Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute
( Originally Published 1915 )
THE collection of paintings at the Carnegie Institute is largely made up of the work of contemporaneous artists in Europe and America. Some of the examples are already widely known because of frequent reproduction and special exhibitions in various cities.
The portrait of "Sarasate" (Fig. I15) compels our attention and no, wonder, for it is one of Whistler's most unique character sketches. Possibly the eminent Spanish violinist may be remembered quite as well through this representation of him as by his own wonderful career. I well remember the impression the portrait made when it was first exhibited in New York City about the year Whistler died, 1903. The picture was hung in the corner of a long room opposite an entrance door. I hesitated at the doorway because the presence-of the master violinist was so intimate and warm and his eloquent eyes and melancholy face were so instinct with life that I waited, hoping to hear again his interpretation of the mighty Beethoven. From Sarasate's physique and carriage, as Whistler portrays him, one might almost think it a portrait of the master painter himself in the guise of a master violinist. Sarasate and Joachim were dividing honors when the twentieth century opened—Sarasate died in 1908—and musical critics agree that "they will hold their places in the annals of violin playing as the representatives of certain elemental excellences in art."
Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) certainly refuted over and over again the ridiculous assertion that story-telling pictures could not be true art. His pictorial interpretations of the "Holy Grail" in the Boston Library, "She Stoops to Conquer" and Shakespearian scenes have given those masterpieces in ancient leg-end and literature a significance undreamed of before. He not only entered into the spirit of the stories as their authors represented them but, adding his. own personal characteristics, he has given to them an originality that stamps them as masterpieces in art.
Of course we are interested in the story underlying Abbey's portrayal of special scenes, yet that does not detract from our enjoyment of the picture itself. As we stand before "The Penance of Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester" (Fig. 116) we feel the fascination of the beautiful, haughty woman. Our instinctive sense of what is due womanhood is being outraged. We recognize that here is represented an elemental truth in civilized life. Even the fact that overweening ambition has brought to pass this punishment does not prevent the artist from centering the charm of the composition around the Duchess.
The story told in Henry VI, Act II, Scene 3 is in outline that Eleanor plotted that her husband Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Protector of the Kingdom, should supplant his nephew, King Henry VI, and she would step from the rank of second lady in the realm to that of queen. When her schemes were disclosed, her fellow-intriguers were put to death and she, said King Henry,
"Shall after three days open penance done, Live in your country here in banishment."
The painting represents the moment of Eleanor's speech to the Duke of Gloucester who, dressed in mourning, listens with bowed head.
"Ah, Gloster; teach me to forget myself ! For whilst I think I am thy married wife And thou a prince, protector of this land, Methinks I should not thus be led along, Mail'd up in shame, with papers on my back And follow'd with a rabble, that rejoice
To see my tears, and hear my deep-felt groans. The ruthless flint doth cut my tender feet; And when I start the envious people laugh, And bid me be advised how I tread."
There is no question about Winslow Homer standing for American art. It was his picture in Paris in 1900 that compelled foreigners to note the fact that he was more than an American painter. It was then that just a faint suggestion entered the minds of Europeans that America might have an art of its own in time. Were it not for the stupidity of it, the idea—for it is now only an idea—that we have no art would be amusing. Yet it still clings to the minds of some of our own people, as well as to those of our contemporaries across the water. Our artists are something like the children who never grow up, in their parents' eyes. But why even mention a circumstance so far in the past, and especially when discussing a painting by Winslow Homer?
"The Wreck" (Fig. 117), American in setting, has the spirit of the follow-the-sea-folk that Homer put into his earlier works. The merciless power of the ocean is the underlying theme, yet the unflinching courage of the life-saving crew is the human element that holds us. Homer's profound reverence for the mighty waters that cover the deep was sweetened by his great sympathy with humanity. A man of strong imagination, tempered by a self-control that gripped him, he centered his art on a broad and wholesome understanding of man's strength and nature's powers.
One of the men who are leaders in American art is Edward Willis Redfield. He was the first American landscape painter to see one of his paintings, bought by the French government, hung in the Luxembourg, Paris. He is best known as a painter of winter, a theme befitting his strong, simple lines. His keen appreciation of the latent power buried under the snow and ice and hidden in the gaunt leaf-less trees infuses a sense of life into his win-ter scenes. The barrenness of the aspect gives no hint of a dead world—nature is simply ac-cumulating forces as she sleeps. Possibly we never saw "Sycamore Hill" (Fig. 118) until Mr. Redfield showed it to us
"we're made so that we love First when we see them painted, things we have passed " Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see,"
but he an artist whose heart is alive to God's universe fixes on canvas a bit of nature with the breath of heaven in it, we love it. Mr. Redfield is widening our ideas of winter and helping us to feel the pent-up joy of the close-locked earth. Many of his paintings are scenes from near his home in the Delaware Valley country, but their import cannot be confined to any special section; wherever is found snow and ice there is the essence of his art.
