THE latest acquisition to the Cincinnati Museum, and perhaps the most important painting of all its possessions, is the “Portrait of Philip the Second,” by Titian. This picture was donated to the museum by Mrs. Mary M. Emery. The history of the picture is complete from the brush of the Venetian master to the walls of the Cincinnati Museum. Briefly it is as follows: “It appears to have been painted in 1550 from sittings given by Philip the Second in Augsburg. It remained in the possession of Titian, passing at the time of his death, 1576, to his son who in the course of a few years sold Titian’s house and its con-tents to Christofero Barbarigo. It remained in this family over three hundred years, passing into the possession of the Giustiani branch in Padua, and is referred to as still being there in the later eighties. We next hear of it in Lenbach’s possession, and after Lenbach’s death, 1904, it was sold by his widow in 1911 to Agnew in London. Then for a short time it was in possession of Sir Hugh Lane, from whom Mrs. Emery bought it in 1913.”
That the portrait was owned by Franz von Lenbach is sufficient guarantee that it was a most valuable example of Titian’s art, for of modern artists probably no one was more familiar with the great Italian than Lenbach, the famous German portrait painter of Munich (see page 91). Lenbach, when a young man, was specially noted for his knowledge of the art of the old masters and for his superb copies of their works, particularly of this portrait of Philip the Second, of which he made several copies. We regret exceedingly that no photograph was available for an illustration, so we must forego a reproduction of this valuable portrait.
Quite naturally we turn next to the works of a native of Cincinnati, Robert Frederick Blum (1857-1903). After his death in 1903, his sister Mrs. Haller assisted in collecting a large number of his paintings and studies for the museum. The addition of these representative works by Blum was an acquisition of immense value to the students and lovers of art. Mr. Blum was less than twenty when he . settled in New York City, and almost immediately success came to him. He was a man of keen perceptive powers, alive to the merits of others, ready to be influenced, but never dominated by the genius of other artists. He made many journeys to Europe and one to Japan. The results of these visits are seen in the subjects of his paintings, but not unduly in his manner of work.
One of the most attractive of his pictures is the “Venetian. Lace Makers” (Fig. 199) So true to life is this group of young women gossiping over their pillows, as their deft fingers manipulate the thread and pins, that we scarcely believe it is only a picture before us. How many times have we stood in the door-way of some lace room back of San Marco, Venice, and watched just such a scene as this. See the sun stealing in through the cracks in the Venetian blind and boldly pouring through the open door and window. And how it brings out the eagerness of the faces and plays with the hair and sparkles on the beads and makes each dress and apron and basket like an illusive elf of first one tint then another. Firmly and delicately the artist has placed the scene before us with no superfluous details; simply and clearly the story, if we may call it a story, of the Venetian lace-maker is made a reality to us.
Mr. Blum’s studies of Japan were really the first to introduce the American people to the charm of that land of the cherry blossom and chrysanthemum. As a mural decorator, Blum’s sense of the appropriate is beautifully shown in Mendelssohn Hall, New York City.
To have a portrait of “Robert Blum” (Fig. 200), and by John W. Alexander, too, is a mark of special good fortune. As we look in his face, it is easy to understand why this man could remain individual in his work, and still gather inspiration from his associates and strength from the old masters. Those clear dark eyes are seeking for truth, but their steady depths index a mind that is reasoning and analyzing and absorbing. Then, too, there is a genial quality shining out at us that accords well with the easy and, without doubt, natural attitude he has taken to converse with a friend. And that Mr. Alexander knew Robert Blum intimately we have a right to assume from the warmth of personality of this portrait.
Another artist of special importance in the Cincinnati Museum is Frank Duveneck. He was born across the Ohio River in Covington, Ky. (1848), but Cincinnati is the proud owner of a ‘large number of his works. Mr. Duveneck, as an instructor in the Academy, has trained and influenced numberless students of the middle west who now stand as masters in the modern art of America.
