California-Sacramento, E.B. Crocker Art Gallery

THIRTY years ago the city of Sacramento received from Mrs. Margaret E. Crocker a gift of inestimable value, in the E. B. Crocker Gallery. The building was erected ten years before by Mr. and Mrs. Crocker to contain the rare treasures they were collecting in their travels through Europe. The excellent judgment shown in the selection of the paintings justifies our warmest praise, both as to the art schools represented and the pictures chosen. Naturally we can mention but a few of the splendid original examples of the score or more old masters; but to name Durer, Holbein, Hals, Rembrandt, Rubens, Ribera, Tintoretto, and Del Sarto is proof of the collectors’ understanding of the value of old masters as a basic foundation for the real study of the art of any country.

The “Madonna and Child” (Fig. 224), by Bernardino Luini {14 ?-15 ?), is doubtless one of the earlier works of the artist, before he came under the influence of the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. It is only of late years that Luini has claimed any special attention. This was due to three principal reasons ; first, Vasari, the biographer from whom most of the history of the early artists is taken, just mentions his name with a slight comment and no data; second, most of his work was fresco painting done in small towns rarely visited by tourists ; third, his later pictures were attributed to the great master, Leonardo da Vinci. Just why Vasari failed to exploit Luini, a man much more worthy than many another mentioned by him, is unknown. Possibly he, too, was not familiar with Luini’s beautiful frescos.

That Luini was a strange mixture of artist and “ne’er-do-weel” from the business stand-point was probably one reason for his obscurity; and again, he had a certain fatality hanging over him that brought him no end of trouble, though he was never the guilty one. Twice he had to flee because evidence was strong that he had committed murder. Those from whom he sought protection were keen to take advantage of his genius. The monks of the Church of Saronno even said, “‘Tis a pity that Bernardino did not murder more men that we might have received from him more such gifts,” referring to “The Nativity” that Luini painted for them as a thank-offering. Luini cared very little for the money value of his paintings, if only he was given a place to sleep and enough to eat. Consequently his life was one continual move from place to place, ever leaving valuable treasures of his brush, but ever made to feel that he was scarcely paying for his keep. After he went to Milan, about 1500, his painting took on the character of da Vinci’s work, though he was never a pupil of the great master and perhaps never saw him. It is not true, however, that Luini was simply an imitator of Leonardo, for he never lost the sweet naiveté of the primitives and always held to the true loving spirit of his own gentle nature. It is not surprising that he was influenced by the great Leonardo, for his artistic nature was quick to appreciate true genius.

We feel as we look at this “Madonna and Child” that there is real sincerity in the mother, as she raises her eyes to heaven, and the Baby is a little darling, very human and child-like. This is not sentimentalism, but a young mother full of devotion and just a little awed at the -mystery of the young life given her to train. The gravity of the responsibility grows upon her, and more and more often does she turn her eyes to heaven for wisdom from above to guide her.

Very little is definitely known of the early life of Correggio (1494?-1534), except that he was born in the town that gave him his name, about 1494. Numberless curious leg-ends and stories have arisen from time to time about this original painter, for original he certainly was, but it is doubtful if Antonio Allegri, or Correggio as we know him, would recognize any of them. The one thing we do know is that he was a painter par excellence and that his pictures express the living, physical beauty of humanity to the very acme of sensuous pleasure.

We are bound to admit, as we look at “Venus and Adonis” (Fig. 225 ), that Correggio lacks strength in portraying the deeper emotions of life, yet his figures are alive and all play a definite part in the composition. For a climax, as it were, there is his magic veil of light and shadow and color, so individual that only the word Correggiosity can describe it—the real charm that bewitches us.

The story of “Venus and Adonis” has just the element that appealed to the artistic sense of Correggio Venus, playing with her son Cupid one day, wounded herself with one of his arrows. She pushed the boy away, little realizing that she was infected. But when she saw Adonis shortly after, the proud queen of beauty-who had spent her life adding to her charms, found herself overcome with love and compelled to follow the beautiful boy in the hunt over hills and dales. She pleaded with Adonis to be careful and not hunt the fierce animals that might turn and destroy him. She left him with this warning and drove away in her chariot drawn with white swans. But Adonis, too brave to hunt small game only, attacked a wild boar and was slain by the ferocious beast. Venus, hearing the cries as she drove through the air, came swiftly, only to find her beloved dead. As she mourned, she said : “Your blood shall be changed into a flower ; that consolation none can envy me.” She sprinkled nectar on the blood and in an hour a beautiful flower sprang up, which the wind blew open and then blew away. It was called Anemone or Wind Flower. ‘Correggio has chosen for his picture the moment when Venus is pleading with Adonis to be careful.

