japonisme: the panama-pacific, that is! • part 2

22 September 2009

the panama-pacific, that is! • part 2

All other Expositions have been almost colorless. This is the first to make use of the natural colors of sea and sky, of hill and tree, and to lay upon all its grounds and buildings tints that harmonize with these. Jules Guerin, the master colorist, was the artist who used the Exposition as a canvas on which to spread glorious hues. Guerin decided, first, that the basic material of the buildings should be an imitation of the travertine of ancient Roman palaces. On this delicate old ivory background he laid a simple series of warm, yet quiet, Oriental hues, which, in their adaptation to the material of construction and to the architecture, as well as in their exquisite harmony with the natural setting, breeds a vast respect for his art.

The color scheme covers everything, from the domes of the buildings down to the sand in the driveways and the uniforms of the Exposition guards. The walls, the flags and pennants that wave over the buildings, the shields and other emblems of heraldry that hide the sources of light, draw their hues from Guerin's plan.

The flowers of the garden conform to it, the statuary is tinted in accordance with it, and even the painters whose mural pictures adorn the courts and arches and the Fine Arts Rotunda were obliged to use his color series. The result gives such life and beauty and individuality to this Exposition as no other ever had. 1

It's a shame Mathews' superb talent should have been employed only in one panel. His "Victorious Spirit," a rich and noble composition, has certain enduring qualities which are not to be found in a single one of any of the others. Simply taken as a decoration, his picture is most effective by its richness of color,

It seems hardly possible to do adequate justice to the very unusual genius of Frank Brangwyn, who charms thousands of Exposition visitors with his eight panels, representing the Four Elements, in the Court of Abundance.

Nature is represented, in all the fecundity of the earth. Only in our wildest dreams, and only in the advertisements of California farm lands and orchards, do such grapes, pumpkins, pears, and apples exist.

The picture to the left shows the grape-treaders, in the old- fashioned and un- hygienic practice of crushing grapes by dancing on them in enormous vats. Others are seen gathering and delivering more grapes. As in the other picture, showing the harvest of fruit, more people are shown. Brangwyn never hesitates to use great numbers of people, which seem to give him no trouble whatever in their modeling and characterization.

Following on to the right, "Fire," represented as the primitive fire and as industrial fire, in two pictures, continues the scheme. That group of squatting woodmen carefully nursing a little fire is almost comical, with their extended cheeks, and one can almost feel the effort of their lungs in the strained anatomy of their backs. There does not seem to be anything too difficult for Brangwyn. "Industrial Fire" is interesting from the decorative note of many pieces of pottery in the foreground. They seem to have come from the kiln which muscular men are attending.

"Water" is unusually graceful and delicate in its vertical arrange- ment of trees and the curve of the fountain stream, coming from the side of a hill. Women, children, and men have congregated, taking their turn in filling all sorts of vessels, some carried on their heads, some in their arms. Brangwyn's clever treatment of zoölogical and botanical detail is well shown in flowers in the foreground, such as foxglove and freesia, and the graceful forms of a pair of pinkish flamingoes. In the other panel of the same subject, a group of men on the shore are hauling in their nets.

The last of the four, "Air," represents this element in two totally different ways; the one on the left gives the more tender, gentle movement of this element, in the suggestion of the scent of the bowmen screened by trees, moving toward their prospective prey, while the other very bold composition is of a windmill turned away from the destructive power of an impending windstorm. In the foreground people are rushed along by gusts of wind, while children, unaware of the impending storm, are flying kites. 2

(interesting, isn't it, to hear commentary from the moment, opinionated as it may be. the brangwyn murals still exist at san francisco's herbst theater. updates to follow. bibliography to follow.)

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Blogger PIGNOUF said...

Fascinating ! ...:)

23 September, 2009 00:08  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

merci! :^)

23 September, 2009 06:20  
Anonymous Evan said...

I think you have to marvel at the craftsmanship & opulence of it all...now-a-days it would be plastic & volume sensory over-kill masquerading as culture

23 September, 2009 07:52  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh indeed, evan! in fact, i was just coming to that ;^)

23 September, 2009 09:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I ask for your source for the color scheme? I have seen a list of the names of the colors, but never the colors themselves. I am hoping that this is an original scheme. Thank you!

05 December, 2013 08:51  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

well, I assume you followed the link but I see there aren't pictures there. It's 4 years ago, but I seem to remember photographing them out of a book. I didn't make them up. I'll do a quick check to see if I have anything that will tell me, but I doubt I'll find anything.

05 December, 2013 14:14  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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