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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Philips Wouwerman

A View of Mount Calvary with the Crucifixion, 1652, Philips Wouwerman
Just as men are usually interested in different pastimes than women, the same tends to be true in each gender's choice of subject content in their art. That's not to say that, as with avocational interests, there isn't some overlap between the genders when it comes to art. There definitely is. I suppose now, that's more the case than then. Today, one might be safe to say that there is not a single male interest that doesn't also note some degree of feminine presence. That's undoubtedly true in most, if not all, opposite instances as well. Of course most of us septuagenarians (and probably some of those younger) can recall when this wasn't the case at all. I can remember at Thanksgiving, for instance, when our families used to come together; the women cooked; the men went rabbit hunting. Today, no one goes rabbit hunting but the men sometimes help prepare the feast, though mostly they just sit around and gab. And of course, the women do their share of that too.

Landscape with Peasants by a Cottage, 1651-53,  Philips Wouwerman
During the 17th-century, during the Dutch "Golden Age," as a few women began to achieve recognition as artists, never was there a stronger dichotomy as to gender related content. At a time when there was a tremendous amount of specialization as to painting content, women only painted flowers, portraits, children, genre, and still-lifes. Men, such as Philips Wouwerman, would sometimes paint some of that too, but also farm animals, ships, religious subjects, mythological nudes, group portraits, and barroom characters, some going so far as to secretly dabble in erotic content, even pornography. Philips Wouwerman specialized in the highly masculine pursuits of hunting, battle scenes, landscapes and horses with riders. Seldom did he paint portraits (especially not children), still-lifes (never with flowers) or much in the way of genre except for a few peasant landscapes (above). Philips Wouwerman was a man's artist.

Smoke and dust accented with a turbulent swirl of Cavalry violence.
These date from the mid 1650s.
The Gray, 1645-47, Philips Wouwerman
As might be expected in such a male dominated era as the 1600s, Philips Wouwerman was highly successful and extremely productive. His paint-ings were avidly sought-after by wealthy burghers and the emerging Dutch middle-class of his day. Wou-werman was extremely fond of horses. They recur again and again in his scenes of battlefields, army camps, hunting parties, riding schools, and stables. Wouwerman was the most ac-complished Dutch 17th-century painter of horses. They usually feature prom-inently in his small cabinet pictures, which combine landscape and genre elements. Naturally, he sought out equestrian subjects to display his talents, including simple, unpretentious scenes of farriers, stables, riding schools and travelers at rest, as well as larger, multi-figured compositions of hunting parties, army encampments and cavalry battles. Almost six-hundred paintings by Wouwerman have come down to us. Yet he is far from being a household name. Wouwerman's A View of Mount Calvary with the Crucifixion (top) is one of his best works and quite atypical of his usual content, though having virtually all the traits of his style as seen in two of his battle scenes (above).

A man painting for men.
Philips Wouwerman was the eldest son of the painter Paulus Joosten Wouwerman. Philips was baptized in Haarlem in May of 1619. His younger brothers, Pieter and Jan, also became artists, painting in much the style of Philips. Art historians and authenticators have long struggled to separate their works, often changing their attribution back and forth among the three. Wouwerman probably took his first instruction in painting from his father but he is said to have also been a pupil of Frans Hals, though that's questionable in that none of Hals' influence is evident in Wouwerman's work. In 1638, against the wishes of his family, Wouwerman travelled to Hamburg to marry a Catholic girl named Annetje Pietersz. van Broeckhof. They had ten children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. Wouwerman remained in Haarlem for the rest of his life. He died there in May of 1668.

Winter Landscape with Wooden Bridge, Philips Wouwerman
About 800 pictures were initially listed as the work of Philip Wouwerman. By some accounts, the number exceeded 1200. However, as of 2006, only about 570 pictures are now listed as authentic works, due to the fact that many of the pictures originally attributed to Wouwerman were actually painted by countless followers and imitators all over Europe. Jan and Pieter Wouwerman, Philips' younger brothers, have often been regarded as close followers, their pictures frequently attributed to Philips. The oeuvre of Pieter clearly manifests the influence of Philips as to the range of his subjects, as well as his artistic style.

