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The fountains form a most important element of the decoration of the courts and provide the motif for some of the finest symbolic sculpture in the Exposition. Most of the work is of a very high order of conception and execution. Some of it is commonplace.
Fountain of Energy
As the triumph of energy and the victory of the mind of man over the difficulties of nature are the keynotes of the Exposition, so it is fitting that the great Fountain of Energy should rise in the open square at the main entrance to the grounds.
In the basin of the fountain riot dolphins and sea nymphs in fantastic form. The four oceans are there - the gay Atlantic, a mermaid on a dolphin the Southern Ocean, a South Sea Islander on a manatee; the Pacific Ocean, a siren mounted on a fantastic seal and the Northern Seas, an Aleut astride a walrus. From the center of the basin rises the globe of the earth encircled by the ocean currents. With locked arms, they riot about the globe. Up and down on either side on the face of the globe rush the winds. Here and there are little sea-horses, symbolic of the speed and energy of the unchecked sea. Homer speaks of the waves as horses of the sea.
On the globe, mounted on a huge charger striding irresistibly forward, is the virile figure of a man, the very essence of directed strength. Upon his shoulders perch two utterly irrelevant and unnecessary figures. They are not even needed as a matter of balance. Were that thought necessary in the artist's mind, a cloak or scarf would better have carried out the idea, whirling its folds about the rider's head and streaming out behind.
In contrast to this fountain which is glorious in the late afternoon when all jets are spouting and the sinking sun turns into rainbow splendor its fleecy, misty veils, two smaller fountains, similar in design, rise on either side from the ends of the pools in this same splendid open square. One of these fountains is in front of the Palace of Horticulture and one in front of Festival Hall. They are the last touch of the French Renaissance, the late French Renaissance - the time of the Louis'. Above a shell-like bowl, supported by dolphins, rises a graceful shaft, richly garlanded. This in turn supports another shell bowl and out of this rises the exquisite figure of a mermaid who riots amid the spray which she herself has dashed about. These are the work of Putnam, the only work of this genius to be seen at the Exposition. Failing health has robbed the world of further gifts from his master hands. These lovely fountains should be kept playing always that the mermaids might be veiled in flying spray. Classically considered, according to time and setting, these are in many respects the most nearly perfect fountains at the Exposition.
In comparison with these mermaids the group of Beauty and the Beast in the Court of Flowers suffers by an almost direct contrast.
The Rising Sun
Go to the Court of the Universe early in the morning. Enter it from the west and stand to the side on the south of the steps leading into the sunken gardens, and there soaring aloft with the new day is the figure of the Rising Sun, so instinct with life and beauty that it is difficult to speak of it in any way but as a living thing.
The poet Shelley, who so loved this beautiful world of ours and of whose beauties he could so well tell, sings to the skylark:
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! -
Higher still and higher
In the golden lightning
Teach me half the gladness
These lines to the lark live again in the Rising Sun.
In the late afternoon when the golden light steals through the arch below and the long shadows of the West encompass her, stand and watch Descending Night drop softly down with pinions folded; and Longfellow's tender lines come to mind:
The day is done, and the darkness
And the night shall be filled with music
Poised aloft on columns these two beautiful figures seem to float in airy loveliness in front of the heavy triumphal arches that back them. They breathe the purity and sweetness of the new-born day and the day departing. In bas-relief on the drums below Weinmann carries out the thought of the figures above. Beneath the Rising Sun the sign of Apollo, the sun god, calls upon all the earth to awaken and to rejoice. Sloth and crime, toil and ignorance, turn their scowling faces toward him, and the lost woman veils her face in her hair that the sun may not shine upon her sin and her sorrow and her shame. On the other gentle Night and Dreams brood over the weary world. The mother cradles her child, lulling it into dreamless sleep. The man and the woman look sorrowfully upon the last departing beams of the day so bright and dear to them, and for its Celia Thaxter sings:
I have so loved thee but cannot, cannot hold thee.
Thy glow and charm; thy smiles and tones and glances
About the lagoon facing the Art Palace there are several smaller fountains - one notably interesting, it is so instinct with life and motion - the Wind and Spray. The dancing figures circle about in a frenzy of joy and freedom.
Within the Art Gallery there are several small fountains, none of them especially strong either in modeling or in original conception. The group of Titans by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in the entrance hall of the Art Palace is unworthy her best efforts, for where in the Fountain of El Doradlo she has secured loveliness and power, here is only cumbersome strength.
