|“The Death of General Wolfe”||West||1|
|“Portrait of the Artist’s Mother”||Whistler||16|
|Mural Decorations and Fresco||27|
|“The Frieze of the Prophets”||Sargent||29|
|“The Holy Grail”||Abbey||57|
|“The Wolf Charmer”||La Farge||79|
|Cartoons and Caricatures||108|
|Engravings, Etchings, and Prints||120|
|Review of Pictures and Artists Studied|
|The Suggestions to Teachers||125|
Art supervisors in the public schools assign picture-study work in each grade, recommending the study of certain pictures by well-known masters. As Supervisor of Drawing I found that the children enjoyed this work but that the teachers felt incompetent to conduct the lessons as they lacked time to look up the subject and to gather adequate material. Recourse to a great many books was necessary and often while much information could usually be found about the artist, very little was available about his pictures.
Hence I began collecting information about the pictures and preparing the lessons for the teachers just as I would give them myself to pupils of their grade.
My plan does not include many pictures during the year, as this is to be only a part of the art work and is not intended to take the place of drawing.
The lessons in this grade may be used for the usual drawing period of from twenty to thirty minutes, and have been successfully given in that time. However, the most satisfactory way of using the books is as supplementary readers, thus permitting each child to study the pictures and read the stories himself.
THE DEATH OF GENERAL WOLFE
Questions to arouse interest. What is represented in this picture? What have these men been doing? What makes you think so? Why have they stopped? What can you see in the distance? Do you think the soldier running toward the group in the foreground is the bearer of good or bad news? What makes you think so? How many of you can tell what battle has just been fought, or something about General Wolfe?
The story of the picture. It is little wonder that the artist, Benjamin West, who overcame so many obstacles to follow his chosen calling, should admire a man like General Wolfe, who also had a great many difficulties to overcome. Each was born with an overwhelming desire,—the one to be a great artist; the other to be a great soldier. Both achieved their desire through their own earnest and praiseworthy effort. Perhaps the greatest difficulty James Wolfe had to contend with was his poor constitution and constant ill health. He could scarcely endure the long marches by land or voyages by sea—yet he would shirk neither. Duty to his country was always first.
He was only sixteen years old when he took part in his first campaign. Abbé H. R. Casgrain tells us: “He was then a tall but thin young man, apparently weak for the trials of war. Moreover, he was decidedly ugly, with red hair and a receding forehead and chin, which made his profile seem to be an obtuse angle, with the point at the end of his nose. His pale, transparent skin was easily flushed, and became fiery red when he was engaged in conversation or in action. Nothing about him bespoke the soldier save a firm-set mouth and eyes of azure blue, which flashed and gleamed. With it all, though, he had about his person and his manner a sympathetic quality which attracted people to him.” Although a severe illness compelled him to give up this first campaign and return home, Wolfe was by no means discouraged, and he later on managed to distinguish himself for his courage and military skill.
It was not long after this that the great William Pitt decided that Wolfe was a man to be trusted with great things. He appointed him commander of the English troops to be sent against Quebec.
American history had just reached the period when all the English colonies had been founded except Georgia, and the long struggle had come between France and England for the possession of Canada.
There were many older generals who thought they ought to have been appointed to the important command in place of Wolfe, and when the elated Wolfe made some wild boasts in their presence, they were quick to carry them to the king and to declare that James Wolfe was a mad fool, and not fit to command. But King George III liked Wolfe none the less for his enthusiasm, and declared that if “General Wolfe be mad, he hoped he would bite some of his generals.”
But even Wolfe’s enthusiasm could not break down the strong fortification at Quebec. The city was located on a high, rocky cliff in itself almost inaccessible, and the natural strength of the position was increased by the strong defense maintained by the French soldiers and the Indians. Wolfe spent the entire summer trying to find a way to take Quebec, and probably would not have succeeded but for a combination of circumstances which left one part of the cliff unprotected.
With the aid of a telescope, General Wolfe had discovered a hidden pathway up the side of the cliff behind the city at a point which was lightly guarded. Then came a deserter from the French army who informed him that the French were expecting some provision boats that night.
Without hesitation, General Wolfe ordered thirty-six hundred of his soldiers to prepare for the assault. Under cover of night, flying a French flag and with the aid of those of his generals who spoke French, Wolfe and his soldiers managed to sail past the sentry and enter the harbor in the guise of the French provision boats. In absolute silence they sailed up the river and landed at a spot since called “Wolfe’s Cove.” The ascent up the steep hill side was difficult but soon accomplished, and the few guards killed or taken prisoners. All the British soldiers successfully gained the heights and the next morning General Wolfe lined them up for battle on a field called the “Field of Abraham” after the name of its owner.
The French commander, Montcalm, surprised at the presence of the enemy on his own shore, went to meet them hurriedly and without proper support. A fierce battle ensued in which the English were victorious, and the French fled. General Wolfe was wounded three times in this battle, the last time fatally. Even then he called out to those nearest him, “Support me; let not my brave fellows see me fall. The day is ours; keep it.”
In our picture we see General Wolfe half supported on the ground, with his friends about him. At the left is the messenger who, history tells us, bore the news, “They run; see how they run!” The dying general heard the words and asked, “Who run?” Upon hearing the answer, “The enemy,” he exclaimed, “Now God be praised. I will die in peace.”
This victory not only gave Canada to England, but established the permanent supremacy of the English-speaking race in North America. Is it any wonder, then, that Benjamin West, a good American colonist, should be interested in this battle and wish to paint a picture of it?
He started it with great enthusiasm, and soon had the figures sketched in, ready to paint. West was then living in London, and Archbishop Drummond, happening in his studio at this time, was greatly shocked because West had dressed his men in costumes such as they actually wore. Strange as it seems to us now, it was the custom then to use classic models for everything, and to represent all figures as wearing Greek costumes, no matter in what period they lived. If we remember Benjamin West for no other reason, we shall remember him because he was the first in England and America to change this custom. He believed we should paint people just as they are. The archbishop tried to dissuade him from this, and failing, he asked Sir Joshua Reynolds to talk to West.
Finally King George III heard of the artist’s intention and sent for him. West listened to the king with great respect, and then replied: “May it please your Majesty, the subject I have to represent is a great battle fought and won, and the same truth which gives law to the historian should rule the painter. If instead of the facts of action I introduce fictions, how shall I be understood by posterity? The classic dress is certainly picturesque, but by using it I shall lose in sentiment what I gain in external grace. I want to mark the time, the place, and the people; to do this I must abide by the truth.”
The king could not fail to be convinced by so sensible an answer, yet he would not buy the picture. When Sir Joshua Reynolds came to look at the finished picture he praised it unreservedly, and not only told the artist it would be popular but predicted that it would lead to a revolution in art. His prediction was soon fulfilled.
King George III also greatly admired the painting, and said, “There! I am cheated out of a fine canvas by listening to other people. But you shall make a copy of it for me.”
And yet the critics tell us that West, with all his love for truth in dress, took even a greater artist’s license when he painted this picture. He represented men as standing near Wolfe (the two generals, Monckton and Barré) who were not there at all. These two men were fatally wounded in the same battle, but in another part of the field. Surgeon Adair, too, who is bending over the dying hero, was in another part of the country at the time. The Indian warrior, who intently watches the dying general to see if he is equal to the Indian in fortitude and bravery, was, it is claimed, an imaginary person.
But a far greater number of critics uphold West and consider his painting the more valuable because he has brought into prominence a number of the important men of that time, and linked their names in memory with that of General Wolfe and with the cause they represented.
