The Art of the United States
|Hobbies|| The Art of the United States
written by James Mavor
|A Cossack Officer at Baku|
|From The Canadian Forum, February 1921, p. 144, 146|
The Exhibition of Paintings at the Art Gallery of Toronto, January 8th to February 6th, was the first exhibition of American Art which has been held in Canada. There have been indeed few special exhibitions of any kind excepting those to which certain societies or groups of painters have been invited to contribute. The loan exhibitions organized by the Art Gallery of Toronto as well as those organized by the Art Association of Montreal have been very diversified — old and modern paintings of all schools finding a place in them. Such a policy on the part of those who organized the exhibitions was inevitable. There were few private collections upon which drafts could be made and none of these were of a special character. The exhibitions thus represented the actual state of artistic appreciation of those persons in this country who were accumulating works of art, and therein lay precisely the historical value of these exhibitions. That they should have disclosed the existence of passing phases of fashion was to be expected; and it was also to be expected that these phases should have followed the vogue of certain schools of European art. Purchasers of pictures in general bought from dealers in London; a few only occasionally bought in New York. Thus the Canadian collectors have as a rule refrained from including in their purchases the works of American painters. There are probably at the present time, in Canada, fewer than twenty examples of the works of important American artists, excluding the works of Canadian painters who have temporarily or permanently made their home in the United States, as for example Horatio Walker and Ernest Lawson who are for that reason usually counted in the United States as American artists.
The Exhibition recently on the walls at the Grange was organized for the purpose of enabling the public to see examples of the works of a number of American painters of different schools. It was therefore of set purpose an eclectic exhibition. Considered as a representative collection of works by the leading American artists of the present time it is sufficiently remarkable.
The impression to be derived from a general survey was, I think, one of cheerful, pure and even brilliant colour, and of very competent draughtsmanship. There was indeed abundant evidence of high technical skill, if there was perhaps lacking any high imaginative note. The only picture which exhibited the latter in any serious sense was Down to the Sea, (No. 50) by Rockwell Kent. This artist is an independent and is also a Member of the New Society, one of the most recent of the independent groups. Among the members of the New Society whose works were exhibited, a very high place must be given to Albert Sterner whose The Gray Cape, (No. 85) is a superb figure piece. The textures, the admirable disposition of the tones, and the fine lines of the drawing make a tout ensemble leaving no room for criticism. I am told that this picture is likely to remain in Toronto. Another important member of the New Society is the Canadian Ernest Lawson whose Trees in Blossom, (No. 51) is a very fine performance.
Childe Hassam was represented by The New York Winter Window, (No. 38) and George B. Luks, also a member of the New Society, sent Otis Skinner, in "The Honour of the Family,' (No. 54), a brilliant sketch highly suitable for a poster or for the walls of a theatrical club.
Among the works of members of the Society of Independent Artists, perhaps the most important example is The Beach, (No. 71), by M. P. Prendergast. Alike in originality of method and in deliberate development of it, this picture is the most interesting in a group of fresh and even audacious paintings. Among the latter may be counted F. S. Baylison's Spanish Girl, (No. 3), by no means a thing of beauty but extraordinarily cleverly conceived and executed with even too scientific patience. Another Independent is Homer Boss whose Squall, (No. 9) shows him to be a remarkable colourist.
If the New Society and the Independents may be regarded as representing artistic heresies, the National Academy may be counted as representing more or less extreme orthodoxy, many of the members obviously deriving their inspiration from past or passing phases of French Art. Thus Karl Anderson's Pegasus, (No. 1), Leopold Seyffert's Hunter, (No. 79) and John Johansen's Village Rider, (No. 47) may be regarded as competent but passé. More "vivid and instructive from the point of view of texture and skilful manipulation is Abbott H. Thayer's Young Woman in Olive Plush, (No. 87) and the same expression may be applied to Frank W. Benson's Still Life (No. 7).
Among the Academicians are also Ernest L. Blumenschein represented by Indian Battle, (No. 8) and Victor Higgins by The Serenade, (No. 41). Both of these artists belong to a group which for some time has been painting in New Mexico.
Of the painters who are not attached to any group one of the most promising is Malcolm S. Parcell whose The Wanderer, (No. 67) is very remarkable. The painstaking fidelity of the drawing is concealed by an atmosphere of peculiarly subtle colour.
It is in some ways unfortunate that the landscape art of the United States was not more adequately represented but the Hills of North Branch, (No. 77) by [p.146] Chauncey F. Ryder and Along the Harbour (No. 12) by Roy Brown are good examples. There were at least two portraits of distinction Henry R. Rittenberg's Elliott Daingerfield, (No. 75) and Sidney E. Dickinson[']s Paul Arndt, (No. 27).
Altogether the exhibition has been refreshing and educative. It is well to know that numerous groups of American painters are developing an art which is really alive and is moreover characterized by skill and knowledge.