Home -> John J. Newbegin -> The Jewel City -> Chapter IX. Courts of Flowers and Palms

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The Courts of Flowers and Palms

The Court of Flowers typically Italian - Its delightful garden and fountain, "Beauty and the Beast," by Edgar Walter - Borglum's fine group, "The Pioneer" - The Court of Palms is Grecian in feeling - "The End of the Trail," by Fraser, a chapter in American history - Murals in the doorways - Arthur Mathews' "Triumph of Culture."

Recessed in the south front of the palace group, and leading back to the Court of the Seasons and the Court of the Ages, are two perfect smaller courts, each admirably living up to its name - the Court of Flowers and the Court of Palms. (See p. 85, 88, 93.) Both courts were designed by George W. Kelham. Each is a pleasant and colorful bay of sunshine facing southward between two graceful towers. One is bright with level fields of flowers, the other cool with greensward and palms set about a sunken garden. Both are calm, peaceful spots to rest and dream in the sun. Both are of the South. Here summer first unfolds her robes, and here she longest tarries.

Though at first sight these courts are much alike, they differ in feeling and effect. The Court of Flowers is Italian, the Court of Palms Grecian, though Grecian with an exuberance scarcely Athenian. Perhaps there is something Sicilian in the warmth of its decoration. When it is bright and warm, the Court of Palms is most Greek in feeling; less so on duller days.

But the Court of Flowers is Italian in all moods. With its shady balcony above the colonnade, it might be in Verona or Mantua. It is a graceful court, formal, yet curiously informal. Its paired Corinthian columns, its conventional lions by the porches and its flower girls around the balcony, its lamp standards and the sculptured fountain, go with formal gardens. The garden here is itself formal in its planting, and yet so simple, so natural, that it banishes all ceremony.

This garden is one of the best things in the truly wonderful floral show at the Exposition. The flowers are massed as we always dream of seeing them in the fields, - a dream never quite so well realized before. The areas of the court in the Exposition's opening weeks were solid fields of daffodils, thick as growing wheat, with here and there a blood-red poppy, set to accent the yellow gold of the mass. Other flowers have now replaced these in an equal blaze of color. Here, too, are free, wild clumps of trees and shrubs, close set, with straggling outposts among the flowers, as natural as those bordering grain fields in California valleys.

It is a summery court, lacking but one thing to make it ideally perfect. It ought to have crickets and cicadas in it, to rasp away as the warm afternoons turn into evening, and tree hylas to make throaty music in the still, rich-lighted night.

The statuary goes well with the court. There is a pretty, summery grace about the flower girls designed by Calder for the niches above the colonnade, and in the figures of Edgar Walter's central fountain. Here on the fountain are Beauty and the Beast, Beauty clad in a summer hat and nothing else, the Beast clothed in ugliness. (p. 100.) Never mind the story. This is Beauty, and Beauty needs no story. Four airy pipers, suggestive at least of the song of the cicada on long, hot afternoons, support the fountain figure. Around the basin of the pool is carved in low relief a cylindrical frieze of tiger, lion and bear, and, wonder of wonders, Hanuman, the Monkey King of Hindoo mythology, leading the bear with one hand and prodding the lion with the other.

Before the court The Pioneer sits his horse, a thin, sinewy, nervous figure; old, too, - as old as that frontier which has at last moved round the world. (See p. 87.) The statue, which is by Solon Borglum, is immensely expressive of that hard, efficient type of frontiersmen who, scarcely civilized, yet found civilization always dogging their footsteps as they moved through the wilderness and crossed the deserts. He is, indeed, the forerunner of civilization, sent forward to break ground for new states. This group is offset against that other fine historical sculpture, The End of the Trail, placed before the Court of Palms. As representatives of the conquering and the conquered race, the two must be studied together.

The elusive Grecian feeling of the Court of Palms comes in large part from the simple Ionic columns, and the lines of the gabled arches. Properly, this court is in the Italian Renaissance, but it is less Italian than the Court of Flowers. Like that court, it is warm and sunny, full of color and gladness. It has the same harmonious perfection, but it is more formal. Its sunken garden is bordered with a conventional balustrade and grass slopes, with marble seats by the paths. There is no fountain, only a long pool in the sunken area, and a separate raised basin at the inner end with gently splashing jets, giving out a cool and peaceful sound. Fat decorated urns, instead of lions, guard the entrances to the buildings. Italian cypresses border the court, with formal clipped acacias in boxes between the pillars of the colonnade.

The Fountain of Beauty and the Beast, which stands in the Court of Flowers, was designed to be set here, while Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney's Fountain of the Arabian Nights was to have found a place in the Court of Flowers. These two courts were planned as the homes of the fairy tales, one of Oriental, the other of Occidental lore. Many beautiful things were designed for them. The attic of the Court of Flowers, which was intended as the place of Oriental Fairy Tales, was to have carried sculptured stories from the Arabian Nights. But none of these things was done. Mrs. Whitney's fountain was modeled but never made, unfortunately, for the modeled figures are charming.

The only sculpture in the Court of Palms, aside from the "End of the Trail," which stands before it, is in the decoration of the entablature and the arches. Horned and winged female caryatids mark off the entablature into garlanded panels. All the three arches under the gables are enriched with figures of women and of children supporting a shield, conventional groups, but graceful.

"The End of the Trail," by James Earle Fraser, of New York, is a great chapter in American history, told in noble sculpture. The dying Indian, astride his exhausted cayuse, expresses the hopelessness of the Red Man's battle against civilization. (p. 86.) There is more significance and less convention, perhaps, in this than in any other piece of Exposition sculpture. It has the universal touch. It makes an irresistible appeal.

To make up for the lack of statuary in this court there are mural paintings over the entrances leading into the Palaces of Education and Liberal Arts on either hand, and into the Court of the Seasons. Of these three lunettes two add little to the beauty of the court except for the vivid touch of color which they give it. One, over the door of the Palace of Education, is entitled "Fruits and Flowers," by Childe Hassam. It is a triumph of straight line applied to the female form. Over the door of the Palace of Liberal Arts is "The Pursuit of Pleasure," ascribed to Charles Holloway. The figures are gracefully drawn, the coloring flowery. There is better quality in Arthur F. Mathews' "Triumph of Culture," over the entrance to the Court of Seasons. In color and force this comes nearer to the splendid standard set by Frank Brangwyn than anything else in the Exposition's mural decoration. Perhaps that is too faint praise, for this is a real picture. In it a victorious golden spirit, crowding aside brute force, allows the Humanities, representatives of Culture, to triumph as the guardians of Youth. The figures are human, there is strength and ease in them, and the color is a deep-toned song.

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