Man and Woman on Horseback, 1653-54, Philips Wouwerman 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Henry Woods

On the Thames, Henry Woods
It's not too unusual, when studying the art and artists of the world, both now and then, to find some who have become icons of a given nation's art who were, in fact, born elsewhere. Pablo Picasso is a good example, born in Spain, living and working most of his life in France. Vincent van Gogh was Dutch but, like Picasso, mostly associated with French art. The same could be said of El Greco (a Greek painting in Spain), Mary Cassatt, and any number of European painters who fled Europe before and during WW II for the United States where they remained the rest of their lives. The British painter, Henry Woods, was one such artist, born in northwestern England, educated in London, but who lived and worked well over half his life in Venice, Italy, to the point he is often considered a Venetian painter.

A Country Studio, 1878, Henry Woods
Fruit Sellers from the Islands,
Henry Woods
Henry Woods was born in 1856, into a proper, middle-class British family. His father, was a pawnbroker and town councilor; his mother, a shopkeeper. He was the eldest of nine siblings. Woods studied first in his hometown Warrington School, where he received a Department of Science and Art bronze medal in 1865, along with a scholarship to study at South Kensington School of Art in London. Upon graduating in 1869, Woods became an illustrator for The Graphic, a London news-paper, where he became associated with the Pre-Raphaelite artist, John Everett Millais, and the Social Realists, Hubert von Herkomer and Frank Holl. That same year Woods began exhibiting at Royal Academy exhibitions. Woods' On the Thames (top) and his A Country Studio (above), from 1878, were likely painted around this time. The latter gives some idea of the scale upon which Woods painted.

At the Foot of the Rialto, 1879-83, Henry Woods
Courtyard in Venice, 1896, Henry Woods
Woods' first visit to Venice came in 1876 and, except for a few brief trips back to England, he stayed and worked there to the end of his life, portraying everyday life of Venetian people. He became friends with the artist colony of Ludwig Passini, August von Pettenkofen, van Haanen, Eugene de Blaas, Wolkoff, Ruben, and Thoren. He met James McNeill Whistler, and befriended by John Singer Sargent. It was his 1881 Venice paintings At the Foot of the Rialto (above) that aided him in gaining an associate membership in the Royal Academy in 1882; followed by full membership in 1893. At some point in time, Woods painted a second version of At the Foot of the Rialto (below). The Rialto, of course, refers to the famed bridge across Venice's Grand Canal. There's no indication I can ascertain as to which painting came first. It's interesting to compare the similarities and differences in the two.

At the Foot of the Rialto, ca. 1881, Henry Woods. I rather like this version best.
Henry Woods, late in life.
Woods is one of the few artists ever to work in, or visit, Venice who didn't spend most of his time and effort painting the canals. Although we see occasional glimpses of the city's famed waterways, Woods spent most of his time portraying the simple, everyday life of Venetian people. We see that in his Rialto paintings but also in works such as The Fan Seller (below) from 1882, painted a few years after he took up permanent residence in the city. Before 1882 Woods had a studio on the Casa Raffaelli, before taking a larger studio overlooking the Grand Canal, near the church of San Maurizio. During the summer, Woods worked in the village of Serra Valle. Henry Woods died in Venice, at his easel, on October 27, 1921, at the age of seventy-five.

A Venetian Fan Seller, 1882, Henry Woods
Figures by the Water's Edge, Henry Woods