Jean Charles Cazin (1814-1901) was no doubt influenced by the 1830 men, though he was never classed with the Barbizon school. He was decidedly individual and very artistic in his manner of enveloping his paintings in a blue-gray haziness. True, this prevailing tone gave an indefinite sameness to his landscapes, yet we feel that it is Cazin's means of expressing himself. In his painting of a "Suburb of Antwerp" (Fig. 119) the rank growth along the stream is softened and harmonized in the gray atmosphere with the old rambling house and distant cloud-streaked sky, yet the lovely light beyond the house and reflected in the water gives a note of gladness to the scene. Cazin was a rapid painter and some of his compositions show a lack of care that detracts from their real value as works of art.
One wonders if Jean Francois Raffaelli himself is sitting at one of the tables sketching the crowd as it passes in the "Boulevard des Italiens, Paris" (Fig. 120). How real is the young woman who is hurrying somewhere. She has an undertone of eagerness that compels interest, but I venture she could scarcely tell why she is eager, only that Paris is in her blood. Paris does get into the blood, and Raf-LEM knew it. Wonderful character sketches these likenesses are--veritable portraits. Look at the man with the dog and the waiter and the man selling papers and the woman by the sign-post. Even the horses show the temper of the bus teams of Paris, especially those waiting near the clock. The longer we look at this picture the more impressed we are with Raffaelli"s intimate understanding of humanity.
It was Raffaelli who dared to paint pictures with white as the prevailing tone--white against white, whites superimposed on whites. I once saw on exhibition, in New York City, dozens of Raffaelli's canvases and the impression was that of a world decked in white—and a wonderful world it was, too. Not only did he dare to use white in his own original way but to invent paint-crayons, and with these he drew his outlines in rough and sketchy lines, thus gaining a poetic effect that captivated the art world.
A new portrait has been added to the collection of the Carnegie Institute that is compelling attention. The "Portrait of Her Grace, the Duchess of Rutland" (Fig. 121), by Jacques Emile Blanche, grips us and will not let us go. Is it Her Grace or the artist's interpretation of Her Grace that fascinates us? We frankly admit that a certain amount of romance lingers around a Duchess of Rutland ever since the fair Dorothy Vernon, by eloping with Sir John Manners, son of the Earl of Rutland, in the sixteenth century, brought the famous Haddon Hall into the Rutland family. This baronial mansion is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in England. Though not occupied, it is in fine repair and draws many tourists to it yearly. Then again, Sir Charles Manners, fourth Duke of Rutland, who protested in 1775 against the taxation of the American colonies, inherited Haddon Hall from his grandfather in 1779.
Among the works of artists of the Independents of the so-called Impressionist school those of Camille Pissarro and Childe Hassam stand out most prominently. In "The Great Bridge at Rouen" (Fig. 122) Pissarro has illustrated most forcibly the real import of the original impressionist, Manet. To paint things as they impress the beholder, through the medium of light and air,. is in a measure the underlying principle, but that light and air - are playing strange pranks with some of the devotees of the independent movement is self-evident. Certainly liberty has become 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. But not so with Pissarro's pictures. Keyed in high color, he preserves the picturesque and emphasizes just enough of particular objects to give unity and hold the interest. The longer we look at the great bridge the more we are impressed with the artist's clever understanding of the effect of air and light and his restraint in using them.
With Childe Hassam an entirely different modus operandi is apparent, for a remarkable personality is behind it. "Spring Morning" (Fig. 123) is tantalizing in its hints of the re-birth of animate things. The thoughts that are stirring in the young woman—or is it in our own mind—are fraught with intense feeling. Not even the birds skimming across the screen are more intent. A dreamer is she? yes, but a spring dreamer where all is possibility. Light and air caress the canvas until color and form have become component parts with them and the whole picture sings in harmony, but without loss of solidity, the quality that the later independents are gaining.
In no portrait has Frank W. Benson caught the vital spark more truly than in his "Portrait of a Boy" (Fig. 124). Curious, a little doubtful and a hint of rebellion at being disturbed are the dominating traits that mark this boy, and in those traits this boy is a universal boy. A boy is self-centered, wanting to be let alone; a girl is self-centered, expecting notice. Mr. Benson's brush has caught a certain brightness of color and light that speaks a language of its own. No one could mistake his manner of entangling the sunlight in the hair and garments of his open-air figures. It is not always, however, that his portraits have the charm and personality of this boy; at times he seems so obsessed with the artistic quality of his work that the element of likeness is all but eliminated from the portrait.
When the portrait of Mrs. Maurice Greif-fenhagen (Fig. 125), by Maurice Greiffenhagen, was added to the permanent collection of the Institute it was a decided gain in the al-ready fine examples of modern portraiture in the museum. That the picture received honorable mention in the International Exhibition in 1907 was evidence that its charm and vitality found a responsive chord in the minds of the judges—and well they might.
A recent purchase is the "Portrait of Henry Nicols" (Fig. 126), by Gilbert Stuart. This is an addition of great value, not only as a genuine example of a splendid portrait by Stuart but because Henry Nicols was one of the pioneers of the eastern shores of Maryland--, family came to America at the time of Lord Baltimore. He was a man of refinement, and hospitality was a marked feature of his Maryland mansion. Mr. G. C. Mason writes in his "Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart" : "It is related of him that he determined to have his portrait painted by Stuart, and to this end, attended by his bodyguard, he drove from Baltimore to Boston in his own carriage, giving three weeks to the journey. Stuart rewarded his enthusiasm by painting a remarkably fine head of him."