WILLIAM R. LEIGH’S (1866) pictures of the Navajo Indian in his native home south of the San Juan River present a new point of view of the western deserts and their picturesque inhabitants. The breath of romance that he gives to them recalls the joy and pain that came to us in following Hiawatha as
“Forth he strode into the forest, To the kingdom of the West-Wind, To the land of the Hereafter.”
A note of pathos like a dirge vibrates through these Indian scenes. Sometimes it is a crashing blare of battle where the Redskin fights for freedom, and again it is a whisper to the boy in “The Land of his Fathers” (Fig. 198). This child of nature, a little Navajo goat-herder, is as fine a type of the Indian boy of old as was Hiawatha. Well formed, alert, quick of comprehension, he with his dogs starts at dawn to care for a flock of two hundred or more sheep and goats. What a bright, merry object he is in his ragged shirt, blue overalls and red buckskin moccasins ! Mr. Leigh speaks with the greatest affection of this particular boy. He says :
“My picture is nearly a portrait of the little chap nine years old. I hired him from his mother to pose for me. . . . His appreciation of a picture was as keen as that of any white boy and his reliability left nothing to be desired.”
It is impossible to appreciate in half-tone pictures the brilliancy of Mr. Leigh’s paintings. His portrayal of the marvellous colouring under the sun’s evening and morning rays, the clarity of the atmosphere intensifying the sheen of the sage bush and the glitter of the sand and opalescence of the overhanging sky is most convincing.
Mr. Leigh was born on his father’s plantation in Berkely County, West Virginia. His first training in art was at the Maryland Institute and at seventeen he went to Munich, Germany, to study. He did not return to America permanently until he was thirty years old, and then began illustrating for Scribner’s and other magazines. It was several years later before Mr. Leigh began his pictures of the West and the Navajo Indian in his native haunts.
If we were travelling in the south-west section of the Rocky Mountains near the Taos Range we certainly would make an effort to see E. Irving Couse in his studio, remodelled from an old Mexican convent. This old con-vent is now Mr. Couse’s permanent summer home and here he comes in close touch with the Pueblo Indians and their beautiful mountain setting.
Indians are naturally superstitious. “Particularly,” says Mr. Couse, “about leaving be-hind them pictorial representations of them-selves, claiming that their souls after death will inhabit the picture instead of going to the Happy Hunting Ground.” Naturally, until this superstition is overcome, it is difficult to obtain Indian models, but artists are gradually winning their way with the red man. This is particularly true with the Pueblos. Too far from the railroad to be spoiled by modern civilisation, they are still in their native state of living and dress.
It is not surprising that Mr. Couse lias gained the confidence of his dusky neighbours. When painting “A Vision of the Past” (Fig. 199) he no doubt listened to many tales of the long ago – tales of when the mountains rang with the scream of the red man in battle. Little wonder that those shadowy mounted figures leaping from crag to crag in deadly combat aroused the enthusiasm of his new found friends. How intimately illuminating the little personal touch in the artist’s statement, “They are much interested in seeing the pictures grow and frequently offer suggestions which from their primitive point of view are often invaluable to the artist” ! Those stern, uncompromising figures in the foreground are the embodiment of offended dignity. In the child’s wonder is an eagerness that suggests faint stirrings of the primitive war passion.
Mr. Couse is not only true to the spirit of the red man, but in portraying this scene he has made a beautiful picture. That pyramid of delicious colour set against a background alive with the mystery of visions and enveloped in an atmosphere quivering with life fluids is a picture long to be remembered. It is not surprising that it was awarded the Altman five hundred dollar prize in the National Academy of Design in the winter of 1916.
Mr. Couse’s pictures of Indians are peculiarly personal and friendly in that they show an intimate understanding of their heart sorrows and joys. In the picture of “An Autumn Melody” a young, half-clad Indian, crouching by a mountain stream against stones and tree trunks, is piping a tune to the solitude. The wreath of autumn leaves on his black hair and the sun glistening on his bare skin make a picture full of the poetry of life. And again in “The Redstone Pipe” one feels that the artist has pictured the comfort of a tried and trusted friend.
Mr. Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1866. He studied art in Chicago and New York City and then went to the École des Beaux Arts, Paris. His work has been recognised by numerous prizes and medals, and his pictures are found in a considerable number of our public galleries.
