Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery
( Originally Published 1915 )
TO follow the profession of a famous parent and yet keep one's originality requires a peculiar kind of genius. Not only living up to an established standard but the prejudice of a "rich man's son" is the mill-stone that weighs one down. However, when George Inness, Jr. began his career as an artist and worked in his father's studio in New York, he very soon claimed recognition as a painter of animals and a painter, too, who understood the spirit of the animals he represented. Rochester is fortunate in possessing one of his finest paintings of cattle, "Bringing Home the Cows" (Fig. 131). In this picture we feel his inherent love of evening when moist clouds hang low and a soft radiance fills the air. That poetic instinct for "all phases of the evervarying atmosphere — and all phases of illumination" of the elder Inness is the inheritance that has given power to the son. Mr. Inness' warm sympathy for the life of the great out-of-doors is that of the men of 1830 in France, but with an added note, aspiration, to the tillers of the soil. A stiffness is in the backbone of the American farmer that lifts the head skyward. If he does not reach the goal himself his children will. And the brisk step of the toiler ! See how he expresses the eager home-coming of man and beast at the end of the day of toil. How full of sentiment this prosaic scene is, and why not?
What a contrast is this cattle scene of Sorolla's "Oxen on the Beach (Fig. 132) with the cows of Inness. Sorolla's "figures breathe out light" ; Inness envelopes his in a moist quivering atmosphere. Sorolla shows us the glare of the sea, Inness the haze of the land. But was ever such vivid color and such vitality of life recorded on canvas as Sorolla has. recorded there? Is it any wonder that the public caught its breath in dazed wonder at the audacity, shall I say, of his use of color? And what a combination ! The very best under-standing of his color scheme is given by a critic of his own Spanish people. This critic says, "His canvases contain a great variety of blues and violets balanced and juxtaposed with reds and yellows. These, and the skilled use of white, provide him with a color-scheme of great simplicity, originality and beauty." We may not love the glare of the sun on the sand and the water, but we are bound to admit that never before has an artist in very truth given the actual sensation of that glare on our eyes. We do not seek Sorolla's pictures for rest, but for exuberance of life. Even the grewsome picture of "Crippled Children at the Sea Shore, in the Church of the Ascension, New York City, gives hope of help, if not of health. The picture we love is "After the Bath," loaned by the Hispanic Society to the Metropolitan Museum (see Fig. 45), for in it he has expressed the innocence and joy of youth, when the heart is pure and the mind clean and wholesome.
One of the younger artists of today who has struck an original note is Jonas Lie. He is original not so much in the choice of subjects, for others have used much the same, but in his manner of treatment. We have again an artist who sees the poetry of labor, but he sees it from an angle all his own. At first we might think his individuality is due to the section of country he has chosen—he has painted many pictures of the Panama canal section—but in the "Morning on the River" (Fig. 133) the same personal note is there. The sense of depth and height in both the "Morning on the River" and the "Culebra Cut," Metropolitan Museum, is that of strength and durability and also emphasizes the power of man's mind to overcome great natural obstacles. There is a wonderful charm in his straight lines they give such stability to his compositions, and the strange glamor of light and shade and steel-blue color grips us like steel girders. We feel almost under the power of some titanic monster, only that the pale light creeping in lifts us as it follows the straight columns of smoke reaching skyward and glints the scuttling clouds with evervarying tints. The artist's early training under Brooklyn Bridge and beneath skyscrapers has given him an astonishing insight into the artistic value of vertical lines.
Mr. Lie's pictures are found in many of the galleries over the country. In fact, the public is recognizing that Mr. Lie has come to stay. As Michael Angelo said to the young sculptor who was anxious about placing his statue, "Do not trouble yourself about the light on your statue. The light of the public square will test its value." In other words, the opinion of the public very largely settles the question of worth.
Two decidedly contrasting portraits in the museum are "Girl Waiting" (Fig. 134) by John Lavery and a "New Orleans Negro" by Robert MacCameron. Each artist represents a distinct national type rather than an individual. Mr. Lavery is really an Irishman; but trained in Scotland, he stands for the Glasgow painters. A man of unusual parts, Mr. Lavery has excelled in several branches of art. His col-leagues often say of him, "there is very little he cannot do," and when challenged with this statement, the artist replies—and an Irish-Scotch twinkle is in his eye—"Yes, I can do a great many things in my own way." As a portrait painter few equal him to-day. As we study this young woman "Waiting" we agree with the critic who designated Mr. Lavery as a great picture-builder. Her pose gives just the sense of romance that arouses our keenest interest; and the delicate color harmony so rich and luscious warms our heart and makes us feel comfortable. What a comely young woman she is too, and how well her quaint bonnet becomes her! This is a portrait good to look at and comfortable to live with.
Now turn to the "New Orleans Negro" (Fig. 135). To those who know the colored people in the southland this portrait speaks volumes. Mr. MacCameron has delved deep into race characteristics and with unerring skill has pictured a composite negro perfectly individual in answering to the name of John or James. He not only notes 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-nature 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 that govern human beings which characterized his later works. The marvelous portrait of Auguste Rodin in the Metropolitan Museum is sufficient proof of the artist's power to make individuals live on canvas. We feel the personality of the great French sculptor and realize 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.
Surely a fairy has touched Miss Lillian Genth with her magic wand and then trans-ported her to some woodland dell where only fairies dwell. Not that this "Woodland Pool" (Fig. 136) cannot be found on this old earth of ours, but it has taken Miss Genth with her "vital, optimistic, stimulating" art to find it for us. Over and over she draws us aside from the work-a-day world into lovely woodland retreats and there quiets and soothes our overheated brains. Her nude figures, breathing a wholesome, sane joy are as much a part of the secluded dell as the trees, the pool and the sky. How empty this retreat would be without the warmth of the lovely vision in the flesh. The light playing upon the healthy form is like the wind playing upon the swaying branches.
Miss Genth has found the key that unlocks a new world to us. It is interesting, too, that we are permitted to know that Miss Genth first found the key in Brittany when she posed a nude figure out-of-doors. A new world opened to her as the light played over the pink-tinted surface. And later, under the brilliant American light she fitted her key and unlocked the secret of sunlight playing upon vital human flesh. Her figures in the open and beside the waters and under the spreading branches have assumed the character of an autograph and, like the latter, can never grow monotonous to those who love them. Miss Genth is already represented in many of our public museums.