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Certain European Influences.
Room No. 92.
Having traced in the three previous rooms what may be termed the historical period of our native art - although recent and brief indeed is American antiquity! - in Room 92 we are again transported to Europe, and find ourselves among many of the influences which in diverse fashions have deeply affected our contemporary art.
In this connection it is well to remember that it is not always the artist of yesterday, or of the day before, who most strongly plays a part in new developments. For example, the most advanced art of today, in several of its must typical forms, betrays a harking back to that of primitive peoples, and to the prehistoric periods of Assyria and Babylon. So we need feel no surprise at finding in this room, among much modern work names which belong to comparatively ancient times.
And it is in this room that we pronounce for the first time the great name of the Barbizon school.
In the center of Wall A hangs Le Brun's large historical painting, "The Family of Darius at the Feet of Alexander," Le Brun, who flourished at the court of Louis XIV, is, above all, an example of the academical spirit - that spirit of conservatism which, though it often produces splendid masterpieces of its kind, is in all ages the force against which original genius must wage bitter warfare. Le Brun reached the apogee of his talent for draftsmanship and decoration in his design for his "Battles of Alexander," The Gobelin's tapestries which were the result of these designs are on view in the French Pavilion.
To the left of the Le Brun hangs a masterpiece - "The Young Man with Violincello," by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). "The turbulent, intolerant champion of verity, the man who, more than anyone, demolished convention and established the supremacy of free, unfettered observation," so Christian Brinton emphatically writes of Courbet. A revolutionary in art, his name is linked with that of Manet. With Courbet, color remained that of the accepted convention of the galleries. "He still believed that shadows were black." But to Courbet, together with Manet, must be given the credit of the nineteenth century reaction from frigid classicism and from a romanticism which had ceased to be spontaneous.
A very notable Meissonier hangs to the right, his "St. John, the Divine," It is an unusually large canvas to come from the hand of this master, who painted majestic anecdotes with extraordinary minuteness, and whose tiny picture of Napoleon on his white horse retreating from Russia is acclaimed as one of the glories of the French school of the nineteenth century. There are two other examples of his work in the French Pavilion.
Fortuny (1841-1874), prominent in the history of modern Spanish art, is recalled by "The Model," Spain, at no time, seems to have suffered from the paralysis of academicism, which during long periods has fettered the art of all other countries. Fortuny, perhaps, skirted the danger zone, but his experiences on the battle-fields of northern Africa, to which his destiny conducted him, kept him in contact with reality.
Andriaen Brouwer, a painter who stemmed from one of the greatest masters of realism, and the most superb portrait painter of Holland, next to Rembrandt, namely, the incomparable Franz Hals, is represented on Wall B by "Head of an Old Man. Brouwer died in 1658. He was distinguished for his power of invention, and, as a painter of rustic subjects, has left a deep mark on Holland art.
Upon this wall hang two examples of Corot (Nos. 4029 and 4025). Classed, though rather roughly, with the Barbizon school, Corot (1796-1875) holds a place apart from Diaz, Rousseau, Daubigny, Dupre and Troyon, the other members of the famous group, who established themselves at Barbizon, in the Forest of Fontainebleau, and produced "faithful and impassioned portraits of their native land, such as French art had never yet known." This revelation of nature was brought to France by exhibitions of the work of the Englishmen, Bonington and Constable, the latter especially.
In the course of his long career Corot passed from the confines of the arid classicism which he did so much to destroy, and continued his artistic progress to the borders of Impressionism. It would be difficult to improve upen Reinach's characterization of this "poet painter, a lyric master of exquisite refinement, a worshiper of nature in her more tranquil moods, the incomparable limner of the freshness of morning and the silvery mists of evening." His influence on the art of America has been very great. A large number of his works are in this country. There are also a large number of works in this country to which his name is attached but which he never painted. He was not only a prolific artist, but one who is somewhat easily imitated; so that it has been said, "Corot left three hundred pictures behind him, of which number three thousand are in the United States."