“The Epiphany” or “Three Wise Men” (Fig. 226) is one of Anthony Van Dyck’s very attractive religious pictures. The sweet gentle expression of the mother accords well with her air of reserve, and for once Van Dyck has given hands that exactly express the exclusiveness of one of whom it was said, “Blessed art thou among women.” The representation of the Epiphany by the old artists varies greatly in the north and south. Among the Flemish artists, especially Van der Weyden, the Christ child is actually on the star that appears to the Wise Men, giving the literal meaning of the Greek word, epiphania—epi, upon, phaino, show. Van Dyck seems to have accepted this version, and as there is no stable or other accessories, this picture may represent the appearance of the Mother and Child to them on their journey to Bethlehem. Among the Italian artists the scene usually represents the Wise Men arriving at the stable, where the Mother and Child are surrounded by Joseph and the animals. The quiet dignity in this scene adds much to its spiritual significance. The calm earnest faces of the Wise Men ex-press depth of devotion that presages the con-summation of the coming of the Holy One.

Next to possessing one of Murillo’s “Beggar Boys” is the pleasure of owning a “Gypsy” (Fig. 227) by him. This Spanish artist was at his best when painting the rank and file of his people. His “Beggar Boys” series, most of them now in Munich, are a set of most vivid pictures of the life of those jolly pests of the southland. They are comparable in excellence to Velasquez’ portrayal of the children of the Spanish court of the seventeenth century. If Murillo (1618-1685) could only have understood that his real genius lay in representing the picturesque vagrant of Spain, whether it was the child, with the restlessness of child-hood, or the adult with the wanderlust raised to the nth power, he might have ranked with Velasquez as a great master, but when the church claimed his talent most of his pictures fell to the level of a religious sentimentalist.

As we compare the “Gypsy” with his “St. John” (see Fig. 56) how quickly we feel the vitality of the one and the insipidity of the other. In the keen, sly descendant of Egypt, who has gained her knowledge of life by living it, Murillo has given a character sketch as true to-day as when he knew her—for he certainly did know her. His appreciation of her native insight into the weak points of humanity and of her wit in playing on the credulity of her fortune-seekers marks his genius as a painter of genre scenes.

Bartolome Esteban Murillo, native of Palos, a town near Seville, was very poor and, as a young artist, only succeeded in keeping body and soul together by painting in the market-place catchy scenes and selling them for a mere pittance to whomsoever would buy. Naturally the ubiquitous boy was most of ten in the line of vision, in his efforts to fill his capacious maw and know all that was happening. To be trained in such a life-class was a rare opportunity, and necessity compelled Murillo to use it.’ Thus he was able to give to the world masterpieces of inestimable value.

Among the first artists to picture the marvels of our Western mountains was Thomas Hill (1829 ). Born in England, he came to this country with his parents in 1841 and settled in Massachusetts. Twenty years later he went to San Francisco, where he began rep-resenting the wonders of California. One of Hill’s most widely known paintings–doubtless because of the Prang chromo reproduction —is the “Yosemite Valley” (Fig. 228), now in the Crocker Gallery. The picture is a marvel in perspective; in the near distance is El Capitan towering a sheer four thousand feet above the Merced River, the tiny stream that has come rolling and tumbling through the narrow valley from the falls at the other end of the valley, six miles away. The surrounding rocks are a strange rampart of sentinels, irregular in size and shape, but forming nearly a complete wall enclosing the deep narrow depression. The Yosemite Valley, or Grizzly Bear as the Indians named it, is one of those freaks of mother earth where suddenly, eons ago, she lowered a small part of herself down into the depths below and then became stationary, forming a wee snug valley about seven miles long and a half to two miles wide, protected by a sheer wall. The falls that have been pouring over nooks and angles of the rocks for ages have made no appreciable impression in wearing away the hard foundation-at least not since the valley was discovered in 1851.