japonisme: 9/20/09 - 9/27/09

26 September 2009

the panama-pacific, that is! • part 4

just gaze for a moment at this spot which really existed for a few short months, about a hundred years ago, as its city still reeled from its earthquake and fire, and while the rest of the world warred on.

can you imagine? wonderland indeed.

you've come to see the murals and the french painters, and now see the statues. there are more statues at this fair than you can look at in a week and a half, and that is just the beginning.

you can see the bathing beauties,

then fifteen minutes later you can go listen to john philip sousa and his band play a march.

you can visit, with- out leaving the fair, yellowstone, the grand canyon, or even mt fuji.

perhaps you're curious about panama itself -- well then visit there -- or maybe china, or samoa, or, other nations far and near.

or maybe, after visiting the national parks, and then japan, you decide to visit hawaii, as you've just heard hawiian music for the first time and you couldn't keep your those hips from swingin' to one of the many new songs introduced at the fair (even irving berlin had one) that then went on to make it big all over the world.

but the palace of fine arts keeps drawing you; you see some japonisme,

but maybe less than you had expected, given what you'd seen in europe just one year ago.

you love being introduced to tonalism and now that you have spent more than a week in san francisco with it's cover of fog all day, even in the summertime!, you understand why the tonalists use such muted colors.

and since you loved her husband's mural, you are thrilled to learn his wife's a painter too.

lots of etchings are exhibited, but nothing like the won- drous work from nabis or any of the other new-century art trends that you'd seen overseas.

and what they did show was usually without color and sometimes even appeared to have travelled back in time while the rest of the world moved forward. were the american judges classically trained and old-fashioned?

why were so few of the prints and paintings so far less colorful and free as the murals. certainly not that guerin guy.

and yet, is there any way to say that this has not been a dream with sincere magic? has not your heart been lifted and your mind eased and entertained?

and in the end you are grateful, very grateful, for all the colors
of the jewel city.

(tomorrow more references than you can shake a stick at)

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23 September 2009

the panama-pacific, that is! • part 3

Aside from the construction of the $50,000 pipe organ, which, after the Exposition, will be placed permanently in the Civic Auditorium, the two most important musical items found on the schedule of Exposition enterprises are the engagements of Camille Saint-Saens and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The former, who maintained that "Beethoven is the greatest, the only real, artist, because he upheld the idea of universal brotherhood," is perhaps better fitted than any living composer to write special music for the Exposition.

This he has done, -- writing two compositions in fact; and their presentation has been an outstanding feature. "Hail, California," was dedicated to the Exposition. Scored for an orchestra of eighty, a military band of sixty, a chorus of 300 voices, pipe organ and piano, its first presentation was an event.

The Saint-Saens Symphony in C minor (No. 3) Opus 78, composed many years ago, has become a classic during the life-time of its creator. It was one of the wonders of the Boston Symphony programmes played in Festival Hall. Its yield of immediate pleasure and its reassurance for the works of Saint-Saens to be heard later, grew from the fact that it was scored for orchestra and pipe organ, and in this massive tonal web the genius of the composer to write in magnificent size was overwhelm- ingly evident, thus forecasting the splendors of "Hail, California."

The French Pavilion is a dignified and impressive structure, as those who recall the Legion of Honor Palace in Paris will understand. The entrance to the court is a triumphal arch flanked by double rows of Ionic columns on either side, with figures of Fame as spandrels. The arch is connected by lateral peristyles with the wings of the pavilion, the attics of which are adorned with has reliefs.

Ionic colonnades extend along the sides of the court to the principal front of the building, which is decorated with six Corinthian columns, forming a portico for the main entrance. The portal opens on a stage, above which a great central hall, flanked by lesser halls, extends back through the palace.

More notable than the building itself, or its priceless contents, is the fact that these are here. That, in the midst of war and its demands, France should still find time for the ideal, and for this beautiful tribute to the long-standing friendship between the two countries, is a demonstration of French spirit and of French culture that will not escape the attention of any thoughtful American. For France herself, as it has well been said, her appearance here means as much as a victory on the battlefield.

But the glory of the building is in its exhibits. France poured out the treasures of the Louvre, the Luxembourg and the National Museum to adorn this pavilion. Fine as is the exhibit in the French section of the Palace of Fine Arts, the best pictures and Sculptures are shown here. In the Court of Honor stands the masterpiece of the master sculptor of modern times, "The Thinker," by Auguste Rodin. (p. 158.) In the galleries are his "John the Baptist" and other important bronzes.

Vast, unique and of the greatest interest is Theodore Riviere's wonderful group in bronze representing a triumphant band of desert soldiers dragging captive the Moroccan pretender, secured in an iron cage. There, too, are splendid paintings by Monet, Meissonier, Detaille, de Neuvilie, and many other French artists approved by time. **

(these all are actual pieces shown in that exhibit, accompanied by the music played there, described by someone who visited there. and this is just the teensiest fraction of just one country's offerings, just france. and the world was there. bibliography to follow.)

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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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20 September 2009

the panama-pacific, that is! • part 1

ever since i read these words, i really wanted to know who won what for what: "The Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915 included more than two thousand prints representing the history of American print making. There was one gallery each for prints by James McNeill Whistler and his follower Joseph Pennell, and
four galleries for modern prints, one of which was devoted
to color prints.

A jury that included Frank Duveneck and Pennell, both of whom had contributed to the revival of etching in America, awarded ten medals, eight of them to wood-block artists. Gustave Baumann won the gold medal; Edna Boies Hopkins, Bertha Lum, and B. J. O. Nordfeldt each received a silver medal; Elizabeth Colwell, Dow, and Helen Hyde won bronze medals; and honorable mention went to Pedro Joseph de Lemos and Margaret Jordan Patterson." 1

these are all my favorites -- all in one place! so i decided maybe we should go to the fair and find out!


well, okay -- we didn't exactly see any of those artists there (you did click the link, didn't you?), though of course we did see bernard maybeck's palace of fine arts. okay, we will, we will. but how about we get a lay of the land first.

the fair was built on the marshes of the north- west edge of san fran- cisco, where only a few years earlier residents squatted in tents after many homes were destroyed in the 1906 quake.

here's practically the same view, after the fair was built.

and here it is now.

looking in the other direction, we see the fair....

and the same area now. remember, it used to be marshland.

next up, we'll see some astonishingly gorgeous statures and murals, and some prints and paintings soon after that (and a full references & credits list) -- stay tuned!

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