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.
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
“In some Asian societies dating back to ancient times, and in Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, fair skin was considered very attractive because it was thought to indicate wealth and high social status, as being tanned meant that one was obligated to work in the fields for one’s livelihood. Similarly, the powdered white wig worn by American colonial era illuminati reflected the wearer’s ability to afford luxury items and identified him as one of the educated elite.
“Nevertheless, in nineteenth-century America, albinism was considered such a bizarre trait that people with this condition were exhibited in circus sideshows. Furthermore, with the advent of the camera, these individuals were featured on postcards which were widely distributed and collected from the 1870s-’90s.” Albinism.org
19th century musical albinos
Albinism in popular culture
19th century albino hair
Don’t you just love finding musty old paperback treasures for fifty cents? The American Western Novel drew me in since its title has two of my favorite words in it–American and Western. Both words often get a bum rap and I tend to like anything that’s undervalued or misunderstood.
Yeah, our government sucks, but I have a lot of faith in the common man (and woman). Wake up people!
The western sometimes sucks, too. Yet within this lowly genre are a few treasures and a great amount of food for thought about life in general:
Civilization and feminization–now this is interesting. Since we no longer as a culture value the feminine what happens to civilization? We do value empowering women to compete more like men (or better yet oust men from power)–but the word feminine is equated with standing in the kitchen baking cookies (may I ask–aren’t chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven deliciously civilizing things?).
Conventional feminine values vs. masculine ones? What’s this all about? Maybe it’s about the tension driving both survival and civilization–the hunting and the gathering, the building and the nesting. This tension is good (though at times it doesn’t feel like it). This tension is sexy and dynamic. Men want respect–women want love–books and lives hinge on these things. Okay, hang me for generalities, but old books about other books do this to one’s mind.
Hey, you know that whole thing about needing two incomes to get by? People used to live with a lot less. By today’s standards most of us growing up in the 1970’s were poor.
This section brings me to the present. Why does it feel like we’re sending troops to Africa– are involved in African politics– to possibly take their riches? Hmm. Americans enjoyed Westerns because we liked to believe there were white hats and black hats and we were the guys in white. This was a far distant time when the average Joe believed in moral absolutes. This is not to say that our impulses were always simple and good. Our ability to do what’s good is certainly not absolute.
Here’s why this book is great: It’s not a very angry historian’s or English professor’s rant about injustice. It’s actually refreshingly neutral. The author doesn’t suggest that masculine is better than feminine or that civilization is worse than primativism. It doesn’t give answers. That’s up to you and me.
John Wesley Teaching His Sunday School, 1897 by Alice Barber Stephens
Random Wesley quotes that inspired many in the 19th century and beyond:
“It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people. ”
“Vice does not lose its character by becoming fashionable.”
“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
“What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.”
“We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.”
Coming from the Cabot family of Boston had its perks for young Lilla–how would you like to hang out with Emerson and the Alcotts? But Lilla was pretty perky on her own–and talented. I don’t know how people find the energy to push art movements along, but she did. I’m sure now that I’m sending off one of my characters to an artists’ colony and I’m happy to be meeting a bunch of fascinating women along the way. Another visual feast: (or why women are beautiful)
“From her organization of the first American exhibition of Impressionist landscapes by John Breck to her visions of late nineteenth and early twentieth century femininity, Lilla Cabot Perry’s legacy is dynamic. During her lifetime she lived in three continents and was exposed to dozens of artists and stylistic modes. Her blending of eastern and western aesthetics and her sensitive visions of the feminine and natural worlds offered significant stylistic contributions to both the American and French Impressionist schools.
No matter what Perry was exposed to, she always returned to her home and family for inspiration – not because that was all that was available to her, but because it was the part of her life that mattered to her most. Her translation of such dynamic styles into her intimate, everyday world created an oeuvre of art that provides intensely personal reflections on this Boston native’s life.
Her vocal advocacy for the Impressionist movement helped to make it possible for other American Impressionists like Mary Cassatt to gain the exposure and acceptance they needed in the states. She furthered the American careers of her close friends Claude Monet and John Breck by lecturing stateside on their talents and showcasing their works. She also worked closely with Camille Pissarro to assist him in his dire financial situation by selling his work to friends and family in America.
Throughout her life, Perry demonstrated again and again that she was dedicated and devoted not only to her own artistic evolution and career, but also to the careers of those around her. Thanks to her efforts, the Guild of Boston Artists was founded, Impressionism took hold as a respected artistic style in the United States, and a new generation of women artists were able to stake their claim in the art world thanks to the path that Lilla Cabot Perry blazed for them.
More than an artist, Perry was an advocate for the things that mattered to her most.” Wikipedia
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.
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.