Fountain of Ceres
At the end of the colonnade leading from the Court of the Four Seasons is the dignified Fountain of Ceres. The north winds from the bay seem to blow back her airy robe. In one hand she holds a stalk of corn and in the other a laurel wreath. About the base riot in gay dance a beautiful group of nymphs. It is fitting that this Fountain of Ceres should stand in the Court of the Four Seasons, as it was to her that the Greeks attributed the six months of their beautiful weather, their flowers, their blue skies and their rich harvests and the six months of winter darkness, autumn decay and early spring frost.
In four niches set about the Court of the Four Seasons are fountains by Piccirilli, representing Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The repetition of these figures in each group is restful and dignified. The groups themselves are neither original nor particularly interesting. The central figure in each is finely posed and in the Autumn gronp, most graceful; but all seem to lack spirit. They are beautifully set in their niches above steps down which slips a silver veil of water. Above them long pendent streamers of green swing softly in the breezes. These groups add a beautiful note to this court.
Fountain of Evolution
In the Court of the Ages Robert Aitken has set a fountain that tells in tragic fashion of the rise and downfall of man. It is in strange contrast to the airy lightness and grace of this most beautiful court, bearing as it does its stern lesson of man's slow development. It is the story of man's mental and physical rise Above the wings of Destiny, whose mighty head is hidden beneath the waters, lie groups of figures on either side. On the west side the great pointing finger gives life, at first dimly suggested in the limp figures of two women. A third one is rousing herself from oblivion. The next two have known love, and the woman lifts her child out toward the earth. Then comes the gap to symbolize the time, after the creation of man, for which there is no history of his life or development.
The group to the south of the fountain centers on the figure of a woman with a mirror in her hand. Through the vanity and pride of woman came sorrow and toil into life, say the Scriptures. Through the vanity and ambition of woman came much that has been great and splendid. Next to this woman who perhaps strikes the first note in the upward march of human life, are two figures, toilworn and weary but tender of each other, bearing in their arms their children.
It is in harmony that all these varions groups about the fountain should be divided by the old Greek boundary-post - the terminus - topped by the head of Hermes, for each group marks a certain era in the progress of the upward rise of man.
The group to the west has been called most aptly Natural Selection. In the center stands the man dowered with might of mind, the wings of swift thought sprouting from his head. On either side the two women leave their baser mates to follow this master mind. One man turns helplessly away; the other, a creature of brute strength, will fight for his own.
Then another boundary-post; and to the north, again man's upward rise - the contest between intelligence and brute strength. Reason has cast behind him the woman of his choice and the other woman, she who has been scorned, seizes in the unequal contest the man of brute strength, that the man of reason may will. The third man gazes on the contest with sorrowful eyes; he seeks not to claim his lost mate, hopeless of regaining favor in her eyes.
Again a boundary-post, and to the east two men, one a warrior who would will by the sword and the other a son of toil, both with faces keenly intelligent, struggle for the love of a woman. To the north the aged father would dissuade the ambitions soil from the years of his experience knowing that the woman is unworthy. The mother pleads in vain to the son, who turns away unheeding toward the woman of his choice then unlawful love on the south Panel and the gap of oblivion through which all must pass before going down on the wings of Destiny unto death. Back on the wings of Destiny, on the east side, is seen first the miser, with the bulk of his worldly goods still clutched in his hands, and then the man of faith giving to the woman who is passing quietly out, the scarab, the Egyptian symbol of immortal life. And then two who have passed into unconsciousness and slip down into the waters of oblivion.
The Greeks believed that at the close of the day Helios, the spirit of the sun, blind and deaf, reached slowly up his mighty, unrelenting arms and drew the sun below the sea, hiding its glory and splendor beneath the dark waters. There the slimy, crawling things came and devoured its brightness, and night cloaked all the land. This figure of Helios drawing down the sun lies at the south end of the pool in the Court of the Ages.
The Fountain of Youth
In the eastern niche of the Tower of Jewels is the Fountain of Youth. Above the primroses, symbolic of young Greek girlhood, the figure of Youth stands gazing with frank, innocent eyes. Below, her aged parents gaze up through the mist of their tears at this vision of their lost childhood. Behind her the Phoenix has spread its extended wings, for Youth is always young, always vigorous and always beautiful. On either side stretch two friezes, most pathetic in their meaning - the aged, the forsaken, the deaf, the blind, the crippled, sailing toward this radiant vision, their boats guided by the spirits of their own vanished childhood.
