WE realise that our painters whose independence in methods of painting – which may or may not please us – are yet too close for the public to gain a proper sense of proportion as to their work. That any art, be it literature, music, sculpture, or painting, is kept up to the proper standard of excellence by a certain infusion of new ideals, is self-evident, but just how far those new ideals are to be permanent acquisitions is a question settled by time. Millet used to say: “Art is a language and all language is intended for the expression of ideas.” And again he said: “The artist’s first task is to find an arrangement that will give full and striking expression to his ideas,” and to these tenets he added the scathing criticism : “To have painted things that mean nothing is to have borne no fruit.”
When Arthur P. Davies (1862) painted “A Dream” (Fig. 169), Metropolitan Museum of Art, he gave a picture of his mental vision exquisite in composition and in spiritual significance. The motive is taken from Meredith’s “Huntress of things worth pursuit of souls; in our naming, dreams.” Surely the author himself could scarcely have imagined so subtle an interpretation of the thought he had in mind. The young woman, eagerly pressing forward, whither? “In a dream, in a vision of the night. . . . Then he openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instruction.” She shows no hesitancy in following her instructions. As pure as the moonbeams she glides over the water up the height into the beyond and we watch as one detached, striving to join our souls to hers.
Not always, however, do Mr. Davies’ creations find a response in our hearts. Dare we wonder if his own visions are as clear as of old, or are we at fault? Naturally a romantic painter is only remotely connected with things of real life, yet we all have dreams and visions of the night and are ever eager with our sympathy to welcome a dreamer who has the gift of visualising creations of the brain-wholesome fancies are invigourating and helpful.
If the purpose of a picture is to give the underlying sentiment that justifies the picture’s existence then Max Bohm (1868) has succeeded in the “Mother and Child” (Fig. 170). Strong? Of course it is. The mother instinct and child-recognition are compellingly beautiful. The sentiment is that of elemental beings on the shores of the primeval sea. Strength of line, of colour, of composition, are splendid principles. Michael Angelo proved them long ago and he also demonstrated the necessity of pleasing details. Even in the awful “Last Judgment” the condemning Christ is softened by the gentle, pleading mother by his side.
Mr. Bohm, born in Cleveland, Ohio, had most of his training in Paris, where he now lives. He was a member of the European Advisory Committee for the Panama Pacific Exposition, in 1915.
Stepping into a room of Frederick Carl Frieseke’s pictures, one feels that a curtain has suddenly been drawn and a burst of sunlight let in. At first one involuntarily shades the eyes. And why not? Look at “Summer” (Fig. 171). Was ever light brighter? Even with her hat tipped over her face the woman squints her eyes from the glare.
Picture after picture calls to mind sunlit verandas, old-fashioned gardens of hollyhocks and pinks flooded with light; morning rooms open to the sun and late afternoon with every-thing quivering in the long, lingering rays of a power spent. And colour? a perfect riot of colour so bewitched under the glare of light that one simply feels it without trying to de-fine the quality.
In “The Hammock” (rig. 172) the sun has bewitched us again. We do not agree that “It’s because his work is `classy,’ as one of the members of the awarding committee at Chicago stated, that he is attracting the public, but because he is giving a new interpretation of the effect of direct sunlight. We look out upon a sunlit garden or into a veranda with the afternoon sun flooding in and have a feeling of exuberance, possibly of excessive light that hurts our eyes. Now when an artist has the power of awakening sensations similar to those that nature produces through the skilful manipulation of his mediums he certainly has earned more than “classy” excellences to distinguish his work. Surely Mr. Frieseke has achieved great success in harnessing the sun’s direct light to canvas and in doing so has given us joy. The palpitating light playing over the mother and child in the hammock is full of vital force; it is recreating in its healing qualities.
Then the picture quality is convincing in the joyous colour, illusive yet persistent; the note of bodily comfort in the limp form, the pushed aside empty tea cup and the swing hammock all are things long to be remembered. Unfortunately drawing is not always a strong point with Mr. Frieseke, but the artistic charm of personality is there. The artist is presenting daily scenes from a new standpoint with his angle of vision wholesome and pleasing if at times a little dazzling. We all welcome new visions even when they come from impossible probabilities; it is when improbable possibilities are forced on us that we rebel.
Mr. Frieseke was born in Owosso, Mich., in 1874, and until the European upheaval made his home in Paris. He was awarded the Grand Prize at the Panama Pacific Exposition (1915), the highest honour in the power of the international jurors to give.
Richard E. Miller (1875), born in St. Louis, also lived in Paris. Possibly no two of our modern men treat light and colour so similarly as Mr. Miller and Mr. Frieseke. To define how they differ would mean to define the temperamental traits of each. They are telling the same story of the joy and gaiety of colour and light, yet each tells it his own distinctive way. When once that way is recognised then, like distinctive traits of twins, they easily stand apart as individual in method.
In “Morning Sunlight” (rig. 173) Mr. Miller defines the sun parlour in a most convinc ing manner. While we recognise that the people in these pictures are admirable objects for displaying colour and light, we assert that the picture would be uninteresting without these human personalities. This young woman in kimono and fluffy skirt is just the type to en-joy arranging flowers in the early morning hour with the sun flooding everything.
In “Gold Fish” (Fig. 174) Mr. Miller interests us in the child as well as in the lovely light and colour of the picture. The human warmth is as caressing as is the delicious air coming through the open French windows.
Now turn to the “New Orleans Negro,” another child of the sun (Fig. 175), Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, N. Y. To those who know the coloured people in the southland this portrait speaks volumes. Robert Mac-Cameron (1866) has delved deep into race characteristics and with unerring skill has pictured a composite negro, perfectly individual, yet answering to the name of John or James. He notes not only the flat nose, the thick open lips and white teeth, the half sleepy sensuous eyes and stocky neck, but the poise of the bullet head with its tendency to tip backward. Who has not seen this identical negro slouching along the street ready to guffaw at the slightest provocation? Good-natured to excess when controlled and unprovoked, but sinister and unreasoning when once aroused is written on every feature. This is one of Mr. MacCameron’s earlier pictures, yet in it he shows the keen insight into the underlying principles governing human beings that characterised his later works. The marvellous portrait of Auguste Rodin in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is sufficient proof of the artist’s power to make individuals live on canvas. We feel the personality of the great French sculptor and realise that a master has made him live before us. We regret exceedingly that an artist who grasped the elemental truths as did Mr. MacCameron could not have lived the full number of years. He died in 1912.
Mr. F. Lewis Mora (1874), a native of Montevideo, Uruguay, was a pupil of Mr. Benson and Mr. Tarbell in the Boston Art School. Mr. Mora is often decidedly independent in his choice of subjects, and some-times the subjects are even fantastic. A recent exhibition displayed his “Fantasy of Goya,” certainly an interesting departure from the usual. We could easily imagine Goya – to whom we render homage as a master – recalling similar episodes from his early life. Mr. Mora has composed most cleverly the fleeting visions without detracting from our interest of the artist himself. Surely Goya has reaped the whirlwind physically, as he did in real life; or do we imagine we see it in the impelling figure of the old artist?
Of an entirely different character is Mr. Mora’s “Flowers of the Field” (Fig. 176). The smell of sweet grasses, clover blossoms and daisy fields still lingers in the flowers and around the young girls. This is a wholesome picture full of the quiet joy of young girlhood. It says to all alike :
“Gather, then, each flower that grows, When the young heart overflows.”