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Tribute of East to West
For the first time in the history of architecture since the days of the Greek supremacy, both painting and sculpture have been made subsidiary to the greatest of the arts - architecture. Famous men have wrought statues and painted pictures that are but a detail to round out the wonderful unity suggested in the buildings. In most places the painters have been hampered by the color restrictions imposed upon them by Guerin. In two cases where the artists have taken the liberty of following their own devices the murals riot in splendid hues, notably in the Brangwyn murals in the Court of the Ages, and Mathews' magnificent Victorious Spirit in the Court of Palms.
The Victorious Spirit is the most powerful color note of its kind, and though hung in a dark niche, is well worthy of the sincerest admiration. It symbolizes the power of the spirit of man over-riding difficulties, defeats and despair, and shedding over the darkened landscape and the figures sheltered beneath its wings the glory of its own light. The whole picture is filled with the golden glow emanating from a great winged angel. This mural has the rare quality of seeming to light up the dark space in which it is set. California may well be proud of this picture, for it stands alone in its peculiar glory.
It is flanked on either side by two pictures, in comparison poor in design and pale in color. The one to the left - Holloway's Pursuit of Pleasure - is thin and colorless, the central figure, Pleasure, strangely contorted. On the other side is Childe Hassam's Fruits and Flowers of the Earth. Childe Hassam is an easel painter, famous for his brilliant color and line effects. He has given us none of these in the cold and vacant canvas which represents him here.
Beneath the arch of the Tower of Jewels there hang perhaps the largest canvases painted since the days of the great Venetians, and it seems as if William de Leftwich Dodge has caught the highest note of triumph and joy, for these murals glow with life and spirit, in the patine background the painter has so faithfully followed the surface effect of the travertine that these paintings more than all the rest seem actually to be part and parcel of the great arch. He has fittingly chosen as his subject the story of the background leading up to the history and the completion of the Panama Canal, closing the sequence with the Crowning of Labor and the Victory of Achievement.
To the west in the center - The Meeting of the Waters - stands a gigantic figure, joining the hands of two graceful forms - the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. On the left the stolid oxen draw the prairie wagon, surrounded by the miner, the prospector, the engineer, and the farmer and sinking down before them into the blue waters of the Pacific the Indian slips into that oblivion to which the coming of the white race will drive him. On the right the Hindu mother reaches out to this promise of a better, freer life, her little child - she, the type of the Indian that Columbus expected to see. Behind her ranged as they have appeared upon the stage of our history, is a group of the nations that have helped to make its what we are. There is the Negro, the Chinese, the Greek, the Persian, the Syrian, the Arab, the Tartar and the Hun. All those from the Oriental lands have entered at some time or other into our national life. This comprises the central panel.
In the panel to the left of the center - Discovery - stands Balboa on the rock in Darien; behind him his followers, awed and silent. Ambition shelters Balboa with her wings and points to the shadowy distance. Below him the waters of the Pacific leap against the crag, and a galleon, bearing the banner of Spain, sweeps into view. Across from Balboa an Aztec Indian backed by the prairie schooner, sits mourning upon the ruins of his home, for death and desolation come to him with the coming of the adventurers from Spain.
In the panel to the right Dodge has raised to fine allegorical power a rather prosaic incident. He calls it The Purchase. To the left the men of France, disheartened, throw down their rusty tools. Behind them rises the ruin of their abandoned machinery, and France mournfully passes the deed to the Canal to the blithe young figure in whose outstretched hand is a full purse. Behind America who has grasped the deed stands Ambition, urging on the transaction and to the right a group of eager workmen reaching for their tools with joyous anticipation. Behind them are two dusky servitors carrying fruit and grain for the toilers.
On the east wall of the arch in the center is the Gateway of the Nations. Through the Canal come rioting the figures of Progress and Fame. Mounted upon the white horse of Ambition and urged on by the promptings of Achievement they hurry toward the West. Beneath them in the Canal disport the spirits of the sea, drawing after them a shadowy galleon and a great warship. At the side rises the sand shovel which made the Canal possible. Beside it the master-workman whose brain has dominated all this, stern, alert, untiring. At his feet, his labor done, crouches the man who has worked merely with his hands and who now sits inert with fatigue.
In the left panel on the east wall Achievement sits enthroned, and Labor, and Skill, and Progress, and the Arts and Sciences come and lay their tributes at his feet. In the right panel Labor is crowned by Toil, Industry, Patience and all the forces that lead to the success of those who strive.
These pictures, colored as they are in shades of rose and yellow, touches of deep blue and a very little green, keep to the color note set by Guerin and rely for their virile beauty on their peculiar strength and arrangement. The Meeting of the Waters is like a garland swung downward; the Gateway of the Nations is like a garland swung upward.
Beneath the arches of the East and West that flank the Court of the Universe there are four murals. Those of the East are rather pale and delicate in color those of the West much more vivid. One of these, because of its delicate coloring, has been perhaps too little appreciated - Edward Simmons' beautiful group of the Tribute of the East to the West on the north wall of the Arch of the East. True Hope in rose color and False Hope in gray lead Adventure to the West. False Hope casts behind her the rainbow bubbles of promise, and Adventure, ever hopeful, clad in radiant green, the symbol of reviving and unquenchable energy, stops to pick them up. Behind her come, Commerce with her ships; beautiful Inspiration in her flowered gown; Truth, naked and unafraid; Religion, humbly kneeling, her hand upon the cross upon her breast. Behind them, forth from the domes and minarets of the Oriental city, come Wealth with her lap full of treasures, and the Mother and Child of the Old World, all following the bubbles of promise into the new land of the West.