La Promessa Sposa, 1890, Henry Woods

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

John Tyler Portraits

President John Tyler, 1859, G.P.A. Healy, official White House portrait. 
During his lifetime, his opponents referred to President John Tyler as "His Accidency." He was the first Vice-President to ascend to the highest office in the land through the death of a sitting president--William Henry Harrison. Harrison had served for only about a month before dying of pneumonia. For a time many in Congress preferred to refer to him as "acting president." Born in 1790, today, March 29, 2016, is John Tyler's 226th birthday. For those unfamiliar with the 44-name-long list of American Presidents, John Tyler was number ten, and some might say one of the more "forgettable" of the lot. His official White House portrait by G.P.A. Healy (above) would certainly not put him in line to win any presidential beauty contest. Yet the presidency of John Tyler was not as inconsequential as some might think. At a time when this Republic was still relatively young, Tyler set several important precedents and ushered in what was then the largest chunk of land ever to join the union--the great state of Texas (up until then an independent nation).
The Whig candidates, 1839
Vice President, John Tyler
The Whig National Convention of 1839 was eerily like what we may see in July, 2016, as the Republican Party meets in Cleveland, Ohio, to nominate a presi-dential candidate. By the time the Whigs met in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that year, the United States was in the third year of a serious recession, dubbed the Panic of 1837. President Van Buren's efforts to deal with the situation had been largely ineffectual, costing him public support. Moreover, the Democratic Party was so torn into factions that the head of the Whig ticket would likely be the next president. Harrison (above, center), Ken-tucky Senator, Henry Clay (above, left), and General Winfield Scott (above, right) all sought the nomination. Tyler attended the convention but was little more than a curious bystander among the Virginia delegation. He did nothing to aid his chances for even a second spot on the ticket. The convention deadlocked among the three main candidates, with Virginia voting for Clay. Many Northern Whigs opposed Clay. They showed the Virginians a letter written by Scott in which he apparently displayed abolitionist sentiments. The influential Virginia delegation then announced that Harrison was its second choice, causing most Scott supporters to abandon him in favor of Harrison, who gained the nomination.
President John Tyler, 1859,
G.P.A. Healy, National Portrait Gallery
The Vice-Presidential nomination was considered of little consequence. No president had ever failed to complete his elected term. Thus, not much attention was given to the choice. Tyler was a logical candidate--a Southern slave owner, he both balanced the ticket and calmed the fears of Southerners who felt Harrison might have abolitionist leanings. Tyler had been a vice-presidential candidate in 1836, thus having him on the ticket might win Virginia, the most populous state in the South. When Tyler's name was sub-mitted his home state of Virginia abstained from voting, yet he still received the need-ed majority. The party's famous campaign slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," says a lot about John Tyler's place on the ticket--an afterthought to win Virginia voters. Tyler's National Portrait Gallery image (left) is a somewhat cropped sec-ond version of Healy's earlier White House portrait (top). Harrison's death, a month into his presidency forever changed the heedless manner in which political parties were to choose presidential running mates.
Tyler arrived in Washington in the early morning hours of April 6, 1841. He was firmly resolved that he was, in name and fact, the President of the United States. Acting with determination, he had himself sworn in as president, without any qualifiers, in his hotel room, though he considered the presidential oath redundant to his oath as Vice-President. Nonetheless, he wished to put to rest any doubt over his accession. Immediately after his inauguration, Tyler called the Cabinet into session, having decided to retain its members. His Secretary of State, Daniel Webster informed him of Harrison's practice of making policy by a majority vote, fully expecting the new president to continue this practice. Astounded, Tyler immediately corrected them: 
"I beg your pardon, gentlemen; I am very glad to have in my Cabinet such able statesmen as you have proved yourselves to be. And I shall be pleased to avail myself of your counsel and advice. But I can never consent to being dictated to as to what I shall or shall not do. I, as president, shall be responsible for my administration. I hope to have your hearty co-operation in carrying out its measures. So long as you see fit to do this, I shall be glad to have you with me. When you think otherwise, your resignations will be accepted."
Take that, you Whigs!
Tyler was not really a Whig, or if so, he was but a recent convert. In essence his views were often diametrically opposed to those of the man he replaced. Though he was a strong states rights advocate he was often at odds with the Whigs in Congress. Twice he vetoed Henry Clay's pet bill for a national banking act. Following the second veto, Tyler's cabinet entered his office one by one and resigned—a move intended by Clay to force Tyler's resignation. The only exception was Daniel Webster, who remained to demonstrate his independence from Clay. The following day, when the President did not resign, the Whigs expelled Tyler from the party. Tyler was castigated by Whig newspapers and received hundreds of letters threatening assassination. The Whigs in Congress were so mad at Tyler they refused to allocate funds for the repair of the White House, which had fallen into disrepair. Needless to say, they weren't in the mood to pay G.P.A. Healy to paint his portrait (top), which had to wait some fifteen years.
Tyler was the first President to be married while in office.
John Tyler, 1860-65
It didn’t get any better. Tyler couldn’t get any legislation passed. He couldn’t appoint judges. His wife, Letitia, died. And in 1844, while he and his Cabinet were cruising the Potomac on the U.S.S. Princeton, a cannon exploded on deck and killed his Secretary of State, Secretary of Navy, and dozens more. I'll spare you the gory details, but the traumatic event wiped out many high ranking members of government. Tyler was below deck at the time and unhurt by the explosion. Shortly thereafter, the Whigs in the House of Representatives initiated the first ever im-peachment proceedings against a president. Until the presidency of the Whigs' arch-enemy, Andrew Jackson, presidents rarely vetoed bills, and then, only on the grounds of their unconstitutionality. Tyler's actions op-posed the Whigs' thinking that the pres-idency should allow Congress to make decisions regarding policy. The Bill of im-peachment was deemed premature, tabled, and later rejected. Upon the death of his wife, Letitia, in September of 1842, his daughter-in-law, Priscilla Cooper Tyler, took on the duties as First Lady until Tyler became the first president in history to be married during his term in office. On June 26, 1844, Tyler married Julia Gardiner, then twenty-four years of age and some thirty years his junior. Tyler also owns the distinction of having fathered more children than any other American president. With his first wife, Letitia, he had eight children. Tyler's second marriage to Julia Gardiner produced seven more children.