It is not strange that “The Young Men and Horses” (Fig. 200), by Bryson Burroughs (1869), is reminiscent of the Parthenon Pro-cession of Mounted Youths, for there lingers about all of his pictures a vague something suggestive of the past. Not that Mr. Bur-roughs lacks up-to-dateness – far from it – but that his modernity is founded on fundamental principles. While Pheidias brought to perfection physical activity in the Athenian youths of the Panathenaic ceremonies Mr. Burroughs has pictured with consummate skill the clean-cut American athlete in repose. In these young men, athletes in the broad sense of the word, every muscle is subservient to the trained mind. In each face shines the spiritual strength of one whose body is the temple of God. How like the portico of some old Greek temple the conventualised river-bank ! and the luscious coloured statues – see ! they suddenly begin to breathe as the rich blood pulses under the velvet skin. The limitless horizon, stretching far beyond the river, the hills and the widening waters, is stupendous in its bigness of vision. Yet how simple in concept! Mr. Burroughs has the rare gift of expressing big themes in an understandable way.
Was ever grief so beautiful as in “The Funeral of Adonis” (Fig. 201)? We feel that the sorrow of these lovely beings is our sorrow. Could anything be more exquisitely expressive of the helplessness of love against death than the unconscious Venus? The tender sympathy of the three friends with its element of helpfulness speaks volumes for the sympathy that strengthens strength – not coddles weakness. Mr. Burroughs has given to the old story of the dying year a new hopefulness. Death simply begins the new birth – already the flowers have sprung into life, blown open by the wind and, alas ! blown away by it, yet it is life.
Beautiful Adonis ! not even Venus could keep you from harm. The old myth is very human, for the spirit of keeping beautiful the memory of loved ones is in it. Venus, in her swan-drawn chariot – the story says–hears the groans of her beloved Adonis but, too late, she reaches the fated spot where his lifeless body lies torn and bleeding from the fangs of the wild boar he had attacked. Through her crushing grief came the thought, “Your blood shall be changed into a flower; that consolation none can envy me.” Tenderly she sprinkled nectar on the blood and in an hour’s time the lovely Anemone with its red-striped petals appeared. “And,” said Venus, “the spectacle of your death, my Adonis, and of my lamentations shall annually be renewed.”
Again in this picture is the haunting essence of varieties belonging to ancient art; and again broad simplicity and pleasing colour notes – rich and harmonious – lift us out of the artificial into a realm of clean, wholesome living. Mr. Burroughs never fails to express himself with a broad sense of the proportion of things. His themes, be they motherhood, immaturity of youth, readjusting some old legend or purely realistic, have the element of sane common-sense running through them. Beautifully decorative with their simple lines, restful composition and harmonious colour scheme they calm and strengthen us. Mr. Burroughs, a native of Massachusetts, was trained in this country and abroad. His versatility is that of one who has trained his faculties to grasp the essentials of life and use them in his varied works. While most of his paintings are easel pictures his mural decorations in Mr. H. H. Flagler’s home are but the beginning of more extended work in public buildings. As curator of painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mr. Burroughs is a power.
When Maxfield Parrish (1870) painted “Old King Cole” on the walls of the Knickerbocker Hotel, New York City, he delighted every-body. Painter and Philistine, children and grown people all sang and are still singing the praises of the “Merry Old Soul,” as Mr. Parrish represents him. Replete with genuine humour these worthies wriggle one’s risibles without offending the most exacting critic. And as to arrangement, colour, harmony – everything that makes for a picture – all are perfect.
But Mr. Parrish does not aways draw on the classics – Mother Goose or otherwise – for his subjects. His own brain is a rich mine of romantic themes. Never has he worked out a more delightful series than in the girls’ dining-room of the Curtis Publishing Company, Philadelphia. The gladsome freshness of youth is in “The Carnival.” The joy of the soul awakening to consciousness of mate companionship is the dominant note – a note as pure as that of the lark winging upward with its song.
The series represents a terraced garden, as it were, against the loggia of an Italian pal-ace, arranged in panels placed between tall arched Colonial windows. Each scene is complete in itself yet the same undertone of joyous seeking is in all. The “Three Panels” (Fig. 202) represent on the left, “Love’s Pilgrim-age,” centre, “The Garden of Opportunity,” and right, “A Call to Joy.” Not the least of the elements that add to the pleasure of the scenes is the glorious colour. The rich, luscious tones thrill the optic nerve like loving glances throbbing in the heart. Blues, oranges, reds, lavenders, marshalled by the skilled tactician, all play their part in cooling, warming, challenging, subduing until “The Fête” is one grand manoeuvre of joyous emotions. Mr. Parrish has dipped deep into the treasures of his heart and brain for the carnival of love. Every scene speaks for heart-purity to the girls who day after day eat and chat under its influence. “Blessed are the pure in heart” was never more forcefully pictured since the word picture of One on the mount than by Mr. Parrish. Surely the artist scarcely could have given greater honour to his native city than in this beautiful, chaste, artistic mural painting for a Philadelphia publishing house.