Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Carillon Tower Planned as a Victory Memorial

In 1920, a tower of bells to honor America’s WWI victory — one bell provided by each U.S. state — was planned for Washington, D.C. The structure was never built.

Further to enhance the proposed carillon with a peculiar memorial significance, bills have been introduced in Congress to grant the use of 200,000 pounds of brass shell cases, or other brass or copper salvaged from the battlefields of France, to be used in the making of the bells. War metals from each of the allies will also be sought for the bells.

Although several of these bell towers — called “carillons” — were built to honor WWI globally, including several in the U.S., none were built in the Washington, D.C. area.

The nation’s most prominent WWI carillon today is probablythe 240-foot structure in Richmond, Virginia. Although not a carillon because it contains no bells, the 217-foot Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri is also a prominent memorial to the war.

The primary carillon in the Washington, D.C. area today is the Netherlands Carillon to honor WWII, erected in 1954 just outside Arlington National Cemetery.

Construction on the long-awaited WWI memorial in the nation’s capital only began last month: December 2019.

 

Carillon Tower Planned as a Victory Memorial: Music of Bells, One Provided by Each State and Territory, Would Sound Over Washington as Daily Reminders of America’s Part in the World War (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 1, 1920

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

January 28th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Art,Military / War

Metropolitan Museum’s Rarest Treasures

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director was asked in 1919 what was the museum’s “one great treasure among many,” he answered the Estruscean bronze chariot.

[It is] the only complete one in the world. It is a magnificent triumphal affair and was found in the tomb of the hero who once rode proudly in it through the streets of ancient Rome.

The story of the chariot’s discovery is more interesting still, though not mentioned in the 1919 article.

An Italian farmer named Isidoro Vannozzi was digging a wine cellar when he accidentally came across the item in 1902. Vannozzi only earned about $6,000 in today’s money for selling the chariot he found, even though it was ultimately sold for $1.7 million in today’s money. (And likely actually worth far more than that by now, were it ever to be sold again, given the skyrocketing prices for both art and antiques in the 117 years since then.)

After a series of sales, it finally came to the Met in 1903 — six years before a 1909 Italian law forbade the export of culturally significant Italian relics.

A century later, the museum still possesses the chariot. Photos are in the public domain:

Metropolitan Museum’s Rarest Treasures: Fewer Than Fifty Are Marked With Double Stars on the New List (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 2, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

November 3rd, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Art

If You Don’t Believe the War Is Over — Look at These Summer Magazine Covers

Magazine covers during summer 1919, after WWI had ended, were different than during summers 1917 and 1918 during the war:

For two Summers the June, July, and August covers displayed about the same thing that they showed in the other three seasons — beautiful girls dressed as nurses, or canteen workers, or motor corps drivers, or Salvation Army maids.

However, the girls have taken off their uniforms. The war is over. There is a rush back to beach costumes on the front covers.

Of course, the one similarity both during and after the war is that the magazine covers still featured posing “girls.” But at least they were wearing something — the first issue of Playboy wouldn’t be published until December 1953.

If You Don’t Believe the War Is Over — Look at These Summer Magazine Covers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 20, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

July 17th, 2019 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Art,Journalism

France’s Airman-Artist Tells How He Works

Henri Farré was the official painter of the French government during World War I, whose job was to paint battles as he observed them from airplanes.

While this may seem like a strange occupation to be funded at taxpayer expense after the invention of the photograph, WWI was also the first major military conflict to feature aviation. And we still have official portraits of major figures such as presidents commissioned even today, despite a camera in every person’s back pocket.

In the 1918 article, Farré explained his methods:

“How do I do my work?” he went on, in answer to a question. “I am, say, somewhere in the rear of the fighting. An attack is begun. I am notified. Up I go with one of our pilots. We approach the field of battle, strike into the mist of it, keeping straight over it. I take in every detail. I saturate my brain with the topography of the place. I transform my head into a camera. It took me six months to learn to do that, but now I find it easy. I concentrate. I fix my eyes on every feature of the landscape beneath me. My brain becomes a photographic plate.

“Sometimes we hover over the battle as long as half an hour. Shells burst around us. Other airmen plunge to the ground. But we escape. Then my pilots whirls around and we fly back to the rear. We land. I have no time to lose. I sit down immediately and sketch from memory the scene I have just witnessed. From what I remember and a system of jotting down numbers for colors while I am in the air, I make a rough sketch of the battle I have just witnessed.”

The 1918 article does not do justice to Farré’s paintings, showcasing only two and in grainy black-and-white at that. Here is one in full-resolution color from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, to give a sense of the man’s talents:

France’s Airman-Artist Tells How He Works: Lieutenant Farre, Official Painter of War as Seen from the Air, Has Risked His Life Over Scores of Battles in Full Swing (PDF)

Published Sunday, March 3, 1918

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

March 8th, 2018 at 8:01 am

Washington Crossing Rhine, Not Delaware

The iconic painting Washington Crossing the Delaware is a misnomer. The river was actually modeled after the Rhine River in Germany, leading to several inaccuracies. According to Wikipedia:

“The river is modeled after the Rhine, where ice tends to form in jagged chunks as pictured, not in broad sheets as is more common on the Delaware. Also, the Delaware at what is now called Washington Crossing is far narrower than the river depicted in the painting.”