It is interesting to note the manner in which the artist has grouped his figures in the foreground. We can separate them into at least three distinct groups, each complete in itself, yet held together by the direction of their gaze and the position of their bodies. For a moment these brave men have forgotten, in grief at the loss of a beloved companion and hero, even the joy of victory for a great cause.
The interest is centered about the dying general in many different ways—the light, the position of other figures, the direction of their gaze, and his position in the picture. Our attention and interest might remain with the group in the foreground of the picture but that it is drawn, for a moment, to the figure in the middle distance running toward us and from that figure to the mass in the background which, though vaguely outlined, is still distinct enough to give us the impression of troops in action.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Why did the life of General Wolfe appeal so strongly to the artist Benjamin West? What great obstacles did General Wolfe have to overcome? Tell about his first campaign. Describe his personal appearance. Why did William Pitt choose Wolfe for an important office? What feeling did this cause among the other generals? What did George III say about General Wolfe? Explain the difficulties to be overcome in capturing Quebec. How did the English effect a landing? Where was the battle fought? Which army was victorious? What events aided the English in gaining this victory? What new idea did West introduce in this picture? Who opposed him at first? To what did this change lead? What can you say of the composition of this picture? What is its value as history?
The story of the artist. “What is thee doing, Benjamin?” A small boy, hearing this question, suddenly becomes quite confused and embarrassed as he tries to cover up a sheet of paper he has in his hand. His mother and sister, dressed in the severely plain clothing of the Quakers, are standing behind him, waiting for an answer. The boy looks up timidly, his face turning red as he answers hesitatingly, “N-nothing.”
Of course this does not satisfy his mother, and she speaks more sharply as she asks him again what he is doing and what he has in his hand. The boy, a little fellow of six, hands her a sheet of paper and nervously rocks the cradle in which his baby sister is sleeping. He expects to be punished, for he has done something that must be wrong, for he never heard of any one else doing it.
The mother and sister study the paper carefully, and find only a drawing done in red and black ink. They recognize it at once as a picture of the baby sister Sally, sound asleep, and they are pleased in spite of themselves. The mother asks him many questions, and he tells her that as he was taking care of his baby sister he had suddenly felt a great desire to copy the sleeping child’s face. He had found an old quill pen and some ink, and they could see what he had been doing. The mother looks pleased, but says, “I do not know what the Friends would say to such like.” However, Benjamin feels encouraged, and determines to try again soon.
This story is often told in giving the history of American art, because this same Benjamin West was our first native American artist. Other American men had copied European paintings, but his was the first original work in America.
Benjamin’s grandfather came to America with William Penn, the two being intimate friends. Later the West family moved to the small town of Springfield, Pennsylvania, where, in 1738, the grandson Benjamin was born, growing up under the stern observances of an early Quaker home. His father kept a small store, but the family was a large one and many hardships had to be endured in those early days.
At the age of seven Benjamin began to attend the village school. You will remember that the Indians remained very friendly after their treaty with William Penn, and that in those days they often came to visit and trade with the settlers. The boys in this little school always looked forward to these visits, as they liked to talk with the Indians in sign language and to trade with them for bows and arrows and other curious things the Indians made.
They came one day when Benjamin had been drawing some birds and flowers on his slate. When shown the sketches they grunted their approval and the next time they came the big chief brought Benjamin some red and yellow paint, the kind they used to decorate their bodies.
How delighted Benjamin was as he ran home with his colors; but what could he do without blue? Then his mother remembered the bluing she used for her clothes, and gave him a piece of indigo. Now he must have a brush. You have probably heard of how he cut the fur from the tip of the cat’s tail, and so made a very good brush, although it did not last long. This made it necessary for him to cut so much fur that the cat became a sorry sight indeed. Benjamin’s father thought it must have some disease and was about to chloroform it, when his son told him the true state of affairs.
Not long afterwards an uncle who was a merchant in Philadelphia sent Benjamin a complete painter’s outfit,—paints, brushes, canvas, and all. It is said that the day these came Benjamin suddenly disappeared from sight and could not be found either at school, where he should have been, or in any of his favorite haunts.
At last his mother thought of the attic, and there she found him so busily absorbed in painting his picture that at first he did not hear her. She had intended to punish him, but, seeing his pictures, she forgot all else as she said, “Oh, thou wonderful child!”
When the uncle came to visit them he was so delighted he took Benjamin back with him to Philadelphia, where he could have good instruction in drawing. At eighteen he began to paint portraits. Then, after living in New York several years, he traveled extensively in Europe, finally settling in London, where he remained the rest of his life.
He became court painter for King George III, and succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as president of the Royal Academy, holding this position until his death.
Benjamin West caused one complete change in the art of England. Until his time all art had followed the Greek ideas, the artists using the Greek costumes for figures of men of all periods. West believed we should paint people just as they are, so he dressed his people in the costumes of the day. At first, of course, he was criticized severely, but soon all the artists were following his example. Benjamin West became the founder of a school of his own, to which young artists from both America and England went for help and encouragement. Although he spent the last years of his life in England, Benjamin West always remained a patriotic American.
The first few painters of note who followed Benjamin West were greatly influenced by him. The list of prominent American artists is constantly increasing. J. Walker McSpadden, in his book called Famous Painters of America, has classified a few of the most prominent in a way that may help us remember them:
Benjamin West, the painter of destiny.
John Singleton Copley, the painter of early gentility.
Gilbert Stuart, the painter of presidents.
George Inness, the painter of nature’s moods.
Elihu Vedder, the painter of the mystic.
Winslow Homer, the painter of seclusion.
John La Farge, the painter of experiment.
James McNeill Whistler, the painter of protest.
John Singer Sargent, the painter of portraits.
Edwin Austin Abbey, the painter of the past.
William M. Chase, the painter of precept.
Questions about the artist. Who was the first American artist of note? Where was he born? Of what faith were his parents? Relate the circumstances which led to Benjamin West’s first drawing, and the result. How old was he at that time? How did he secure his first paints? his brushes? What gift did his uncle send him? What became of Benjamin the day this gift was received? What did his mother say? Where did he go to study art? In what way did he change art in England? What school did he establish? Name five other American artists, and tell why they are famous.
To the Teacher: Several pupils may prepare the subject-matter as suggested here, then tell it to the class. Later, topics may be written upon the blackboard and used as suggestive subjects for short compositions in English.
1. Relate an incident in the life of Benjamin West that persuaded his parents he would be an artist.
2. Explain some of the difficulties he had to overcome in order to paint.
3. What preparation did he make to become an artist?
4. In what ways was he of special benefit to the world of art?
5. Tell something of the progress of American painting from that time to this.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST’S MOTHER
Questions to arouse interest. What is the name of this picture? Who painted it? Half close your eyes and tell what part of the picture stands out most distinctly. Which part should be most distinct? (The figure, especially the head, holds the center of interest.) From this glimpse of her, describe the character and disposition of Whistler’s mother as you would judge them to be. Give reasons. What would make you think she was neat and orderly? Where is she sitting? How is she dressed? What can you see in the background?
The story of the picture. Whistler called this picture “An Arrangement in Gray and Black,” for he felt that the public could not be interested in a portrait of his mother. He said, “To me, it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public to care about the identity of the portrait?” However, this knowledge of relationship has appealed so strongly to the people that by common consent the picture has been renamed by them, “Whistler’s Mother,” or “Portrait of the Painter’s Mother,” or even “Portrait of My Mother.” Then again many critics declare the picture might well be called “A Mother,” for it represents a type rather than an individual. The face seems to speak to each and every one of us in a language all can understand.