Sherwood Forest Plantation. Charles City County, Virginia,
John Tyler sculpture, 2004,
Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby

When Tyler's term ended in 1845, no one in Washington hated to see him go. John and Julia Tyler retired to their Sherwood Forest estate in Virginia (above) where the former president embraced the role of the plantation-owning, slave-owning farmer. His Whig neighbors mockingly made him "Overseer of Roads," a title which, to their dismay, he took seriously, often demanding their slaves for road work. Tyler withdrew from politics, his advice neither sought nor offered in the years leading up to the Civil War. However, on the eve of the war, Tyler re-entered public life as a participant in the Virginia Peace Conference held in Washington, D.C., as a last-ditch effort to prevent the war. The convention sought a compromise even as the Confederate Constitution was being drawn up in Montgomery, Alabama. Despite his leadership role, Tyler came to oppose the convention's final resolutions. He felt that they would do little to bring back the lower South and restore the Union. Throughout Tyler's life, he suffered from poor health. As he aged, he suffered more frequently from colds during the winter. In January, 1862, after complaining of chills and dizziness, he vomited and collapsed. He died shortly thereafter due to a stroke. Because of his allegiance to the Confederacy, Tyler's death was the only president in history not to be officially recognized in Washington. He had requested a simple burial, but instead, Confederate President Jefferson Davis devised a grand, political funeral, painting Tyler as a hero to the new nation. His coffin was draped with a Confederate flag, the only former president ever to be buried under a foreign flag.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Adriaen van de Venne

Fishing for Souls, 1614, Adriaen van de Venne
It doesn't take a genius to realize that when times are good, art thrives, as do the artists who make it. When times turn bad, as in times of economic turmoil, political upheavals, war, even the periods leading up to wars and the years after a war, until things return to normal, hardships range from difficult to catastrophic for art and artists. I experienced this personally in 2008 as the U.S. economy took a nosedive into what's since come to be called the "Great Recession." A year or so earlier I'd finally been able to line up gallery representation through a high-end shopping mall establishment in Columbus, Ohio. They were doing relatively well for me. I was painting OSU football players in action, which were selling for reasonably good prices, even after the gallery took their cut. Then the recession hit. Art sales were the first casualty. They didn't just dry up; they blew away. The gallery went broke; I even lost a couple paintings in the ensuing melee. Of course, that was a minor bump in the road as compared to an outbreak of war such as happened in the Netherlands from about 1568 to 1648 (since come to be known as the Eighty Years War). During this time, the Dutch fought for their independence from the Spanish branch of the Hapsburg royal family of Austria (heirs to the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages). The artist, Adriaen van de Venne, was born in the midst of this awful period, during the year 1589.
Summer, 1614, Adriaen van de Venne
Adriaen van Venne,
Wenceslas Hollar
Though born in Delft (south Holland), the young boy grew up and attended school in nearby Leiden. He learned to paint, as did many young would-be artists of that time as an apprentice to a goldsmith before moving on at the age of twenty-five to the city of Middleburg where he was influenced, if not actually taught, by Jan Brueghel the Elder and his father, Pieter Brueghel the Elder. He apparently began his career as an artist/illustrator/engraver around 1614 in that few of his works bear dates before that year. Van de Venne's Summer (above) and Winter (below) both date from 1614 and are typical, though not exceptional insofar as Dutch landscapes of the 17th-century "Golden Age" are concerned. Van de Venne's most famous painting dates from this era, an allegory on the religious struggles between Dutch Protestants and Spanish Catholics during his time. It's titled Fishing for Souls (top) as both groups work to rescue "drowning" souls during the Dutch Revolt.

