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The Half Courts
In front of the Court of Palms we stopped to admire James Earl Fraser's "End of the Trail," the most popular group of sculpture in the Exposition. "It deserves all its popularity, doesn't it? It's finely imagined and splendidly worked out. The pony is excellent in its modeling and the Indian is wonderfully life-like."
At our side a man and a woman were standing, the man more than six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a face that had evidently seen a good deal of weather. "I've known fellers just like that Indian," we heard him say, "up in Minnesota. He might be a Blackfoot after a couple of days' tusselling with the wind and the rain in the mountains. I've seen 'em come into town all beat out. The man that made that statue knew his business. An' I guess he knew what he was doing when he called it 'The End of the Trail."'
When the visitor had passed, the architect said: "The symbolism gets them all, doesn't it; and the realism, too? But Fraser couldn't have expressed so much if he hadn't put a lot of heart into his 'Work. He really felt all that the Indian represented, as a human being and as a representative of a dying race."
"The Court of Palms" captured us both, by its shape, by the splendor of the Ionic columns, by the loveliness of its detail, by its coloring and by that charm of its sunken garden. "You can feel here the mind that developed those four Italian towers. It shows the same balanced judgment, and skill and taste. The two towers here, though they stand at either end of the court, and make a beautiful ornamentation, are really a part of the wall. They help to give it dignity and variety. And how artistically the palms have been used here. They can be among the least graceful of plants; but here they are really decorative. And those laurel trees at the side of the main doorway make fine ornamental notes. The sculptured vases, too, are wonderfully graceful."
Above the doorways we found the three murals that gave further distinction to this court and enriched the coloring. In "Fruits and Flowers" Childe Hassam had done one of his purely decorative pictures, without a story, contenting himself with graceful pictures and delicate color scheme. Charles Holloway made "The Pursuit of Pleasure" frankly allegorical, the floating figure of the woman pursued by admiring youths. Over the main doorway Arthur Mathews had also painted an allegory, "Victorious Spirit," the Angel of Light, with wide-spread wings of gold, standing in the center and keeping back the spirit of materialism, represented by a fiery horse driven by his rider with brutal energy. "Observe how successfully Mathews has chosen his colors. These deep purples help to bring out the splendor of those golden tones. This canvas is unquestionably one of the best of all the murals. It shows that in Mathews San Francisco has a man of remarkable talent, one of the great mural painters of the country."
On the way to the second half-court we had a chance to see the South Wall at close range, with its rich ornamented doorways, its little niches and fountains devised to make it varied and gay. Those little elephant heads were another sign of Faville's careful attention to ornamental detail. And the coloring gave warmth to the background, contrasting with the deep green of the planting.
At the Court of Flowers we met Solon Borglum's "Pioneer, too old to be typical, different from the man in lusty middle age or in youth who came to California in the early days. But it justified itself by suggesting perhaps the greatest of the pioneers in old age, one who had grown with the community, the poet, Joaquin Miller. "It's Miller sure enough," said the architect, "even if the likeness isn't close. But why those military trappings on the horse? Like the rest of the pioneers, Joaquin was a man of peace."
The Court of Flowers we thought well named, both for its planting, McLaren at his best, and for its Italian Renaissance decoration, with that pretty pergola opening out on the scene, Calder's Oriental "Flower Girl" decorating the spaces between the arches. And those lions by Albert Laessle were a fine decorative feature. The fountain, "Beauty and the Beast," by Edgar Walter, of San Francisco, was one of the most original and decorative pieces of sculpture we had seen. The figure of the girl standing on the coils of the beast was remarkably well done and the water flowing over the bowl, with the pipes of Pan glimpsed underneath, made a charming picture. There was a whimsical and a peculiarly French suggestion in the use of the decorative hat and sandals on the nude figure. In detail those two towers at the end were slightly different from the other two. Like the others they served as a decoration of the wall, breaking the long lines."