Fountain of El Dorado
To the west in the other niche of the tower the fountain is almost forbidding in the stern lesson of life that it reveals. It is the Fountain of El Dorado; of the land of gold; of the dream of hearts' desire. The heavy doors behind which sits the Judge of all things, are all but closed. A great oak tree, suggesting disuse, has grown across the portals, and the servants of the unknown, Ignorance and Superstition, stand guard. On either side the man and woman of the world of strife and endeavor rush on to the land of hearts' desire. Two arrive at its gates and kneel humbly before the servants of the judge.
Stretching out on either side is a wonderful frieze. To the north side the first in the race is the unsexed woman who has thrown aside the garment of feminine charm. Swifter in intuition, her lithe form outdistances the men who run with her. Should she fall they will trample over her as she over them in the mad race for gold.
Next comes the pathetic figure of the woman who is content in her present happiness. She dreads the glitter and dazzle of the brighter day. Tenderly, beseechingly, her companion prays that she go with him into the promised land. How many stories, how many tragedies center on this problem - the lure of wealth coming to those who have but little and were content therewith. Next strides the man of might and power. Across his arm a woman rests. She slips from his grasp to be caught in the arms of a man of lesser mind and greater heart who, gazing upon her helplessness and beauty, forgets the El Dorado. Next a group of three - a woman who turns away from her helpless sister fallen by the wayside, her hand loosening its clasp on the limp arm. Behind the prone figure stands a man who will follow the stronger soul, come what may; and again, the toil-worn plodder on the road of life lifts the burden from the dust. Then there is the woman who has been deceived. Wrapt in the garment of distrust she gazes with frowning eyes, deaf to the pleadings of the preacher, the teacher, the guide beside her. With his arm about her as a brother might, the preacher pleads that he might lead her into the light of a better day. Then follows the man soul-torn his heart set upon the land of promise far beyond his duties here. Then the two who in the act of parting for the time forget in the anguish of coming separation the glory of the land of hearts' desire.
To the south the lesson is much the same. The first to come run in frantic fashion, crowding, shuffling, to the god. After them comes a woman, wild, demented with joy at the sight of the opening gate. Behind her the unconscious child dances in imitation of her frenzied joy. With slow and stately step next comes the man of dominant mind, his hand outstretched in calm confidence towards the light. Behind him, unseeing, plods the woman to whom his life is linked, her heavy eyes cast on the ground. She cannot see with him that promise of a brighter day. Following her and gazing earnestly at the woman who hesitates, is a man of weaker mould. He longs to follow the stronger soul, but the woman who hesitates keeps him irresolute too. Then the beautiful group of self-sacrifice; the beloved one has fallen exhausted on the road of life and the man and the sister spirit, forgetting all else, turn away from the land of fair promise to minister onto her. Next, the sordid group who quarrel for place and for the gold they already possess. Some of it has fallen and one who has crawled along in the dust has grasped it in his greedy hands. His back is turned to the El Dorado and he sees it not in the sordid joy of present possession. Then there is the man to whom the El Dorado will bring sight and life renewed; his face is transfigured with emotion; his sightless eyes turned toward the gate. Then the lost woman leading with her the son of toil, and beyond them the eager searching spirit, far removed from the land of promise but gazing with steady eyes, setting her face toward the land with energy untiring.
In these figures in this race of life Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney reads a terrible lesson of the sordidness and littleness in the heart and soul of man.
The Forbidden Fountain
Next to the lovely mermaids in the main entrance court, the fountain most beautifully set is that which leaps and plays in the sunlight or in the soft shadows of night in the center of the raised pool in the California garden. Set about with beds of radiant flowers in every color that these children of the soil can shed, this little leaping, chancing, gurgling jet of water is a wonderfully lovely thing. Most beautiful is it on a still moonlight night or on one of those nights when the fog drifts over the cypress hedges and the little fountain jet seems a part of the mists that steal softly over it. The tinkle of the water, coupled with the hum of the bees and the call of the birds, brings one closer to the heart of the spirit of those old romantic California days than any other thing in all this great Exposition. It were well if this perfect note could be preserved to give a place to rest and a proof that this beautiful dream has not all passed forever that at least this bit of it, real, tangible, and sweet, shall be a part of our daily lives.
It is perhaps in the gardens that circle this beautiful pool that the genius of John MeLaren has spread into fullest flower.
Beneath the half domes in the Palace of Food Products and the Palace of Education are two beautiful, very Spanish fountains - each an upraised bowl spilling a silver sheet of water into a bowl below. There are Spanish galleons and shells and heads about these fountains and the mist blows the spray about so as to make the old ships seems to move and the queer, grotesque heads to chatter. They make a very dignified center to the great half domes above.