This dear old lady in her plain black dress, seated so comfortably with her hands in her lap and her feet on a footstool, has an air of peace and restfulness about her that is good to look upon. A feeling of stillness and perfect quiet comes to us, and we do not at first realize the skill of the artist in producing such an effect.
Seated in this restful gray room, she seems to be in a happy reverie of the days gone by. The simple dignity of the thoughtful figure is increased by the refinement of her surroundings. A single picture and part of the frame of another hang on the gray wall behind her. At the left we see a very dark green curtain hanging in straight folds, with its weird Japanese pattern of white flowers.
All is gray and dull save the face. This contrast brings out its soft warmth. The dark mass of the curtain with its severely straight vertical lines, contrasted with the darker diagonal mass which represents the figure of the mother, gives us a feeling of solemnity and reverence. The severity of these dark masses is broken by the head and hands. The dainty white cap with its suggestion of lace on the cap strings softens the sweet face and relieves the glossy smoothness of her hair. In her hands she holds a lace handkerchief which we can barely distinguish from the lace on her cuffs. But the hands serve as an exquisite bit of light to lead the eye back to the face, where we study again the calm and tender dignity of the figure and the mysterious beauty of those far-seeing eyes.
By this very simplicity, quiet, and repose, Whistler has made us feel the love and reverence he has for his mother. He leaves us to guess what the mother herself may be thinking as she looks back over the life now past. With what reluctance she may have at first consented to pose for her portrait, believing that this great, wonderful son of hers had better choose some younger, fairer model, more responsive to his magic brush! But when she found his heart was set upon painting her portrait, she would hesitate no longer.
No doubt he knew just which dress he wished his mother to wear. We all know the dress we like to see our own mother wear. Very likely Whistler had planned the picture for days and knew exactly where he wished her to sit and just how the finished portrait was to look. And the mother, with her faith in her son’s talent, probably thought his wanting her picture was only a token of his love for her, little realizing that this portrait alone would make her son famous.
We are moved by the silence and reserve of this gentle lady to an appreciation of the love, reverence, and respect that are her due.
Held at a distance, our reproduction of this picture seems to consist merely of a black silhouette against a light gray wall. On closer examination we soon discover two other values—that of the floor, which is medium gray, and the darker mass of the curtain.
Whistler was so fond of gray that he always kept his studio dimly lighted in order to produce that effect. His pictures are full of suggestions rather than actual objects or details. In his landscapes all is seen through a misty haze of twilight, early morning, fog, or rain. They suggest rather than tell their story. He makes us think as well as feel.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. What did Mr. Whistler call this painting? Why was the name changed? What is it often called? why? Which name seems the most appropriate to you? What colors did the artist use? How many values are represented in this painting? What are they? What can you say about the division of space in the picture? of the light and shade? of the interior of the room?
To the Teacher: Tell about the picture and the artist, or have some one pupil prepare the story and tell it to the class. This may be followed by a written description of the picture and a short sketch of the artist’s life by the class, given in connection with the English composition work. These questions may be written upon the blackboard as a guide or suggestion.
The story of the artist. Perhaps there never was a boy more fond of playing practical jokes than James McNeill Whistler. For this reason he made many enemies as well as friends, for you know that, although very amusing in themselves, practical jokes are apt to offend.
But first we should know something about Whistler’s father and mother. Of a family of soldiers, the father was a graduate of West Point Military Academy, and became a major in the United States army. During those peaceful days there was very little to keep an army officer busy, so the government allowed its West Point graduates to aid in the building of the railroads throughout the country. Civil engineers were in great demand, and from a position as engineer on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Major Whistler became engineer to the Proprietors of Locks and Canals at Lowell, Massachusetts. To Lowell, then a mere village, Major Whistler brought his family, and here James was born. Later the family moved to Stonington, Connecticut.
Whistler’s mother was a strict Puritan and brought up her son according to Puritan beliefs. Their Sundays were quite different from ours at the present day. They really began on Saturday night for little James, for it was then that his pockets were emptied, all toys put away, and everything made ready for the Sabbath. On that day the Bible was the only book they were allowed to read.
When they lived in Stonington, they were a long distance from the church and, as there were no trains on Sunday, the father placed the body of a carriage on car wheels and, running it on the rails as he would a hand car, he was able to take his family to church regularly. This ride to church was the great event of the day for James.
James’s first teacher at school, though a fine man, had unfortunately a very long neck. In his wish to hide this peculiarity he wore unusually high collars. One day little James came in tardy, wearing a collar so high it completely covered his ears. He had made it of paper in imitation of the teacher’s. As he walked solemnly to his seat, the whole school was in an uproar. James sat down and went about his work as if unconscious both of commotion and of the angry glare of his teacher. It was not many minutes before the indignant man rushed upon him and administered the punishment he so richly deserved.
When James was nine years old the family moved to Russia. The Emperor Nicholas I wished to build a railroad from the city of St. Petersburg (now called Petrograd) to Moscow, and had sent all over Europe and America in search of the best man to undertake this work, at last choosing Major Whistler. It was a great honor, of course, and the salary was twelve thousand dollars a year. Here the family lived in great luxury until the father died. Then Mrs. Whistler brought her children back to America to educate them.
When only four years old James had shown considerable talent for drawing, but although his mother admired his sketches she always hoped and planned that her son should become a soldier like his father. So at the age of seventeen she sent him to West Point, where he remained three years before he was discharged for failure in chemistry.
Although he had failed in most of his other studies, too, he stood at the head of his class in drawing. He received much praise for the maps he drew in his geography class, and some of them are still preserved. Whistler himself tells us: “Had silicon been a gas, I would have been a major general.” It was during an oral examination, after repeated failures, that his definition, “Silicon is a gas,” finally caused his dismissal.
Another story is told of his examination in history. His professor said, “What! do you not know the date of the Battle of Buena Vista? Suppose you were to go out to dinner and the company began to talk of the Mexican War, and you, a West Point man, were asked the date of the battle, what would you do?”
“Do?” said Whistler. “Why, I should refuse to associate with people who could talk of such things at dinner.”
Whistler’s real name was James Abbott Whistler, but when he entered West Point he added his mother’s name, McNeill. He did this because he knew the habit at West Point of nicknaming students, and he feared the combination of initial letters would suggest one for him, so he substituted McNeill for Abbott. He was called Jimmie, Jemmie, Jamie, James, and Jim.
The older he grew the more Whistler seemed to enjoy playing practical jokes. Soon after he left West Point he was given a position in a government office, but was so careless in his work he was discharged. As he was going past his employer’s desk he caught sight of an unusually large magnifying glass which that official used only on the most important occasions and which was held in great awe by the employes. Whistler quickly painted a little demon in the center of this glass. It is said that when the official had occasion to use the great magnifying glass again he hurriedly dropped it thinking he must be out of his head, for all he could see was a wicked-looking demon grinning up at him.
When Whistler began to paint in earnest he was very successful, and soon became the idol of his friends. In fact, the admiration of his friends proved quite a misfortune, for it sometimes made him satisfied with poor work. A friend coming in would find a half-completed picture on his easel and go into raptures over it, saying, “Don’t touch it again. Leave it just as it is!” Whistler, pleased and delighted, would say he guessed it was rather good, and so the picture remained unfinished.