It is no easy task to select special pictures to illustrate his work from among the many fine examples in the museum. Probably the most popular picture is the “Whistling Boy” (Fig. 201), selected by the artist himself as one of his gifts to the museum. The painting is signed with Duveneck’s unique monogram, followed by “Munich, 1872.” What if this particular boy is a German, he is nevertheless any whistling boy of any country or any clime. How naturally a poet, a musician or an artist drops into simple direct unvarnished meter, rhythm or line when picturing the elemental in life. No one is interested specially in any-thing about this boy but the puckered red lips and the tune that comes from them. The boy’s listless attitude and dreamy eyes give the character of the music he is remembering and softly reproducing. We could never tire of that boy. His mellow whistle is of one already comprehending the philosophy of living. The sketch of the boy’s clothes proves that Mr. Duveneck understands impressionism, even in the extreme, but that he is master of it.
And that the artist could master details broadly the “Flower Girl (Fig. 202) is ample proof. Here again Mr. Duveneck chooses a typical figure from a typical class, only this time the class is confined to sunny Italy and to the city where the flowers that bloom in pro-fusion give it its name. We will admit that the majority of the artist’s subjects are from foreign parts, but we are conscious that Frank Duveneck never loses his own identity in any of them. The flower girl is decidedly an Italian young woman, with all the characteristics of her race, yet we see her sitting on the edge of the wall through the eyes of Duveneck, the American artist.
The Cincinnati Museum is especially rich in fine examples of the art of America, from its inception until it became an established fact as American art. Just a few specimens will give the significance of this branch of the collection so that one can easily trace the tendency and growth of our own masters. We have had a splendid example of John W. Alexander’s portraits of American men in “Walt Whit-man” (see Fig. 29) and “Robert F. Blum” (see Fig. 200), and now in this magnificent portrait of “Auguste Rodin” (Fig. 203) we see his mastery of French traits. It is a master-portrait of a master-sculptor. Was ever anything more original than that pose? A thinker has stopped as he crosses the room, for a special thought has come and he must examine more carefully the bit of work he has in his hand. Almost can we fathom the intent of that master mind, but not quite, for he is too deep for the most of us. Very few are the pigments that Mr. Alexander uses, but with those few he obtains results that are simply marvelous. Original, individual and distinguished are the attributes of Mr. Alexander and his work. The artist’s figure subjects have a charm all their own and one that puts them in a class by themselves (see Fig. 17).
There are several of the modern men who seem infatuated with winter and whose win-ter scenes have that breath of reality that fairly makes us feel the frost in the air and hear the creak of the snow under our feet. Of these scenes of special moods “A January Day” (Fig. 204), by W. Elmer Schofield, is particularly typical. The artist has attained just that quality of atmospheric illusiveness that leads us through this open wood into the fields and then beyond into the unknown. We care not for the hard broken patches of snow nor for the bare places where brush-heaps and stones are gathered, as we follow his lead. The spirit of winter is in this open wood. The dancing light and shade, the blue cloud-flecked sky, the tall gray trees and the shorter glossy green ones, the whistling wind creaking the bare branches and soughing in the evergreens–Mr. Schofield has made us conscious of it all. And color! what is the color of nature in winter but the haunting sense of something gone or something that is coming again? Even the glow of the setting sun in the west is but for a moment. The real radiance is the undertone-coming from within the bare trees and brown earth. Every true painter of winter makes us feel the hidden power temporarily held in leash.
Light and atmosphere are the strong characteristics of Childe Hassam. You may re-member “Spring Morning” (see Fig. 123) and how vitalizing these are as they play over and around the young woman by the table. If it is true that Mr. Hassam uses his figures simply to play upon them in his marvelous rendering of nature, he certainly gives them such vitality that the place would be void without them. Even in “The Caulker” (Fig. 205) the man attracts us; as small a part of the picture as he is, not because he is human but because there is something vital in his being there at all. Again, color to Mr. Hassam is a real, an innate power. He is really “creating design by means of color,” says one critic.
Possibly one of the most unique and striking features, if we may call them such, of the modern American artist is his choice of subjects. Again and again it is some special aspect of the great mechanical problems that face the world. In “The Caulker” the great hulk of the ocean vessel hints at the tremendous traffic on the seas; the pictures of the Culebra cut suggest the open waterway between the continents ; the many paintings of the night furnaces of Pittsburgh tell of the great industries that govern nations. Then, too, there are the pictures of river dredging, the building of bridges, the digging of tunnels, and the laying of railroad tracks. We do not say that the artist chooses his subject for any other reason than artistic value, but we do believe that the dignity of labor has no better exponent than the artist when he helps the public to see beauty in the work of everyday life. Mr. Kreisler, the eminent violinist, was right when he said recently, “I believe that art is to be the uplifting power in America.”
