Painter Kenyon Cox

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Cox, adamantly loyal to the preservation of the “older methods”, set himself in opposition to modern styles. In his 1917 book Concerning Painting: Considerations Theoretical and Historical, Cox restated his earlier feelings about the “Two Ways of Painting” saying:

For at least fourteen thousand years, then, from the time of the cavemen to our own day, painting has been an imitative art, and it seems likely that it will continue to be so. That it should, within a few years, entirely reverse its current, and should flow in the opposite direction for thousands of years to come seems highly improbable, not to say incredible. Yet we are gravely told that it is about to do this; that, at the hands of its representative element, reached its final and definite form, and that no further changes are possible. Henceforth, as long as men live in the world they are to be satisfied with a non-representative art — an art fundamentally different from that which they have known and practiced and enjoyed.[8]

Kenyon Cox, Portrait of Louise Howland King Cox, 1892. Kenyon Cox wrote his mother, "Long before I felt the thrill of love, I knew that she would make the best wife in the world for me if I should love her . . . When love came to add to the friendship and confidence, I felt safe and so we mean to marry as soon as we can." Wikipedia

Kenyon Cox, Portrait of Louise Howland King Cox, 1892. Kenyon Cox wrote his mother, “Long before I felt the thrill of love, I knew that she would make the best wife in the world for me if I should love her . . . When love came to add to the friendship and confidence, I felt safe and so we mean to marry as soon as we can.” Wikipedia

3-D Beauty in a Flat Screen World

The nobility of men lost in a sea of toys.  courtesy Pinterest

The nobility of men lost in a sea of toys.
courtesy Pinterest

Imagine spending 15 years on a work that people see in passing, can touch if they want to, but hardly notice. Plastic Barbie dolls and Star Wars figurines, Pier One trinkets and Walmart cement garden gnomes are hardly capable of producing the emotions and awe once felt by viewers of  public sculpture. But can you blame us modern consumers? Can we really turn to modern abstract and often ugly sculpture with the same sense of wonder and optimism as the men and women living in the “American Renaissance”?

Augustus Saint-Gaudens by Kenyon Cox

Augustus Saint-Gaudens by Kenyon Cox

Here’s Augustus Saint Gaudens working. Kenyon Cox, another artist looks on. How easy on the eyes this portrait, lovingly rendered, is. Yet Augustus Saint Gaudens was a sculptor and in a world of flat screens and paper books a sculptor’s work looks dull.

My husband and I visited a local ironworks art weekend crowded with people trying to be different, shocking and mysterious. What lacked was beauty and heart. (and art). My husband does not fancy himself a sculptor, but the house he built for our ducks has integrity and a loveliness that springs from something deeper than wanting to be cool.

Augustus didn’t come from wealth. His father recognized an artistic sensibility in his son and apprenticed him to a cameo maker. Later he took classes at Cooper Union and went to Paris where one day he spotted a young fellow American art student. Maybe he whispered a sweet nothing, but she could not hear him.  Augusta Fisher Homer was deaf but not blind to the charms of a young, sensitive and ultimately extremely generous man. They fell in love and married.

Atop Madison Square Garden. courtesy thehistoryblog.com

Atop Madison Square Garden. courtesy thehistoryblog.com

Public men paid for beauty back then. This was when people thought art was interchangeable with beauty. Pompous, greedy men some of them were but these materialist businessmen  still commissioned a Diana for everyone to admire or a William Tecumseh Sherman (before modern and often sloppy scholarship made him such a villain). What do modern magnates do, I wonder? Maybe some quietly do great things, but I long for public beauty not abstraction and Piss Christ.

If you’ve ever gone to the MET in New York you notice in the Greek Art galleries a hush almost as if people know they should truly love the beauty so unlike what they see just outside on the busy street. It’s difficult to sit with these sculptures because we’ve become so unused to sublime beauty. Where’s the color? Where’s the stuff that makes our blood boil? Maybe these quiet sculptures shame us when they remind us how easily our tastes are satisfied with McDonalds happy meal sculptures of the girl from FROZEN.

shermanHo hum I’ve often felt passing one of the greatest American equestrian sculptures ever. Yes, Sherman helped win a war. Now we debate motives and hate them for their lack of purity. But who are we? Lost in a modern world of cynicism and inertia. Happy to point fingers–you’re racist! sexist! elitist! Determined to view the pit and drag it into every conversation and every art work.

Summer painted at the artist colony founded by Saint Gaudens by Thomas Wilmer Dewing

Summer painted at the artist colony founded by Saint Gaudens by
Thomas Wilmer Dewing

Augustus Saint-Gaudens in his naivete may have thought the men who commissioned his work were doing a fair-to-middling job with the country. I don’t know but Louis Auchincloss had this to say about the men and women of the late 19th century and Augustus Saint Gaudens in particular: “Yet when I turn back to Saint-Gaudens’s work, including the portrait bas-reliefs–those wonderful, grave, reflective men, women and children, so subtly conceived and so exquisitely rendered–I have a sense that the American Renaissance may have been a better time in which to live than ours. Its people seem so serious, so high-minded. They seem so determined to make a better and more beautiful world, so concerned with order and dignity. I envy their apparent tranquility. I wish I could share their sense of purpose and progress.”