Many stories are told of the models he chose from the streets. Often some dirty, ragged little child would find itself taken kindly by the hand and led home to ask its mother whether it might pose for the great artist. After some difficulty the mother would be persuaded to let the child go just as it was, dirt and all. As soon as Whistler began to paint, he usually forgot everything else and so at last the child would cry out from sheer weariness. Then with a start of surprise Whistler would say to his servant, “Pshaw! what’s it all about? Can’t you give it something? Can’t you buy it something?” Needless to say, the child always went home happy with toys and candy.
Whistler saw color everywhere, and he was especially quick to feel the beauty of color combinations. The names of his paintings suggest that this love of color was of first importance in his work, even before the object or person studied. So we have “A Symphony in White,” “Rose and Gold,” “Gray and Silver,” “A Note in Blue and Opal,” and “Green and Gold.”
Questions about the artist. Of what nationality was the artist? What was his father’s profession? What important positions did he hold? How did the family observe Sunday? What was the great event of the day for James McNeill Whistler? To what country did the family move? What happened after the father’s death? Where was James sent to school? Why did he fail? Why did he change his name? Tell about the position in the government office and what happened there. How did praise and admiration affect him? Name some of his best paintings.
MURAL DECORATIONS AND FRESCO
The term “mural decoration” applies to the decoration of walls and ceilings. These decorations may be done in fresco, oils, sculpture in low relief, mosaics, carved and paneled woodwork, or tapestries. In fresco painting a damp plaster ground is prepared on the wall, upon which the moist colors are painted. These colors become fixed as they dry, and appear to be a part of the wall. The work must be done while the plaster is damp, so the painter prepares only that part of the wall which he expects to cover that day. As it cannot be used after it is dry, he must scrape away all that is left and prepare a new background the next day. If the artist wishes to change any part of his picture, he must scrape off the ground and repaint the entire picture. It is often easy to see where the new plaster has been added, and hence how much the artist did in one day.
The damp atmosphere in northern countries soon destroys fresco paints, while the warm, sunny climate of such countries as Italy and Spain preserves them. Most of the fresco paintings of such old masters as Fra Angelico, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo are still to be seen in much of their original beauty.
In America, fresco is seldom used, as artists find that oil paints on canvas, which may be fastened to the wall with white lead, are much more lasting and satisfactory.
Some of the best-known mural paintings in the United States are found in the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts: “The Holy Grail,” by Edwin Abbey (American); “The Frieze of the Prophets,” by John Sargent (American); and “The Muses Welcoming the Genius of Enlightenment,” by Chavannes (French). In the Congressional Library, Washington, D.C., the artists represented are: Elihu Vedder (American), J. W. Alexander (American), H. O. Walker (American), Charles Sprague Pearce (American), Edward Simmons (American), G. W. Maynard (American), and Frederick Dielman (American by adoption). In the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, E. H. Blashfield (American) and Edward Simmons are represented. At the Carnegie Institute the work of John W. Alexander is represented, and at the Walker Art Building, Bowdoin College, Maine, we find works by Cox, Thayer, Vedder, and La Farge.
THE FRIEZE OF THE PROPHETS
Questions to arouse interest. Who were the “prophets”? How many are represented in this picture? Relate some incident or event in the life of any one of them. What book tells about the lives of these men? Of what benefit were they to the world? How many groups are complete in themselves? How are the five groups held together to form a single composition?
The story of the frieze. This painting is placed on the third floor of the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts, in what is known as Sargent Hall. The third floor of the library contains valuable collections of books on special subjects, and to approach these rooms we must pass through a long, high gallery. This is Sargent Hall, named in honor of the artist who decorated its walls. At about the time that Mr. Abbey was asked to decorate the walls of the Delivery Room, Mr. Sargent, also an American, received a commission to decorate both ends of this hall or gallery. He was paid fifteen thousand dollars for the work. So successful was he in pleasing the people, and so much enthusiasm was aroused, that immediately an additional sum of fifteen thousand dollars was raised by popular subscription, and Mr. Sargent was urged to complete the decoration of the entire hall.
The “Frieze of the Prophets” is only a part of the decorations of Sargent Hall. Mr. Sargent has described the complete scheme of decoration as representing “the triumph of religion, showing the development of religion from early confusing beliefs to the worship of the one God upon the basis of the Law and the Prophets.”
Elijah, Moses, Joshua. The Frieze of the Prophets
One glance at the picture tells us that the central figure, that of Moses, is the most important among the nineteen prophets represented. Of all the prophets Moses is considered the most ideal and superhuman, and thus Mr. Sargent has tried to represent him. By using more conventional lines, and by modeling the figure in low relief so that it stands out from the rest of the picture, he has produced this distinguishing effect. The face, beard, shoulders, arms, and Tables of the Law stand out in the painting as if they were carved from stone. In fact, as we look at him we think more of a monument than of a painting. The wings crossed so stiffly make the figure seem all the more erect, while the feathers seem to send out rays of light over the entire picture. The earnest face with its deep-set eyes suggests the strength and courage of that great leader who felt that upon him lay the responsibility for the restless, ignorant idolaters whom he was to lead.
When we read the story of the prophet’s life we are filled with wonder. From the very first it was unusual. Moses was born at the time when the wicked king of Egypt commanded that all boy babies of the Israelites should be drowned. But his mother kept him hidden until he was three months old. Then she placed him in a small boat or ark which she pushed out among the flags and grasses of the river.
We all know how the daughter of Pharaoh found the child and adopted him as her own son. She named him Moses, meaning “to draw out,” for, as she said, she had drawn him out of the water. Grown to manhood among the Egyptians, his open sympathy for his own people caused him to be banished. Then, in the vision of the burning bush, which burns yet never is consumed, the Lord appeared to him and told him that he was to deliver the people of Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians. But when he was told to go to speak to Pharaoh his courage deserted him, and it was not until after several miracles had been performed and divine help promised that he was willing to go.
Aaron, brother of Moses, went with him to ask Pharaoh to permit the Israelites to go on a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord. But Pharaoh only laughed at them. A great many dreadful things had to happen to Pharaoh’s people before he would give his consent—the water was turned to blood; the land was covered with frogs, and lice, and flies; the cattle were afflicted with a dreadful disease; man and beast were covered with running sores; hail destroyed most of the crops; locusts came to devour the rest, and the whole country, except the land in which the Israelites dwelt, was cast into darkness. During each of these scourges Pharaoh would send for Moses and beg him to ask God to deliver the land, saying he would let the Israelites go. But as soon as the danger was removed he would refuse to keep his promise.
Then came the most dreadful scourge of all—the death of the first-born in every Egyptian home. Again Pharaoh had failed to heed the warning of Moses. There was weeping and wailing in Egypt that day, for every home lost a loved one. In great haste the king sent messengers to Moses, giving the Israelites his consent to go and even urging them on their way.
So with their families and their worldly goods the Israelites started out in search of the promised land under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. They had scarcely begun their weary journey before Pharaoh regretted having allowed them to go, and sent spies and an army after them. But a “pillar of cloud” came between the two camps and hid the Israelites that night. In the morning the Red Sea, over which they must cross, divided before them and they walked across on dry land between the walls of water. When they had passed, the waters closed in again and destroyed the pursuing Egyptians.
Then comes the wonderful history of those forty years’ wanderings in the wilderness, led by clouds by day and pillars of fire by night, until the Israelites reached the promised land. During all this time, under the guidance of the Lord, Moses taught his people and directed them in all their affairs. Yet they were not capable of understanding his great spiritual convictions, for at one time, when Moses remained on Mount Sinai forty days and forty nights communing with God, he found upon his return that his people had made themselves an idol and were worshiping it. Their faith seems never to have been very strong, and they were constantly in need of the help and encouragement of their great leader.
