Thursday, August 07, 2014

Reviewing the 1916 Exhibition

It seems like Chicago has always had at least one periodical devoted to the fine arts. From 1899 to 1919 it was called "The Fine Arts Journal"

The appreciation, if not the manufacture, of beautiful things being a lady's diversion in those days, you may note that all of the contributors are women --including one Agnes Gertrude Richards who wrote the following review of the 1916 Palette and Chisel show held at the Art Institute of Chicago - back when both institutions were somewhat more idealistic about art and beauty than they are today.

This is the only illustration for which the original can now be located.  (and it was the artist's granddaughter who sent me this review)

As it turns out, the complete text of this review is already online at JSTOR as well as Google Books , but if I'd never seen this copy, I would never have known that it even existed..

That's a fascinating museum tableaux  by Victor Higgins, too bad it has disappeared - along with the mural by Boutet de Monvel and the plaster cast of the 'Winged Victory', neither of which have been seen at the Art Insititute for at least 50 years.

Apparently the club was then best known for its humorous hi-jinks, but at least some of the members were on a first-name basis with  the most prominent American painters of the day.

Regarding "The Sister" by E. Martin Hennnings, who won that year's Gold Medal, the critic had this to say:

No one could fail to be impressed with the spiritual quality of this delicate face so eloquent of a chastened soul. Here is the subtle hint of unavoidable suffering attendant upon the relinquishment of all earthly hopes and human ties, blent with that awesome nobility which we mark in the faces of the dead and which makes us feel that the spirit is hovering 'twixt earth and heaven. That youth should see and make others see the grey sorrow and the golden resignation of years of sacrifice bespeaks inspired vision.

It's hard to imagine such art criticism being written today - it's all about  elevated feelings concerning the subject matter.  It's not about the language of art -- or the psychology of the artist.

"Splendidly colored and gracefully composed" --- is, again, the kind of art talk that is long gone.

"Let us hope that after this the Palette and Chisel Club Exhibition will be an annual event at the Institute. Nothing could be more appropriate and few things more vividly interesting as reflecting the artists' life of Chicago."

Regrettfully, the P&C would be given only one more show at the museum - and chances are not good that it will ever happen again.


Post a Comment

<< Home