of the whole city in this limited view. We see in imagination the buildings stretching away into the space beyond and feel that behind us are buildings innumerable. And what a glorious autumn it is! The trees filling the parks and marking the tiny resting places radiate a glow and warmth onto buildings and streets that gladden thousands of hearts. People hurrying across the parks or sitting on the benches have a new feeling of courage and joy, little dreaming as they hurry away or stop to rest that it has come to them from the laughing trees in their gay attire. How few of us realise the effect of a bright spot in monotonous surroundings ! Let a red bird flit across the lawn where the friendly robin has been foraging for hours and we smile a welcome to the gay stranger. The artist has set the whole city aglow with the rich tones of those trees. Brown and yellow leaves were never more golden as they rustle to the ground. They may not reach the high key of red and orange in the leaves of single trees in the open, but they sing a glorious song of richness and warmth.
Miss Jean McLean can make a picture of a portrait likeness. None who knew the “Girl in Green” (Fig. 183), Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, could mistake her. The features are specialised until eyes and nose and mouth and chin play the natural rôle of character revealers. This is accomplished with breadth of handling. The young woman compels notice; she not only fills the direct foreground but she fits the rugged background and cloud-swept sky. The splendid sweep of her ample gown and filmy scarf synchronise with the wind-swelled clouds in harmony with big movements.
Miss McLean holds steadily to big ideals, not always with delicate perceptions, but ever demanding truth. Her children are vigorous young things full of animal spirits and of fine physical development.