From Mount Sinai, Moses brought them the two stone tablets, with the Ten Commandments written upon them.
In his picture Mr. Sargent has represented Moses with two little horns on his forehead. After Moses came down from Mount Sinai, where God had spoken to him, his face shone, or, as the Bible says, “sent forth beams or horns of light.” These horns are also shown very distinctly in Michelangelo’s wonderful statue of Moses.
Here we see him represented as a sort of spiritual giant, holding toward us for our observance the two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments upon which all Christian living should be based.
During the forty years’ wandering in the wilderness many hostile tribes were encountered and had to be subdued. Then a young man, strong, energetic, and skillful in arms, came forward to lead the army. This young leader was Joshua, represented at the right of Moses in the act of sheathing his sword.
Moses himself saw the promised land far off from the top of a mountain. The Lord had told him to go there to look upon it, as he could not live to reach it. Moses then spent his last days instructing his people and their new leader, Joshua the warrior, who was to guide them to the end of their journey.
Having received the promise of divine help, the Israelites under their new leader again took up the march. When they reached the River Jordan, it, like the Red Sea, divided and allowed them to walk over on dry land; the guarded massive walls of Jericho fell that they might enter and possess the land. But there were still other hostile tribes to be conquered before they could feel that the land was really theirs. They were successful in all their battles except one, in which defeat came to them because one man had stolen plunder and hidden it in his house contrary to his promise to God. The sin confessed, victory returned.
When all the land was conquered it became Joshua’s duty to divide it among the different tribes, a long and difficult task. This accomplished, he gathered his people together and told them that his time of leadership was about to end. Then he made them decide for themselves whether they would henceforth worship idols or the one God. They vowed they would worship the one God, and Joshua caused them to erect a monument as a reminder of their vow.
In our picture the simple, straight lines of the figure of Joshua are suggestive of the determined, forceful character of the man. They give an impression of great strength. Notice how the light falls upon his upraised arm and the straight folds of his garment. It seems to come directly from the wings of the figure of Moses, as if to acknowledge the wisdom and inspiration which Joshua received from the great leader. The face of Joshua, half hidden under his hood, is thoughtful yet determined. Here is a man of strong, steady purpose, pressing on persistently until he, with all his people, should reach the promised land.
Of a quite different type is the prophet Elijah, whom we see at the left of Moses. This enthusiastic leader, regardless of physical comforts or earthly pleasures, bends all his energies toward the one great cause. His complete forgetfulness of self is well represented here by the careless draperies, the intense feeling in the face, and the strained muscles of the neck and arms. We know little about his life until the time when he was sent as messenger to the palace of the wicked King Ahab. This king over the Israelites lived in a magnificent palace made of ivory and gold, with beautiful gardens about it. But his wife, Jezebel, was a wicked woman, and a worshiper of idols, and she persuaded Ahab to build a great temple to one of her gods, Baal, and to worship with her.
One day, without any warning, a strange-looking man wearing a cloak of camel’s hair and carrying a strong staff in his hand, appeared before Ahab in the throne room of his magnificent palace. It was Elijah, and without even bowing to the king or showing him any respect whatever, he delivered this dreadful message in a loud voice: “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” Before the astonished king could answer, Elijah had disappeared.
Then the Lord warned Elijah to hide by a certain brook called Cherith, for Ahab would pursue him. Here he lived three months, fed by the ravens and hiding in caves in the rocks, for this brook was hidden between two hills of rock covered with leaves. But soon the brook became dry, for there had been no rain. Then again came the message of the Lord, telling him to go to a certain widow’s home many miles away, where he would be taken care of. As Elijah neared the gates of the city where she lived, he met a woman gathering sticks. He asked her for some water and bread, but she told him she had just enough meal to make one little cake for herself and her small son. After that they must die, for she was very poor. She had been gathering the sticks to bake the cake. Then Elijah told her to make a cake for him first, and not to be afraid, for the Lord had told him her meal and oil should not give out before the rain came. She did as he said, and, sure enough, she had as much meal and oil as before. Then she knew this to be a man of God, and offered to let him stay in her home.
Elijah remained there two years, during which time the drought continued over Israel, and Ahab sought the prophet in vain.
Then came the voice of the Lord commanding him to go again to the king with a message. Ahab was very angry when Elijah again appeared; but Elijah was not afraid. He ordered Ahab to gather all the Israelites at Mount Carmel and to bring there also the prophets of Baal, the heathen god. But the wicked Jezebel had caused all the prophets of the Israelites to be put to death, so that Elijah was alone against the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. While he waited, Elijah spent the time in prayer.
When all were gathered at Mount Carmel, the king in his royal purple robes, the false prophets in their white robes and high pointed caps, and all the attendants, officers, and servants, the great figure of Elijah loomed up before them, demanding in a loud voice how long they were going to take to decide whether to serve God or Baal. None dared reply. He told them to bring two oxen; one, the prophets of Baal should prepare for sacrifice, the other he should prepare. Each should call upon his God, and the God that answered by fire should be supreme. The people thought this very fair, as Baal was supposed to be the god of fire.
The prophets of Baal were allowed to try first. In vain they called to the sun, and danced about the altar, waving their arms wildly, begging Baal to hear them and to send the fire—but there was no response. Is it any wonder Elijah said to them: “Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” They continued their supplication all day, but to no avail.
Then Elijah called the people close around him, prepared his offering, and commanded them to pour water over it several times and also to fill the ditch surrounding it with water, that they might be fully persuaded. Then Elijah’s prayer was immediately answered by a fire, which not only burned up the offering but licked up the water around it. Then the people were persuaded, the false prophets were slain, and rain descended upon the land.
But Jezebel was very angry when she heard these things, and sent word to Elijah that he, too, should share the fate of the prophets of Baal. Elijah fled. It was at this time he rested “under a juniper tree,” which has since been known as an expression of discouragement.
Again came the message of the Lord, sending him to the land of Israel, where he should proclaim his successor, Elisha. Elijah spent the rest of his life instructing young men, of whom Elisha was his most devoted follower. When his work was over he was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire.
Next to Elijah in the frieze stands Daniel, that stanch leader whom nothing could dismay, not even the fear of being placed in the lions’ den. He does not look as if he could easily be persuaded to turn aside from what he believed was right. The fixed folds of his garment correspond with his features and his character as we know it. In his hands he carries a piece of parchment upon which is inscribed in Hebrew, “And they that be wise shall shine.”
His was an unusual life full of strange experiences. He was fourteen years old when the people of Judah were taken captives to Babylon by the victorious King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was chosen with several other boys to be trained as pages for the king; then many strange things happened to him. In the first place his name was changed from Daniel, which means “God is my judge,” to Belteshazzar, after one of the idols of the Babylonians. All the pages were given these strange heathen names. They were treated very kindly but were expected to eat the rich food from the king’s table, most of which had been offered to the idols.
Amos, Nahum, Ezekiel, Daniel. The Frieze of the Prophets
When Daniel found this out he made his first stand for what he believed was right. Feeling that it was wrong to eat this food, he persuaded three of the other boys to go with him and ask the king’s officers to give them plainer food. The officers consented to test this diet with the four boys, and at the end of three months found they had gained in strength more than the other pages, who had continued to eat the rich food; and so Daniel’s request was granted. All the pages had to study very hard, for they had to learn the language of the Babylonians besides many other things. When they were brought before the king to be examined three years later, Daniel and his three friends were found to be the brightest scholars of all. People began to look up to them, and to call them very wise.
