Home -> Other Books -> Storied Walls of the Exposition -> Chapter 6 - Sculpture

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Chapter VI


Unique in all respects, the sculpture at the Exposition is new in type, for it forms for the first time in exposition history simply a note in the architecture as a whole. This has been tried elsewhere in single features but never before on so complete a scale. The use of travertine as a building material has made this possible and the sculpture throughout on frieze, decorative niche figure, and detached and fountain groups, all seems a part of the architectural scheme a unit in the building plan.

There are many classes of figures, varying widely in purpose and intention. There are the composite groups upon the arches of the East and West; the equestrian figures, the Pioneer, the wonderful End of the Trail, the Scout; the joyous rioters in the basin of the Fountain of Energy; niche figures of the fairies in the Court of Flowers; the graceful star torches in the Court of the Universe; the conquistador and the pirate on the Marina; the great winged archangel, Saint Michael, on the arches of the East and West; the allegorical group of Creation; the figures of Fire, Earth, Air and Water in the Court of the Universe; the Vestal guarding the flame in front of the dome of the Art Palace; the hopeless Pioneer Mother; the portrait figures of Lafayette, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin; the superb Lincoln by St. Gaudens; William Cullen Bryant; the unimpressive Henry Ward Beecher, and the unknown Barry, all to be found in front of the Palace of Fine Arts. On the Tower of Jewels are the Crusader Horseman, the Philosopher, the Adventurer, the Soldier and the Priest. In the Court of the Ages are the groups on the tower indicating the upward rise of man, the figures grouped about the Fountain of the Earth and the great figure of Civilization. In many of these the nude has been emphasized and in fact has been exploited to the point of criticism.

Beneath the dome of the Palace of Fine Arts, in place of beautiful unbroken vistas, the space is crowded by statues in very little harmony with the classic beauty of the dome. Our debt to Lafayette is undeniable, but even he, being a Frenchman and of good taste, would not be happy to find himself in Continental regimentals bestride his war horse under a Byzantine dome so far away in tone and atmosphere front the thought of martial things. Benjamin Franklin too is there with his little bundle of bread and clothes and his three-cornered hat; and a college athlete in gown and sweater, his books upon his arm; and a memorial to a man named Barry that nobody seems to know anything about. There is a statue too of William Cullen Bryant in pensive mood. None of these are particularly striking, neither good nor bad, perhaps because they are placed in contrast with the prosaic figure of the Pioneer Mother. There are no words to describe the Pioneer Mother. She must be seen as the final note that goes far to spoil the noble simplicity of those arches giving out on the lagoon.

Along the colonnade in front of the Art Palace are many very lovely little statues. Perhaps the setting against the wall of green to the west or the glint of the lagoon beyond to the east lends them an added fascination. There is the baby with the fish and the baby with the ducks; the baby with the wild flower on her head; and two piping babies and the dancing baby, and a sun-dial baby with a doll; archers shooting their arrows upward into the sky and downward into the months of serpents; small fountain boys blowing spray in clouds and a lovely little Diana poised above a globe, her slender fingers having just released an arrow from her bow.

In contrast to these dainty fairy children there is the powerful figure of the Indian waving a scalp, Primitive Man, the Return from the Chase, the Runner from Marathon, the solemn heavy marble figure of the Outcast, the tragic story plainly told the exquisite and poetic L'Amour - The First Kiss.

Raised on an altar and backed by the dainty green of the walls that surround the dome, kneels Stackpole's figure of the Vestal, guarding the flame of Inspiration which must burn forever on the Altar of Art, an exquisite, solitary figure, most beautifully placed, and one of the very satisfying bits throughout all this wonderland. Below her is a classic frieze on the face of the altar, representing all sciences, all labor, bringing their tribute to Inspiration.

At the turn of the corridor leading out of the Art Palace and beautifully placed under a tree fronting the lake, is a marble figure of Meditation. At the south end of this same colonnade of the Art Palace is the splendid St. Gaudens' Lincoln. The great statesman sits pensive, the weight of all his country's future on his shoulders and calm confidence in his eyes. Across from him is Henry Ward Beecher. It is hard to think of Beecher, eloquent, fiery, magnetic, superb, in this squat figure that faces Lincoln.

About the lake are many beautiful groups - a Diana, a water nymph, a circle of exquisite dancing figures - the Wind and Spray - instinct with life; they seem to laugh aloud as they riot about in the tumbling water.

Half screened by trees and doubly fine because of perfect placing, is the figure of an Indian scout, alert, on guard, he and his horse ready for what may come. This is one of the best bits of realistic sculpture.