Winter, 1614, Adriaen van de Venne
Adriaen van de Venne was fortunate to have been born when he was and thus to have come of age as a painter in the midst of what historians have come to call the Twelve-Year's Truce. Maurice, Prince of Orange succeeded his father William the Silent as the Protestant ruler of Zeeland in 1585, adding the cities of Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel in 1590, and Groningen in 1620. As Captain-General and Admiral of the Union, Maurice organized the Dutch rebellion against Spain into a successful revolt which won him fame as a military strategist. Under his leadership, and in cooperation with Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the ruler of Holland, the Dutch army was able to drive the Spanish out of the north and east of the Republic. As a result, there began the Twelve Years' Truce, though there was nearly as much conflict between the two Dutch rulers as there had been between the Dutch and the Spanish. It ended with Van Oldenbarnevelt's decapitation. After the Truce, Maurice failed to achieve any more military victories. He died at The Hague in 1625. Adriaen van de Venne painted his portrait (below) as Maurice lay in state shortly before his funeral.

Maurice, Prince of Orange, Lying in State, 1625, Adriaen van de Venne
The truce ended in 1621 with renewed hostilities which also involved the French and English in various complicated alliances for another seventeen years, finally ending in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 when the Dutch Republic was recognized as a fully independent nation. Adriaen van de Venne lived though all this and despite such conflicts the era continued to be known as the Dutch Golden Age. Two of his allegorical paintings, Allegory of the Truce of 1609 between the Netherlands and Spain, (below, left) from 1616, and Allegory of Poverty (below, right) from 1630, can be seen as social comments on the current events of his day.

Van de Venne was a sharp visual commentator on the events of his day.
Adriaen van de Venne's monochromatic grisaille paintings (below) reflect what he saw as the foolish irony of this tortured period. I'm especially fascinated by his titles, Altogether too Stupid, Fools Have the Most Fun, and his cynical Where There Are People, Money Is to Be Made. His Death Dance (below, left) is a devastating comment on the horror and insanity of war, despite the fact that this one led to Dutch independence.

Death, foolishness, stupidity, and greed were all valid content for van de Venne's art.
Adriaen van de Venne survived until 1662. During the latter years of his life he turned to depicting religious works such as his The Marriage at Cana (below), from around 1660. However, what I like most about van de Venne's work is his dry sense of humor, not unlike that of a political cartoonist today, or as seen not quite so dryly in his Tumbling Skaters (bottom), from around 1620-26. Here is a man who, despite difficult times, had fun with his art.

The Marriage at Cana, 1620-26, Adriaen van de Venne.
Jesus appears to have been eating a bit much at the wedding feast.
Tumbling Skaters, 1620-26, Adriaen van de Venne


Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Luxembourg Gardens

The Luxembourg Palace, the Jardin du Luxembourg, and sailboats
One of the greatest regrets I have from all my travels is that I did not have enough time in Paris to see all I wanted. Moreover, the chances seem slim that I shall ever get to go back and take in the "leftovers" that didn't make it onto my schedule the first time around (2015). I could easily spend a second week in the city. However, my wife didn't much care for Paris. She complained that everyone spoke French, she didn't like most of the ingredients in French cooking, and in any case, there wasn't much that interested her in the city for which she would be willing to be on her feet long enough to take in. I sympathize somewhat with her last complaint but find the all of them easily worth dealing with. It is Paris, after all. At the top of my "wish I'd seen" list would be the Rodin Museum, the Petit Palace, the Versailles Gardens, and the Luxembourg Palace and Gardens. The gardens especially should be near the top of any "must see" list of anyone visiting Paris. This is about that lovely mid-city garden spot and what I missed.

The Jardin du Luxembourg from the air (top), from a map, and from a map of
the gardens (middle) of the many queens of France which grace the gardens (bottom).
This marks the first of a series of items I'll be doing during the next few weeks and months in highlighting the most beautiful gardens in the world. The Jardin du Luxembourg and all the others were created by artists, which means they are manmade in design. I won't be including "National" Parks such as the Grand Canyon in this country or the Swiss Alps in Europe. They are, in essence, God-made parks, their beauty the grace of God. I think it unfair to compare them to the meager, contrived, decorative efforts of the landscape design artist. Doing so would be like comparing fountains and waterfalls.