Impressionism in Edmund C. Tarbell’s paintings is a sane and harmonious use of color, united with sufficient amount of form and de-tail. When we remember how, in the movement a quarter of a century ago, the pendulum swung, as usual, to the extreme in the lack of all form and detail and in the riotous use of violent color, we are specially gratified with the sanity of the men who have come to stay. If “color impression” is the essential element of impressionists, then Mr. Tarbell has relegated that element to its proper place. As we look at the “Woman in Pink and Green” (Fig. 206) our sensation is that produced by harmony. The perfectly balanced cool and warm tones of the young woman’s costume are a vital part of the soft rich light that caresses the whole. Then, too, the composition is exceedingly attractive artistically. It might be a quiet corner in some summer hotel ; the young woman, sufficient unto herself, is in no hurry; the women at their embroidery are self-centeredjust a bit of conventional life of singular charm under the refining influence of Mr. Tarbell’s brush. If only his people had a little more of the active alert element, so characteristic of our time, possibly their refinement and sincerity would strike a deeper chord in the heart of picture lovers. As it is, we love them and go away feeling that it was good for us to have seen them (see Ten American Painters, page 186).
The painting of the “Public Entry of Christ into Jerusalem” (Fig. 207), by Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), not only has a curious history but it represents a special tendency in the art of England early in the nineteenth century. We have the authority of John Sartain that the picture was bought for a gentleman in Philadelphia and exhibited for some years in a special gallery. Then it was placed in the Academy of Fine Arts on Chest-nut Street, but when, in 1864, the Academy building was burned, a fireman cut the painting from the frame and dragged it out “like a torn and mangled blanket.” After it was repaired it was sent to Cincinnati and placed in the Cathedral. The painting is loaned to the museum by the Right Reverend William Henry Elder, Archbishop of Cincinnati. The picture is painted in the “grand style” that Haydon stood for, both in his painting and his writing. He never succeeded, however, in convincing his associates in the Royal Academy that the “grand style” was what they wanted, though he assailed them bitterly. The controversy grew so heated that he was refused membership in the Academy, and then he established one of his own in which Landseer, the animal painter, studied. The public failed to appreciate his talent, and financial troubles finally drove him to commit suicide. It is possible that his arrogant manners helped to defeat the “grand style” and laid forever that false idea of art.
The painting is interesting f rom a historical standpoint, for in it are a number of portraits of prominent men. The man next the post on the right is Sir Isaac Newton; next to him is Voltaire and next, standing a little in front of the other two with head bowed, is Words-worth the poet. Between the posts, in profile, is John Keats. As a religious picture it has little merit, though religious themes were Hay-don’s pet hobby. He declared that “art was unworthy unless dedicated to religious subjects.” The Christ is a mild inoffensive person entirely inadequate to grapple with the great problems that the world-Redeemer came to master. This man could never have said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” so that the multitude would marvel at him.
“The Followers of. Huss” (Fig. 208), by Vacslav Brozic (1852-1901), is one of the historical pictures so popular a half century ago. These pictures sold, consequently they were painted. Not that scenes of historic significance cannot be works of art, but it takes a master to make them so. Brozic was a Bohemian, with the instincts of an artist, but too easily turned aside by the picture dealers. When he chose John Huss, however, as a character for historic setting he struck at the very heart of the religious controversy that convulsed Bohemia for centuries.
John Huss, born in southern Bohemia (1369-1415), was a religious reformer. He agreed with the teachings of John Wycliff (1324-1384), and though he adhered to the Roman Catholic church he denounced indulgences, masses for the dead, confessionals, papal primacy, etc. And he announced that the only rule in matters of religion was the Scriptures. Naturally he was tried and ex-communicated, and finally burned at the stake. His teachings had a large following and eventually many of his followers joined forces with Martin Luther (1493-1546) a century later.
Certainly Brozic understood the various effects that the promulgation of a new doctrine would have on his own people. The facial expression of the assembled group is exceedingly interesting. In placing his figures, too, he is simple and natural. The boy in the foreground is a delicious bit of genre paintingto take him out of the picture would detract greatly from the effectiveness of the whole.