At the end of the Court of Palms stands the finest touch of realism in the grounds - The End of the Trail. Wind-blown, despairing, desperate, lost perhaps, the little cayuse has reached the end of his strength. Upon his back, the rider, blinded, fainting, sits loosely, head down, beaten, at "the end of the trail." This wonderfully realistic figure from our own pioneer life should be made the gift to San Francisco from her children at the close of the Exposition. It should stand in Lincoln Park in enduring bronze, facing the ocean, there at the very end of the trail!

At the opening into the Court of Flowers stands the joyous, triumphant figure of the true old Pioneer, old only in the sum of his years. Courageous and confident, he starts forth to conquer the new land, armed with his axe and his rifle, to hew out his home and to hold it against all comers. This is the real pioneer.

Well placed in front of the Tower of Jewels are two of the great Spanish conquerors - Pizarro who gave South America to Spain, and Cortez, the tyrant of Mexico. This latter figure, with lance and banner, is well modeled and typical of the daring Spanish adventurer. Pizarro, in full armor, is perhaps the more picturesque.

On the Tower of Jewels are four figures regularly repeated - the Soldier of Fortune, the Philosopher or Student, the Priest, and the Adventurer or Colonizer. These figures are of heroic size and splendidly placed on the first lift of the tower. Next is a fine group - the Crusader Horsemen, with bannered lances, topped with the cross, similarly repeated.

Badly placed in front of Machinery Palace, stands Creation, the group that should have been beneath the dome of the Art Palace. The face of Creation is grave and full of wistful tenderness. She shelters beneath her drooping wings the figures of Adam and Eve. About their feet circles the snake, through which came to them the knowledge of sorrow and sin and despair. Though parted, beneath the sheltering wings of the All-Mother their hands are about to clasp to show that those who truly love are never really apart. How beautiful it would have been to have placed the First Kiss opposite the doors of the Art Palace and Creation beneath the dome, that we might think again of Adam and Eve in "Paradise Lost" when cast forth into the outer vast, strong in love and hope -

"The world was all before them where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide,
They hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way."

Without proper background, poorly placed, this Creation is still the strongest, the most poetically beautiful, group on the grounds.

Fronting the Marina, at the end of the colonnade leading out of the Court of the Universe, superbly placed, rises the classic column crowned by the Adventurous Bowman. The arrow of Progress has sped from his hand out into the west. Youth beside him confident and exultant, marks it in its flight, while at his feet crouches Victory with her wreath ready to crown him when it falls. The Bowman, Youth and Victory stand above the toilers whose bent backs support their weight, for some must toil that others may climb. The superb column rises above a square pedestal, garlanded with laurel wreaths - the sign of victory; the eagle for ambition, at each corner.

Sacrificial UrnAbout the base are four fine panels in bas-relief. To the south, Patience and Achievement open the gates and summon their trumpeters to sound the pan of victory for those who have striven and shall arrive to enter the portals of fame. To the east the Scholar, the Scientist, whose failing strength is supported by the tender woman at his side; Thought with arms outstretched beneath the eagle - the emblem of ambition and soaring flight; then the General and the Statesmen march on toward the goal of achievement. To the north, in the center, is shown Energy; to one side of this a man, faltering and failing, cheered by the woman's all-protecting love. To the other side a man struggling forward, held firmly up by a woman joined to him in the shackles of love and the aged priest praying for strength that he may go on until his work is done. To the west the toilers with their hands, the men bearing heavy sheaves of wheat the boy who pauses, weary but undefeated; the man spent with toil, still led on by the woman, helpful, cheering, unafraid, and behind another toiler who catches her bright spirit and hurries on. In this frieze Konti has paid a beautiful tribute to the helpful companionship of woman.

From its base the great Column rises majestically, circled by a spiral hand up which sail the galleons of old Spain. At the top beneath the frieze of the toilers is the Greek egg and dart, symbolic of the rich gifts of the earth to those who toil for them. McNeil at the top and Konti at the base have here wrought a harmony as wonderful as any that characterizes the building group and decorations throughout the Exposition.

At night in white radiance, the base in deep shadow, the Bowman seems to soar above this earth, sometimes mirrored on the fog banks - the mighty figure becomes a series of shifting shadows, weird and compelling.

Festal UrnsThe urns that adorn the walls, the niches and the colonnades are of particular interest. These are of two general classes - the sacrificial urns used at sacrifices and religious ceremonies, and the festal urns, used on occasions of rejoicing. The two types shown are Greek in form.

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