Not long after this King Nebuchadnezzar had a very strange dream, but when he woke up in the morning he could not remember what it was. He called his wise men together, but none could tell him what he had dreamed. He became very angry and ordered them all put to death, even Daniel and his friends, whom he thought ought to be wise enough to tell him.
All that night Daniel and his friends prayed for help, until, utterly weary, they fell asleep. In a dream the Lord told Daniel what to tell the king. King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream had been about his kingdom, and who should rule after him, and he was amazed that one so young as Daniel should tell him what he had dreamed and what the dream meant. He gave Daniel many presents and made him a great ruler.
Daniel continued in favor with Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, Darius. So much was he favored that the other officers of the king wished to destroy him. Appealing to his vanity, they persuaded Darius to set aside thirty days in which all his people should pray to him just as if he were a god. He made this dreadful law among his people, who were Medes and Persians. Of course we know how Daniel continued to pray to God, was watched, and reported to the king. Then King Darius saw the trap which his officers had set for Daniel. He was greatly distressed, but not even a king could change a law among the Medes and Persians. He had said that any one who disobeyed his law should perish in the den of lions.
But we know how Daniel was taken care of; how the king rejoiced to find him alive the next morning; and how all the people marveled and believed in the God who had saved him. At this time Daniel was eighty years old. God sent some wonderful dreams to him, and he was able to prophesy many things that should happen to the Jews. It was through him that they were delivered from their captivity.
At the right of Joshua we see Jeremiah, the prophet who so bitterly lamented the afflictions of his people. He is often called the “weeping prophet.” So Mr. Sargent has represented him in that attitude of grief and discouragement, standing there with his eyes cast down in sorrowful meditation. His whole life was spent in what seemed a fruitless strife against the evils of his time, for his warnings were disregarded, and his people were hurrying toward their destruction.
Jeremiah, Jonah, Isaiah, Habakkuk. The Frieze of the Prophets
Mr. Sargent has made us feel the hopeless despair of this strong man who tried so hard to save his people from all the misery they so willfully brought upon themselves. He even went about the streets wearing a yoke on his neck, to symbolize the coming servitude of the nation which refused to heed his warnings and repent. His life was in constant danger; he was imprisoned, thrown into a damp, unwholesome cistern, and was often obliged to hide for months in caves among the rocks to escape the king’s anger.
Other prophets could declare God’s protection and hold out some hope for the good to come, but Jeremiah’s message spoke only of evil and sorrow. It took great courage to go about on so unpopular and sad a mission, without even a miracle to prove his words true, and always alone among people who were unfriendly and did not believe in him.
The first one of Jeremiah’s predictions to come true was when Daniel and the Israelites were taken captives to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Again he warned them not to go into Egypt, but they not only went but compelled him to go with them.
The last we hear of Jeremiah is in Egypt, urging his people to give up their idols and worship God. He is indeed, as Mr. Sargent has represented him, “the prophet of sorrow”; and yet the figure is one of strength. Neither in his face nor in his bearing is there any sign of indecision or turning back.
Next, partly hidden from view, we see Jonah, the unwilling prophet, who tried to run away when the Lord told him to take his message of warning to Nineveh. The people in this city were known to be very wicked, and Jonah feared they might kill him, so he took a boat and started away in another direction. We all know of the fearful storm that arose and how the sailors prayed to their gods and urged Jonah to pray to his. But Jonah could not pray to God when he was disobeying Him. Then the sailors drew lots, as was the custom, to find out who had sinned and brought the fearful storm upon them. The lot fell to Jonah, who told them how he had run away from Nineveh. He urged the sailors to throw him overboard, saying the sea would then be still. The men did not want to do this, but, fearful lest all should be lost, they finally threw him overboard. At once the wind died down and the sea was still. We know how the whale was sent to swallow Jonah and to carry him safely to the shore, where he was left, now very willing to deliver his message to Nineveh.
He was to tell these wicked people that in forty days their city would be overthrown. He went about the streets dressed in a rough camel’s-hair cloak, very much like Elijah, and called out his prophecy in a loud voice. No wonder the people were frightened, and when he told them how he had not wanted to bring the message and had been forced to, they were more frightened than ever. All the people, and the king too, wept and prayed God for forgiveness, neither eating nor drinking. Then God heard their prayers and forgave them, and their city was not destroyed.
But Jonah felt very much hurt because his message had not proved true. He thought only of himself, and felt that he had been cheated. He went away by himself and built a small place of shelter just outside the walls of the city. Here he sat and waited, still hoping Nineveh would be destroyed. Suddenly a tree sprang up, its dense leaves protecting him from the hot sun. Jonah was greatly pleased and refreshed, but the tree as suddenly withered, and he was left grieving for it. God then spoke to him and asked him how he could grieve for the tree, yet harden his heart against the people of Nineveh, who had repented.
Jeremiah’s greatest grief was that the people would not heed his warnings, while Jonah felt aggrieved because his prophecy was not fulfilled.
In the picture we see Jonah reading a scroll bearing the one word “Jehovah.”
ISAIAH AND THE LESSER PROPHETS
Next to Jonah we see Isaiah, the enthusiast, prophesying the coming of Christ’s kingdom. Note how the light falls on the head and shoulders, and on the upraised arms of the prophet, and is echoed, so to speak, by the light on the lower folds of his robe. All lines and lights lead the eye upward, even as Isaiah sought to lift his people up into a higher, better world. He is the hopeful figure in this group of four.
Habakkuk stands next with his far-seeing eyes missing the heavenly visions which surround Isaiah, but seeing the sorrows and evils of the world and trying in vain to remedy them.
The next group to the right represents the three prophets of hope, Haggai, Malacchi, and Zechariah, all pointing toward the section of the wall where Mr. Sargent’s new painting, “The Sermon on the Mount,” will be placed when finished. The one doubtful figure, Micah, who is looking back, serves to hold this section of the picture to the other figures in the frieze.
EZEKIEL AND THE LESSER PROPHETS
At the left-hand side of the frieze and next to Daniel, stands Ezekiel. Ezekiel lived at the same time as Daniel and, like him, began his prophetic career after he was exiled to Babylon. During the twenty-seven years of his exile he kept his fellow exiles informed as to all dangers which were besetting and threatening their people at home in Jerusalem and Judah. His book abounds in visions and poetical images. Mr. Sargent has given him the absorbed expression of one who sees beyond the present and whose vision includes both evil and good.
Micah, Haggai, Malacchi, Zechariah. The Frieze of the Prophets
Nahum, standing next to Ezekiel, seems to be predicting the wickedness and fall of Nineveh, of which he has given us such a powerful and vivid account; while Amos denounces idolatry and the sins of the nations, also predicting a brighter future for the people of Israel.
The four figures in the last panel to the left of Moses represent the prophets of despair. We cannot fail to notice that among the hopeful prophets there is one discouraged figure, while among the prophets of despair we find the hopeful figure of Hosea.
Obadiah, Joel, and Zephaniah urged their people to repentance of sin, and warned them of disaster to come, but their warnings were not heeded. In the picture Joel is attempting to shut out the sight of the fearful plague of locusts, of the famine, and of the drought which he knows must come to his people because they will not repent. The other two prophets seem crushed by a hopeless despair. But love is the keynote of Hosea’s pleadings. He speaks of the unquenchable love of Jehovah for his erring people.
It is interesting to know that Mr. Sargent’s favorite figure in the frieze is this young prophet in white, Hosea. Is it any wonder he should choose this one? The name Hosea means salvation. In him we see beauty, grace, and simplicity, and we feel the steady purpose, the earnest faith, of that calm, quiet face. There is no despair in that face or figure; the very folds of his robe give us a feeling of strength and stability; they suggest marble.