A Josef Israels (No. 4026) is another picture of great interest upon this wall. A leader of the modern Dutch school, a sympathetic and powerful interpreter of the humble souls of fishermen and workers, Israels has produced many strong and solid works.
In Holland modern landscape has found distinguished interpreters in the Maris brothers, one of whom, Matthew, is represented by a watercolor hanging on wall C.
The Barbizon school is again represented on Wall C by two examples of the work of Daubigny (No. 4032), and two by Rousseau (Nos. 4036 and 4037).
A more modern French artist, Cazin, who died in 1891, after having won a distinguished place in French art, occupies the center of this wall with his powerful "Repentance of St. Peter." Two others of his canvases may be seen in the retrospective exhibition in the French Pavilion.
Upon Wall D hangs a large figure painting by James Tissot - a name more familiar to Americana, perhaps, as the executor of the famous series of watercolors illustrating the life of Christ.
Two resplendent Monticellis complete the special interest in this wall. They shine forth like little panels composed of jewels crushed together but holding all their radiance. Montecellis (1824-1886) preserved in the midst of the realistic, impressionistic and humanitarian schools of his period, his own romantic and individual spirit. He harks back to the past, but with such a rich charm that he has won a firm place for himself amid the moderns.
One other name, that of Vincent Van Gogh, with his "Moulin de la Galette," which hangs on Wall C, brings us a very long stride forward into modernity. Van Gogh indeed is an ultra modern who, with Cezanne, Gauguin and Matisse, is numbered among the pioneers of the art of the future.
Room No. 62.
This gallery continues the story of the previous one. It is a further illustration of the history of French influences in American art.
Jules Breton's "The Vintage," hanging upon Wall A, recalls with great force the name of a leader in the modern movement. Born in 1827, he died in 1906, after a distinguished and highly successful career. Following Millet, and like him a painter at once of the realities and the idealisms of peasant life, but more refined, and gentler, than the rugged Millet, Jules Breton is one of those painters whose appeal is stronger with the public than with those primarily concerned with technical interests.
Near him hangs an example of his great master, the immortal Millet (No. 2842), who belonged to the Barbizon school, and shared its zest for the truthful delineation of nature, but who also occupied a place apart because of his ability to express through outward form a sense of the deeper realities of the spirit. "An idyllic realist," as he has been termed, "the tender and fraternal sentiment that breathes from his canvases reveals that sympathy with the poor and humble which has been the honor and the torment of the nineteenth century." Born 1814, he died in 1875. His powerful interpretations of peasant life inspired the celebrated verses by Edwin Markham, "The Man with the Hoe."
Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), whose name is associated for Americans with the huge and famous picture of "The Horse Fair," is represented on Wall B by an example of her animal painting. So far as fame and success are concerned, it is probable that Rosa Bonheur's name still stands highest in the list of women artists.
Alma-Tadema, whose "Among the Ruins" is also on this wall. is not, however, French but British. As a painter of classical Greek and Roman subjects, he achieved distinction at a time when the pre-Raphaelite movement in England. led by Burne-Jones and Rossetti, was dominant.
Bastien Le Page is the commanding interest of Wall C, though canvases by Diaz and Troyon, both of the Barbizon school, compel attention. Le Page is represented by a characteristic figure painting (No. 2851). Born in 1848, he died young, in 1884, but his influence outlived him. He was one of the pioneers of "pleinairisme." or the painting of figures in the open air, a tendency akin to Impressionism, and a revolt against the old style of painting done in the studio, with black shadows that are never seen out of doors.
The huge Grand Prix salon painting by Dagnan-Pouveret occupies Wall B. It stands apart from American painting, which, save for La Farge, shows little relation to the traditional subjects of Catholic art. A pupil of Gerome, and at first strongly influenced by Bastien Le Page, DagnanBouveret, born in 1852, brought a realistic attitude to the delineation of sacred themes.
A young California poet, Mary Malloy, has sought to give a lyrical interpretation of this picture in an exquisite set of verses published in "The Monitor," of which the first stanzas are:
"The blithest green of fairy glades
Glinting with beryl. filmed with dusks
And in its lucent heart of hearts