New Orleans, Delgado Museum of Art
( Originally Published 1915 )
ONE of the most encouraging signs of the awakening of America's general public to the value of good pictures in education is the restraint that cities, away from the centers, are using in selecting examples for their museums. The strong tendency today is to discard everything that does not measure up to good art, regardless of a sentiment that has really become sentimentality in holding on to trash. If homekeepers would only go and do likewise ! Naturally this adherence to high ideals in selecting art cuts down the number of examples of original work, and wisely so.
In the smaller galleries we find that most of the originals are by less known artists of today, but the character of the works selected is of a high order. This is specially true of the permanent collection in the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans. There are, however, a number of excellent examples of well known modern artists, whose works stand for great art, among the loaned paintings in the museum.
The painting about which a wholesome sentiment clings is "Frozen River" (Fig. 209), by Charles Rosen (1878- ). The museum has two paydays each week and the first picture purchased from the admission fees (25 cents each) was "Frozen River." How quickly our interest is enlisted and how grateful we are for the wise selection.
Mr. Rosen, a native of Pennsylvania and a pupil of Mr. William M. Chase, is young in years, but already he has had many marks of honor and respect in prizes and club member-ships. His works speak for him in no uncertain language. The scene of the "Frozen River" is of no special significance, but the intense cold of a winter morning brooding over it is that of any river where the mercury drops be-low zero. How plainly we understand the treachery of the undercurrent that comes to the open under the tree and bushes. We feel that unsuspected airholes lurk over the white surface. What a splendid example of con-tending forces are the tumbled and contorted rapids, caught at last by the stronger force. Who could look at this strong, vigorous painting of winter's tightest mood without a feeling of weakness to battle with it? The cold lowering sky hovers over the colder white expanse, and even the dark green-blue water is struggling against the power that threatens it. Mr. Rosen has caught the spirit of winter and has made us feel its power.
Another picture of nature in one of her changeable moods is "On the Rocks after the Storm" (Fig. 210), by Augustus Koopman (1869-1914). The storm has spent itself and the sunlight is bursting through and illuminating the scudding clouds and fast-running water. What a glorious light it is, too, and how it spreads itself from surf to whitecap. Mr. Koopman has captured the very magic of sunlight, and has fixed it on canvas in a radiance scarcely believable. The glory of the scene is such that not even the victims of the storm can mar it. What matters the storm now that the clouds are smiling again?
Mr. Koopman was born in South Carolina, and after special training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, went to Paris. He received a number of medals from America and Europe, and his works are in many of our museums.
An entirely distinct scene from nature is "Snow and Flood in Flanders" (Fig. 211), by Modeste Huys. Here is a low flat country with distances hemmed in on all sides by the habitation of man, and the whole overshadowed by clouds so low that they touch the ground at the horizon. The devastation is that of an unruly child who has broken away from restraint. Nature in Flanders is usually subservient to man but here she has rebelled, and man is helpless. The straight trim trees stand aghast as the ancient landmarks disappear and the trim banks holding the water dissolve before the flood. Mr. Huys knows his native land well and understands what havoc the elements make when once they get the upper hand One trembles for the little homes that creep so close to the floods. How excellently he has composed his picture. The little foot-bridge, holding firm to the island, keeps open the path to the homes beyond the trees. The jut of land, with its solitary tree and a cow wading out in the shallow water, is a se-cure spot for the home anchored there. Then see how naturally our eye is drawn to the distant scene by the soft light that is gathering force from the light behind the clouds. The flat low-lying snow is heavy with moisture, and the chill in the air is that of a water-soaked atmosphere.
One of the very interesting loans in the museum is the picture of a "Spanish Gypsy Girl" (Fig. 212), by Robert Henri. Mr. Henri stands for modernity in the art world to-day. His aim is to gather up the essential elements as they impress him, and in broad swift strokes present the picture to us; sometimes, we must admit, he is so disdainful of details that we fail to catch the impression—due perhaps to our stupidity. It is not so in the gypsy girl. No one could possibly mistake this child of sunny Spain. Again Murillo's "Beggar Boys" are before us, but with an added element drawn from the new world. Mr. Henri's broad synthesis of Spanish characteristics in the happy-go-lucky children of the vagabond race—who may originally have come from Egypt is that of one who sees racial traits as- well as those of environment. The picturesque quality in this free child of nature is perfectly bewitching. The wide-set eyes that twinkle with fun index her innate sense of the artistic—not that she knows anything about being artistic. How the dusky hair, drawn back f rom her low broad forehead, tones with her brilliant shawl and brown skin, and how the light loose frock intensifies the smiling face. The whole picture centers in that face, for in it the artist has not only typified the Spanish gypsy girl, but a particular gypsy girl.
Robert Henri was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1865, and is one of the leading teachers of art in America. His several years of independent study in Italy, Spain and France broadened his understanding of the fundamentals as demonstrated by the masters of the past, without in the least undermining the true American spirit of his art.