The Medici Fountain in spring, autumn, and summer.
Marie de' Medici, of the Florentine de' Medici family, and the widow of France's Henry IV, also the regent for the King Louis XIII, decided to build a palace in imitation of the Pitti Palace in her native Florence. In 1611 she purchased the hotel du Luxembourg (today the Petit Palace) then began construction of her new palace. She commissioned Salomon de Brosse to build the palace and a fountain (above), both of which still exist. Around 1612, as construction was coming along nicely, she had planted 2,000 elm trees, and directed Tommaso Francini, and a series of others, to build a park in the style she had known as a child in Florence. Francini planned two terraces with balustrades and parterres laid out along the axis of the chateau, aligned around a circular basin (top). He also built the Medici Fountain (above) to the east of the palace as a nympheum, an artificial grotto and fountain, minus its present reflecting pool and statuary. The original garden was just eight hectares (a little short of 20 acres) in size.

Jardin du Luxembourg, 1829, Christophe Civeton
Some twenty years later, the queen bought additional land and enlarged the garden to thirty hectares (about 74 acres), then entrusted the work to Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie, the head gardener of the royal gardens of the Tuileries and the Gardens of Versailles. He was one of the early theorists of the new and more formal jardin à la française (French Garden). He also laid out a series of squares along an east-west alley at the east end by the Medici Fountain, along with a rectangle of parterre de broderies of flowers and hedges in front of the palace. In the center he placed an octagonal basin with a fountain having a perspective toward what is now the Paris observatory. Having created all this, later monarchs largely neglected the gardens in favor of those at Versailles. In fact, around 1780, the Comte de Provence, the future Louis XVIII, sold the eastern part of the garden for real estate development.

The Luxembourg Palace and the grand vistas of the Jardin du Luxembourg
An original model of
the Statue of Liberty.
However, in the years after the French Revolution, the new government expanded the garden to forty hectares (almost 99 acres) by confiscating the land of the neighboring religious order. Jean Chalgrin, the architect of the Arc de Triomphe, took on the task of restoring the garden. He revamped the Medici Fountain and laid out a long perspective from the palace to the observatory. He preserved the famous pepiniere, (nursery garden) and the old vineyards, while keeping the garden in a formal French style. A few years later, during and after the July Monarchy of 1848, the park became home to a large population of statuary Queens and famous women of France, lining the terraces. Late in the 19th century, there were added, monuments to writers and artists, as well as a small-scale model of Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty. During the reconstruction, Gabriel Davioud, the Director of Parks and Promenades of Paris, built new ornamental gates and fences around the park. He also transformed what remained of the old nursery garden, at the south end of the park, into an English garden with winding paths, and a fruit orchard in the southwest corner.

A panoramic view of the Jardin du Luxembourg
Today, the garden is largely devoted to a green parterre of gravel and lawn enhanced by statues and centered on its large octagonal basin of water, with a central jet. There children sail model boats (top). The garden is famed for its calm atmosphere. Surrounding the basin on the raised balustrade terraces are a series of statues of former French queens, saints, and copies after the Antique. In the southwest corner, there is an orchard of apple and pear trees and the Theatre des Marionettes. The Orangerie displays art, photography and sculptures. The gardens include a large fenced-in playground for young children and a vintage carousel. In addition, there are free musical performances in a gazebo on the grounds next to a small café nearby, under the trees, with both indoor and outdoor seating where visitors may enjoy the music over a glass of wine.

A French sailor boy.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

William Woodward

United Fruit Company Mural, SS. Atenas, 1921, William Woodward
When one paints along the seacoast, the artist has a choice. He or she can turn their easel (or camera) toward the water, and paint the standard array of ocean waves artists have depicted for generations. Or, the painter may turn away from the sea toward the colorful ocean front vistas, which are very often more interesting than the water. In doing so, the artist has the opportunity to explore the ways and means the local populace has used in acclimating themselves to the vagaries of living by the turbulent tides of the sea. I've written several times about artists from the iconic New England shores, almost to the point a reader might well think the U.S. Seashore cease to exist south of Coney Island. Of course that's not the case at all. Chesapeake Bay has its "school" of painters as does the North Carolina Outer Banks and the those artist who have popularized the Florida peninsula and points south. Even coastal cities have assumed distinctive art entities. For instance, though not technically situated along the coast, New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), has long had its own painting "club" including such artists as Allison Owen, Rolland Golden, Elsworth Woodward, and especially his older brother, William Woodward, who has often been deemed "The Father of Art in New Orleans."