Obadiah, Joel, Zephaniah, Hosea. The Frieze of the Prophets
We are interested in this great mural painting, “The Frieze of the Prophets,” not only for its intellectual and religious suggestiveness, but for its composition, its masses of dark and light, and its beauty of form. Each of the groups of figures is complete in itself, yet by the position of the figures and by the light upon them, the frieze is held together as one composition.
Mr. Sargent spent many years, and studied his Bible very thoughtfully, before he attempted to draw this great picture.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Who were the prophets? What had they to do with the development of religion? Who painted this picture? Where is the original? What can you say of the composition of this picture? of the light and shade? What do we call paintings on a wall? What is there unusual about this painting? For what do you admire it? Why was Moses given the most important place in this picture? Tell the story of his life. Why is he often represented with two little horns on his forehead? Tell something about each one of the prophets. Which one is Mr. Sargent’s favorite?
To the Teacher: Certain pupils may be selected to study and give orally a description of different portions of this picture.
The story of the artist. We are especially interested in Mr. Sargent because he is one of the living American artists who has won fame both in his own country and abroad. Although John Singer Sargent was born in Florence, Italy, we claim him as an American because his parents were Americans and because he has always considered himself an American. His boyhood was spent in Florence, where it was his delight to wander in the art galleries. He showed an early talent for drawing, and when he was nineteen years old he went to Paris to become the pupil of some of the best artists.
Mr. Sargent is famous for his many portraits as well as for his mural decorations. He has traveled extensively and has visited the United States many times, painting and exhibiting his paintings here, but most of his life has been spent in London, where he is now living. In 1908 he was elected to the Royal Academy. He has won many medals of honor for his paintings, and is a member of the leading art societies of America and Europe.
Among the noted pictures by Mr. Sargent are: “Carnation Lily, Lily Rose,” “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale,” “Neapolitan Children Bathing,” “El Jaleo” (Spanish Dance), “Fumes of Ambergris,” “Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth,” and “La Carmençita.” As a portrait painter Mr. Sargent has been commissioned by men and women of high distinction in literary, political, social, and artistic life in America and Europe. Among his eminent sitters have been: Joseph Chamberlain, Carolus Duran, Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary Hay, and Octavia Hill.
Questions about the artist. Why do we feel an especial interest in Mr. Sargent? Where was he born? Why do we claim him as an American? Where did he study drawing and painting? For what kind of paintings is he famous? Where does he live?
Copyright by Edwin A. Abbey; from a Copley Print
Copyright by Curtis & Cameron, Publishers, Boston
GALAHAD THE DELIVERER. THE HOLY GRAIL
THE HOLY GRAIL
Questions to arouse interest. How many of you have read Tennyson’s The Holy Grail? What was the Holy Grail? Why did men seek it? Tell what you can of Sir Galahad and his adventures.
The story of the picture. When asked to decorate the walls of the Delivery Room of the Boston Public Library Mr. Abbey planned to represent “The Sources of Modern Literature,” thinking this would be most appropriate, as Mr. Sargent had chosen “The Sources of the Christian Religion” for the subject of his pictures on the walls of a gallery on the third floor of the same building. But as Mr. Abbey read and studied the subject he became impressed with the story of the Holy Grail, which seemed to be woven in and out through all our literature. He realized also that he would be the first to represent this subject in a large decoration, and that it was altogether worthy of his best efforts.
The paintings occupy the wall space between the wainscot and the ceiling of this great room, where books of the library are given out and returned. The pictures are eight feet in height, but vary in length from the first, “The Vision,” which is six feet long, to the fifth, “The Castle of the Grail,” which is thirty-three feet long and extends the entire length of the north wall.
Mr. Abbey spent seven years in careful research work before he was able to complete these paintings. He received fifteen thousand dollars for his work.
According to an old legend, the Holy Grail was the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper. It was bought from Pilate by Joseph of Arimathæa, who caught in it the divine blood that fell from Christ’s wounds.
Joseph placed the cup in a castle, which he kept guarded night and day. It was passed on to his descendants, who received the charge in sacred trust and continued to guard it faithfully. The cup itself was most mysterious and wonderful. It could be seen only by those who were perfectly pure in word, thought, and deed. If an evil person came near, it was borne away as if by some invisible hand, completely disappearing from view.
The sight of it was as food to the one to whom it was revealed and enabled him “to live and to cause others to live indefinitely without food,” gave him “universal knowledge,” and made him invulnerable in battle. But there was one thing it did not do. No matter how perfect the knight, he could still be tempted. He must continue to resist temptation as long as he lived.
At length there came a king, keeper of the Grail, called Amfortas, the Fisher King, who was not strong enough to resist temptation. He yielded to an evil enchantment and was severely punished. Not only was the sight of the Grail denied him, but a spell was cast upon him and all his court so that they lived in a sort of trance, neither sleeping nor waking. Thus they must remain until a knight pure in body and soul should come to break the spell and set them free.
Little was known about the enchanted castle, where the king and his men were held in the power of the spell, but many a young man began to plan the quest of the Grail. He must so live that by his good thoughts and deeds he might reach the enchanted castle, see the Holy Grail, and so set free the unhappy knights. He must be perfect, indeed, if he would achieve this, and full of courage, perseverance, and patience.
In our picture we see Sir Galahad, the stainless knight, who succeeds in his quest of the Holy Grail.
Mr. Abbey has told the story in fifteen pictures, beginning with Sir Galahad as a child.
“THE INFANCY OF GALAHAD,” OR “THE VISION”
Galahad was the son of Launcelot and Elaine, for it was according to an old prophecy that these two should have a son who should become a great knight and find the Holy Grail.
They placed their small son in a convent to be brought up by the nuns. In the first picture we see the child attracted by a bright light visible to him alone. He laughs in great delight and reaches toward the Grail as he sees it gleaming fiery red through its veil-like covering. It is held in the hands of an angel radiant in white as the light from the Grail illumines her face and wings. She is supported by the wings of doves, upon which she seems to be borne along. These doves signify the Holy Spirit and are also represented as hovering near the Grail and acting as informants concerning good and evil. The odor of the incense from the Grail furnishes a mysterious sustenance to the child which causes him to grow in mind and body. He is held high in the arms of a sweet-faced young nun who does not see the vision but seems to feel vaguely that some unusual event is taking place. In the original painting the bluish black of her outer robe throws into greater prominence the creamy white of her draperies as they, too, are flooded with light from the Grail.
The background gives the effect of heavy tapestry and is made up of tones of blue and white embroidered in gold. The figures of lions and peacocks are used to signify the resurrection.
“THE OATH OF KNIGHTHOOD”
When the child had grown to manhood, Sir Launcelot was summoned to make him a knight. In this picture we see Galahad in the convent chapel, where he has just passed the night in prayer preparatory to his departure out into the world.
As he kneels at the altar, he is clad in the red robe which is worn by the hero throughout the series of pictures. Red is chosen as the color of spiritual purity and means the “spirit cleansed by fire.” “It stands for activity, conflict, human effort with the knowledge of good and evil that imparts the strength to achieve the good and resist the evil.”
The honor of knighthood is conferred upon Galahad by Sir Launcelot and Sir Bors, who can be seen in their heavy armor kneeling behind him. They fasten the spurs upon his feet as a signal that the moment of departure has arrived.