After this 1918 article, the original 1851 painting was destroyed in a 1942 bombing raid, as the original was housed in Germany. The two other versions also painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze are still intact, currently housed at the Met in New York City and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

The painting was also parodied last month in Geico’s commercial Washington Crossing the Delaware Turnpike:

Washington Crossing Rhine, Not Delaware: Leutze’s Famous Painting Really Represents the German River, and German Soldiers Were Used as Models — American Pupil Aided Artist to Get Proper Uniforms (PDF)

From Sunday, February 17, 1918

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

February 16th, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Art,History

Using the Camera to Illustrate Fiction

Books in 1918 were starting to use real people portraying the characters instead of illustrations, as books had previously done for centuries prior:

The two “illustrating photographers” employ a scout who is sent out to the locations where suitable models for the character required may be found, but most of the new models — and the list of 3,000 is receiving constant increments — come through the good offices of those who have already posed and who spread the word that it is easy money for pleasant work. When a story deals with east side or rural types or some other specialized characters, the photographs do not reproduce made-up actors, but originals — real east side tradesmen, real farmers from the high grass.

The modern-day descendants of those photographic pioneers include Jason Aaron Baca, who has posed as the male model on more than 600 romance novels and counting.

Using the Camera to Illustrate Fiction: Models Pose for Photographs Showing Scenes in the Story — How Two Artists Originate the Plan (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

January 9th, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Art,Fiction

Artistic Instinct of Negroes Should Be Developed

This 1917 article lamented the lack of flourishing culture in the African-American community. The Harlem Renaissance would start a mere year later in 1918, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Led by such figures as Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and Richard Wright, the period would produce an explosion of literature, music, and art from the African-American community.

Artistic Instinct of Negroes Should Be Developed (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 2017

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 28th, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Art,Development

Portraits in Independence Hall Under Suspicion

Philadelphia’s Independence Hall used to feature 342 portraits of America’s founders and most important early contributors. Then in 1917, the Philadelphia City Council created a new body with jurisdiction over all the paintings there, giving more control to politicians rather than artists or historians. At the time of this article’s writing, the new body had already spurned more than 30 paintings for display, calling the works “spurious or otherwise unfit.”

“Somebody said it would be a fine thing to have all the signers [of the Declaration of Independence]. Great idea! And the portraits of signers poured in and were welcomed, regardless of credentials, and so on through various other groups of American worthies. Sometimes a silhouette, supposed to be that of somebody’s distinguished great-grandfather, would be the basis of a manufactured portrait labeled with that great-grandfather’s name and sent down to the hall. It would be taken in and given a place on the wall.”

My research couldn’t determine the number of paintings hanging in Independence Hall today, but it’s reasonable to assume that the number is now lower than 342.

Portraits in Independence Hall Under Suspicion: About Thirty Already Have Been Thrown out as Spurious by the Philadelphia Art Jury Which Is Investigating Them (PDF)

From Sunday, February 25, 1917

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

March 6th, 2017 at 6:56 am

Posted in Art,Politics

Rochefort Tells How Americans Buy Art Fakes

From September 24, 1911

ROCHEFORT TELLS HOW AMERICANS BUY ART FAKES

ROCHEFORT TELLS HOW AMERICANS BUY ART FAKES: We Are the Preferred Victims of the Dealers in “Old Master,” He Says — Why, of “Rembrandts” Alone There Are 2,500 in the United States. (PDF)

When I worked for Christie’s Auction House, I was always fascinated when something came through that turned out to be a forgery. I was a photographer for the company, so I worked with a lot of experts in each department, and I tried to learn a bit about how they were able to tell a forgery from the real deal. I never gained a sophisticated enough eye to recognize a forgery, but it was all still interesting to me.

If the subject of art forgery at all interests you, I recommend the movie Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? (It was streaming on Netflix, but appears not to be anymore.)

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Written by David

September 23rd, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Art,Entertainment

Baltimore Gets Flag That Inspired Key’s Great Song

From September 10, 1911

BALTIMORE GETS FLAG THAT INSPIRED KEY'S GREAT SONG

BALTIMORE GETS FLAG THAT INSPIRED KEY’S GREAT SONG: Fort McHenry’s Emblem That Prompted “The Star-Spangled Banner” to Be Presented by a Descendant of Major Armistead, Who Held the Fort Against England. (PDF)

In 1912, the flag was giften to the Smithsonian Institute. A lengthy conservation process was recently completed, and the flag is there on display today for all who want to see it. Admission is free.

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Written by David

September 9th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Art,Technology