Madame John's Legacy, 1910, William Woodward
More recent artists have turned to
depicting NOLA culture over its
historic presence.

New Orleans is nothing if not historic and colorful. Woodward's Madame John's Legacy (above), attests to both qualities. Woodward was especially fond of the New Orleans French Quarter. Many NOLA artists have contributed works bearing those qualities, though in more recent years, as the city has grown and changed (sometimes not for the better), many of them have taken to emphasizing the jazz music and musicians for which the city has become famous. Although there were undoubtedly local artists depicting "local color" before 1884 when William Woodward arrived in town, the New England-born artist brought with him a keen, well-trained eye for beauty and a sharp mind centered as much or architecture as painting, a fact plainly evident in many of his works.

View of the Napoleon House in New Orleans, 1904, William Woodward
Born in Seekonk, Massachusetts, William Woodward first came to NOLA at the behest of, William Preston Johnston to teach fine arts, mechanical drawing, and architectural drawing at the newly founded Tulane University. Woodward had taught at the Rhode Island School of Design while still a student there. In 1886 he extended his honeymoon through Scotland and England to include a three-month summer study at the Académie Julian in Paris where he found a new direction for his artistic development, seeing for the first time Impressionist works, a style he came to employ in his architectural scenes. His View of the Napoleon House in New Orleans (above), dates from 1904 when he had fully embraced French Impressionism giving it a southern "twist" all his own. This one even has the look of van Gogh.

The painting at the top-left is a portrait by William Woodward's brother, Elsworth
 (seen in the larger photo). The painting at the lower-left is a self-portrait.
The NOLA French Quarter
The multicultural Vieux Carré (left), in a crescent of the Mississippi River, provided Woodward lifelong artistic inspiration. Unlike the wide-open spaces growing up in the Northeast, the French Quarter was crowded with European-style residences alongside docks, open air markets, dry goods and hardware stores, all located in the shadow of St. Louis Cathedral on the city's main square. Woodward's impressionistic views of the Vieux Carré were critical in focusing attention on the historical structures, many of which were on the verge of being recklessly destroyed. In 1895, he was in the forefront of the movement against the demolition of The Cabildo, the seat of government during the Spanish Colonial period. This battle for historic preservation of the French Quarter ultimately led to the establishment of the Vieux Carré Commission. Woodward focused intensely on the Vieux Carré before artists found it fashionable, documenting the city's rich cultural heritage in vignettes of daily life featuring street cleaners, milkmaids, women at the market, and residents simply engaged in their daily lives. Such scenes rank among the best of 19th-century urban New Orleans. Woodward's Impressionism ultimately developed a manner of rendering ideal in capturing the soft light, moisture, and romantic essence of the French Quarter. His palette lightened as his architecture softened along with his figures, which have a sense of immediacy that enlivens his architectural scenes.

Carrollton Section of New Orleans, 1899, William Woodward
Woodward's most famous work was a fifteen-foot round canvas mural he completed in 1921 for the ceiling of the entrance rotunda at the United Fruit Company building on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. The painting (top) has since been moved for conservation purposes, but the mural made quite an impact when it was completed for the million-dollar, 11-story United Fruit Company building. The mural was described by the New Orleans’ Illustrated News as “...a riot of glorious color toned down to the aristocracy of harmonious good taste.” Another review described it as “...a wonder of flashing blues, scarlets, and golds haled from the tropics.” Woodward's Carrollton Section of New Orleans (above) dating from 1899, is more typical of his work. Woodward and his wife were not bound by the Cajun environs of New Orleans, but traveled broadly, as witnessed by the artist's view of Venice, Italy (below). While painting the United Fruit Company mural, Woodward fell from the scaffold. He injured his spine, resulting in permanent paralysis of the legs. Woodward and his wife retired to Biloxi, Mississippi in 1923. Though confined to a wheelchair, Woodward remained active, filling his retirement years with a prolific number of paintings as he and his wife travel around the United States in a specially-equipped car. Woodward died in New Orleans in November, 1939. He was seventy-eight.

 View of Venice, William Woodward