No Taxation without Representation!

Lady Godiva by John Collier, c. 1897, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

Lady Godiva by John Collier, c. 1897, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

“Lady Godiva, was an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to a legend dating back at least to the 13th century, rode naked – only covered in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants. The name “Peeping Tom” for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Tom had watched her ride and was struck blind or dead.” Wikipedia

Thank you Janice Wald at Refections for reminding me of this painting.

Sex in the Garden

Lady with a Corsage, Edmund C. Tarbell

Lady with a Corsage, Edmund C. Tarbell

“The flower’s leaves … serve as bridal beds which the creator has so gloriously arranged … and perfumed with so many soft scents that the bridegroom with his bride might there celebrate their nuptials with so much greater solemnity. When now the bed is so prepared, it is time for the bridegroom to embrace his beloved bride and offer her his gifts.” – See more at:SEX AND FLOWERS

Other interesting gardening links:

WOMEN BOTANICAL ARTISTS

AMERICAN GARDEN HISTORY

19th CENTURY GARDENING TIMELINE

19th Century Flower Shop in Brussels, courtesy Pinterest

19th Century Flower Shop in Brussels, courtesy Pinterest

Farm Fashion 19th Century

Jules Adolphe Breton, The Gleaner, Denver Art Museum

Jules Adolphe Breton, The Gleaner, Denver Art Museum

As many of you know I have a small farm thing going on. Despite the freedom of wearing insulated overalls to work everyday I’m often pulled into the fantasy of skirts. So today instead of bringing you dead pigeons and war, let’s look at fashion.

The Dinner Horn, Winslow Homer

The Dinner Horn, Winslow Homer

I tried this look. At the thrift store I found a beautiful white prairie skirt. It was huge so I pleated it in the back to sort of look like a bustle. My husband smiled the first time I went out to walk the goats in it. Do I need to tell you how dirty it was after the goat kids mauled me with love? I couldn’t even enjoy their affection.

The Milk Maid, Winslow Homer. As always Winslow is my guy.

The Milk Maid, Winslow Homer. As always Winslow is my guy.

If you notice the rooster is eying the milk maid’s ankles. Not a good thing. Where are her muck boots when she needs them? Granted they’d look terrible with the pink dress. Here’s my issue: How do you keep the skirt from being stepped on when your milking?

A Pinterest find. Anyone know the painter?

A Pinterest find. Anyone know the painter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, here’s an outfit I think I could do. By the way, if any of you have an old pair of wooden clogs size 8 American I’d gladly take them off your hands.The dark skirt and jacket are almost stylish–but you definitely need the clogs to make it work. Adorable apron as well. Sign me up (Oh yeah. The Rooster).

Frederick Walker The Old Farm Garden 1871

Frederick Walker The Old Farm Garden 1871

I can’t imagine anyone looking bad in this dress, but did she really garden in it? I think not. But maybe I’m wrong. We find a similar dress on this pretty girl gathering eggs . . .

Fresh Eggs, by Winslow again.

Fresh Eggs, by Winslow again.

When you’re done farming for the day you can go off with your significant other as long as he’s wearing his hat with a feather.

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

Spinster Turned Patroness of the Arts: Florence Griswold

 

Eligible Spinster

Eligible Spinster

Florence did what women fallen on hard times once did with big family houses and nothing but the memories of dead relatives for riches. She mourned the loss of her 16 year old brother, her father, her sister and mother and opened her house to boarders who happened to be artists.

I think artists like to be mothered. They never fully grow up and demand summer vacation like the rest of the children. I know this because I’ve recklessly thrown away any serious job I’ve ever had a chance at in favor of art and childhood. Even as a teacher staying in the lines never happened and syllabuses were thrown to the wind just long enough to inspire a few Peter Pans before moving on.

Florence seems to have been one of those forgotten women who saw their nurturing, quiet nature as a positive–the artists who flocked to her house for thirty years obviously appreciated her as well. She was still of a time when self sacrifice and creating cozy interior spaces for others was held as a woman’s right and calling. Understandably not every woman wanted to be Florence, but it seems every artist who met her wanted to repay her for her nurturing.

Quiet Beauty

Quiet Beauty

When in later life she grew frail and might lose the house artists of fame and renown banded together to not only save the house for her but restore it to its original beauty. A quiet life, acts of simple love and the inspiration for some of America’s great artists. Oh, what our little deeds mean to others–we may never know.

 

Utopian Artist Communities

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Should art be made in solitude? There is a certain loneliness that artists know. The process and emotions seem alien to others. Artists may tear each other apart but they know, they know the loneliness.

The Art Colony At Old Lyme:

http://florencegriswoldmuseum.org/exhibitions_AmericanPlace.php

Byrdcliffe:

http://www.woodstockguild.org/about-byrdcliffe/byrdcliffe-history/

Cos Cob Art Colony:

http://www.hstg.org/colony.php

Provincetown Fine Arts Workshop:

http://web.fawc.org/history

The MacDowell Colony

http://www.macdowellcolony.org/about-History.html

Yaddo

http://yaddo.org/yaddo/history.shtml