On the south wall of the Arch of the East, urged on by the impish spirit Ambition blowing the trumpet of fame, the Toiler plods westward. Above his head little elves whisper of the founding of a great race and of power and place. The war galleon lies at anchor ready to sail, and the Warrior sharpens his sword. The Explorer, the Preacher, the Artist, and the Toiler last of all, again urged on by Ambition, all turn with eager eyes toward the West. These two murals are paler than all the others. The figures of the one on the north are exquisitely drawn; the faces rarely beautiful.
Under the Arch of the West Dumond has taken for his theme the departure of the travelers to the land of the West. There is little of allegorical meaning here, in sharp contrast to those beneath the Eastern Arch. Beneath the shade trees of the old farmyard the youth bids his aged father farewell. In the distance the tiny church lifts its spire. The old prairie wagon loaded with the impracticable things that our forefathers brought to the West, rolls on before him, and the group about it is made up of types of those travelers who drifted westward with it in those pioneer days - the poet, the toreador, the college professor, the pioneer woman who with her shawl about her head went out to do her works of mercy in her neighbor's house as well as in her own. These and others of that sturdy type and day surround the wagon drawn by the heavy horses. In front Ambition blows the horn to lead them on, and in front of Ambition, needing no invitation, spurred by the memory of their wrongs and privations. the immigrants from lands far across the Atlantic fare forward to the land of promise with their few possessions in bundles in their hands.
On the other side of the arch is the arrival of the travelers in the West. In the vanguard are the soldiers of Captain Anza in red and white. They should have been clothed in blue and buff, but Dumond needed the more brilliant red for his color scheme and took the painter's license to clothe them thus. Fame sends them on and there follows a group said to be portraits of historic figures notable in the days of our development here. Painters, poets, writers, miners, prospectors, all these follow the ox team and march to the feet of radiant California. She sits crowned in gold, blazoned with mellow light among her fruits and flowers, the bear quiescent at her hand; behind her the bright spirits of this promised land shower gifts upon the travelers. These two pictures are as strong and bright in color as those beneath the other arch are pale and delicate.
In the Court of the Four Seasons the murals are arranged two and two about the fountains. There is a singular repetition about them. It seems as if Mr. Bancroft has carried almost into exaggeration the note of reiteration which helps to give to this court its peculiar quality of restful peace. Beneath the half dome are perhaps the best two of these ten murals, all by Bancroft. Art Crowned is very rich and decorative in effect. Time holds the laurel wreath above her head and all the decorative arts - glass-making, jewelry, painting, weaving - come to do her honor. On the other notable mural Man comes to receive instruction from the Arts. The Mother of the Arts holds him lovingly, and Life and Love and Skill and Ambition come to teach him to create. About the court are such groups as Seedtime, Harvest, Festivity, Winter, and Autumn, all in groups of three seated or standing, the figure in the middle balanced by two figures crouching or a little remote. The best groups are the richly colored Fruition, the dainty vivacious group of Autumn, and the one of Seedtime. The standing figure in Seedtime is full of dignity and power. Autumn is most virile Fruition, a great commanding figure accepting the wine and fruits of the earth, has a simple reposeful dignity that is very impressive.
These murals too are in conformity with the regulations that Guerin has set down and are loveliest therefore at night when the soft light intensifies their thick dull color. The indirect lighting seems to give the life that the color in the daytime lacks.
Beneath the dome of the Palace of Fine Arts are the murals by Robert Reid. To do them justice they should be veiled in the daytime and shown only at night. Placed as they are against the vault of our blue sky and backed by intenser blues in the painting of the dome, their veiled mists of yellow and orange do not lend the color they should. Against the indigo velvety coloring of the night skies, in the indirect lighting, they take on a splendid lustre. The idea of the Four Golds of California is beautifully carried out - the poppy, the orange, the metal and the grain. Each in a characteristic richness of color tells its own story; the floating nymph in each bearing the flower, the fruit, the grain or the metal in her hand. They are rather fantastically placed, with little cupids peeping here and there through the folds of rather irrelevant trailing, scarf-like drapery.
The other panels are more interesting and tell the story of the inspirations that have led to art; in one what the Orient has given; the Chinese and Japanese - the dragon and the eagle. In another, what pomp and pride and victory and ambition and religion and piety have given ; and in the others, what the sciences, discovery, study and exploration have brought to art.
To do justice to the great Brangwyn murals in the Court of the Ages one should stand under the central arch, first to the south and look eastward at the feast of color in the Primitive Water picture. Then face westward go no nearer, and look upon the vivid wonderful line work and the master-hand in the picture Air Controlled. Then down half way to the cast center of the colonnade and look toward Fire Controlled and Water Controlled; then down the north side and see Primitive Fire and the Fruits of the Earth. There is a feast of color at each turn; long distances, shadowy lights and shifting clouds and figures instinct with life.
In passing close to the pictures look away, because on near view they take on in some respects an air, almost grotesque, so heavy is the line, so high the color, so intense the shadows. It is a pity that it is possible for any one to be within less than twenty feet of these wonderful pictures. The most beautiful - Primitive Water and Air Controlled - should be placed for all time with us, but up high on some wall, well lighted, when nothing but their splendor and majesty will appeal. They are by far the strongest pictures among the murals at the Exposition, but they are placed too low to do them proper justice.