Copyright by Edwin A. Abbey; from a Copley Print
copyright by Curtis & Cameron, Publishers, Boston
The Oath of Knighthood. The Holy Grail
The time of day is shown by the two candles at the altar which have been burning all night and are now burned low in their sockets, and by the faint early light of dawn which comes stealing in through the small windows at the left of the picture. Just behind the knights stand a group of nuns, holding tall candles which light up the dark room and reflect on the white robes and shining armor. The interior decoration of the church is plainly shown. Our attention is drawn to the quaint crucifix just back of the kneeling knights, and the figures surrounding it.
The architecture is that of the Early Christian Romanesque. Sir Galahad’s face is partly in shadow, as if lost in deep thought. But the moment of departure has arrived. He will take up the helmet, which lies near him, and leave the convent for his first glimpse of the outside world. He must go to the wise teacher, Gurnemanz, to learn not only the rules of knighthood but the ways of the world, before he may start on his quest of the Holy Grail.
“THE ROUND TABLE OF KING ARTHUR”
Having been fully instructed in all the ways of the world by the good Gurnemanz, Sir Galahad starts out on his quest. First he goes to the Round Table of King Arthur and his knights in Camelot. He finds them holding a solemn meeting, their leader having just declared that this is the day when, according to prophecy, the stainless knight should come who should occupy the Siege Perilous. The Siege Perilous was a chair over which the magician, Merlin, had cast a spell, so that no man could sit in it without peril of death. Even Merlin himself was lost while sitting in his own chair. Only a blameless knight could hope for safety in this perilous seat. While Arthur and the knights are discussing the prophecy, there suddenly appears a strange old man clothed in white, whom none has seen before.
He comes toward the throne of King Arthur, leading Sir Galahad by the hand. The door and windows quietly and mysteriously close of themselves; the room is filled with a strange light. The Angel of the Grail appears before them, and gently lifts the red drapery from the chair. The encircling choir of angels look on silently as all read above the chair, in letters of fire, the flaming words, “This is Galahad’s seat.”
This picture shows them at that breathless moment when the letters of golden light appeared over the chair. King Arthur has risen from his seat to greet Sir Galahad; a small page kneels beside the king, while the jester half rises at the wondrous sight. Sir Galahad wears the same red robe, fastened with a golden brown girdle—a gift from the nuns when he was leaving the convent.
A wonderful rock of red marble has been discovered, protruding from the surface of a river. From its side projects a shining sword which none has been able to draw out. The king and his knights hasten to see this sword, but none succeeds in moving it. Now Sir Galahad arrives and draws the sword without the slightest difficulty, placing it in his empty scabbard, where it fits exactly. He also secures a shield which had been left for him by his ancestor, and, thus armed, he is ready to start out in search of the Grail. Most of the knights, persuaded by this series of strange events that Sir Galahad is to be the true knight, decide to join him in his search.
Before they start on their long and perilous journey they gather in the church for a final benediction. So here again we see the interior of a church. The bishop’s hands are raised in a parting benediction over the group of kneeling knights clad in shining armor and holding their lances erect. Many strange banners float above them. Sir Galahad alone has bared his head. His helmet is on the floor beside him. Other kneeling priests may be seen just behind the bishop. The scene is one of solemnity and dignity.
“THE CASTLE OF THE GRAIL AND THE FAILURE OF GALAHAD”
King Amfortas, keeper of the Grail, who yielded to temptation and so was denied the sight of the Grail, and his knights, upon whom was cast a fearful spell which was neither sleeping nor waking, anxiously await the arrival of Galahad. But, it is not enough that he should come; he must ask a certain question which alone can free them from their living death.
Here we see Sir Galahad in the enchanted castle, a puzzled onlooker. He looks silently about him at the feeble old king and his wretched company. He sees, too, the procession of the Grail, which, although the king and his court cannot see it, is constantly passing before them. This procession includes the Angel, bearer of the Grail, a damsel carrying a golden dish, two knights who carry seven-branched candlesticks, and a knight holding a bleeding spear.
Sir Galahad must ask the meaning of what he sees and by his question remove the enchantment. But, over-confident in his own knowledge, he tries to solve the mystery by himself, and fails. The procession of the Grail is shown to the right of the throne upon which King Amfortas half sits, half reclines, while the rest of the weird company look solemnly on as Sir Galahad stands transfixed with amazement and perplexity because the spell is not removed as he expected. Because of his failure to ask the necessary question, these people must continue to suffer. Several years later he returns, a wiser man, and releases them. Personal purity alone was not enough; wisdom was necessary, and to secure this he must ask a certain question. He could not attain knowledge through himself alone, but must seek it from the experience and understanding of others.
“THE LOATHLY DAMSEL”
The next morning after his failure the castle seems deserted, but when Galahad starts out he finds his horse saddled and waiting for him. The drawbridge is down, so thinking perhaps the king and knights are in the forest, he rides across the bridge in search of them. Instantly the drawbridge closes with a crash, and there is a great sound of groaning and of voices reproaching him for having failed in his quest. The castle disappears from sight, and Galahad roams disconsolately in the woods. Finally he sits down to rest and think. He is aroused by the passing of three enchanted maidens, the Loathly Damsel and her two followers.
In the picture we see her riding a white mule richly caparisoned. Her form suggests beauty, yet the face is ugly and distorted, her head bald so that she must wear a hood. In her hands she carries the ghastly head of a king wearing a crown, and she seems depressed by her burden. Forced by the spell to go about harming mankind against her will, she is angry with Sir Galahad for having failed to release her. In her anger she reproaches him for not having asked the question while within the castle, and so here for the first time Sir Galahad learns why he failed.
Once a beautiful woman, the Loathly Damsel must ride about thus unhappily. The head and shoulders are all that is visible of the second damsel, apparently riding. The third, dressed as a boy, carries a scourge with which she forces the two mules onward.
Sir Galahad bows his head in silence at their reproaches, humbly feeling that he deserves them.
Many years of sorrow and suffering must pass before he can again find the Castle of the Grail.
“THE CONQUEST OF THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS”
Continually seeking the Castle of the Grail, Sir Galahad wanders about in this enchanted land. At length, catching a glimpse of a strange castle, he makes haste to reach it, and finds it to be the Castle of Imprisoned Maidens. These maidens represent the Virtues; and their jailers, the Seven Deadly Sins. Arriving at the gate of the castle, he finds it guarded by these seven knights. A fierce conflict ensues in which Sir Galahad is victorious. This is the only picture in the series in which he is represented in violent physical conflict; the others represent more of the inner spiritual conflict. The seven knights, wearing heavy armor and carrying immense shields, are represented in dull gray colors, while our hero, wearing his chain armor over his red robe, is easily distinguished by the shining gold of his helmet and the red of his shield.
“THE KEY TO THE CASTLE”
Sir Galahad defeats the seven knights but he does not slay them, and they turn and flee. This signifies that although the seven sins can no longer trouble the pure soul, yet they are still about in the world.
Passing the outer gate, Sir Galahad is greeted by the keeper of the inner gate, an aged man who blesses him and gives him the key to the castle. With helmet in hand, Sir Galahad kneels reverently before the saintly man who greets him kindly as he holds toward him the great key.
“GALAHAD DELIVERS THE CAPTIVE VIRTUES”
Sir Galahad enters the castle and is welcomed by the maidens, who have long been expecting him, for it was according to prophecy that a perfect knight should come to deliver them.
Mr. Abbey has represented these maidens as most beautiful in form and feature. They are dressed in pale colors such as blue, white, rose, and lilac, richly embroidered with gold. Our hero is turned away from us as he humbly receives the shyly offered gratitude of the fair maidens. His helmet and shield may be seen on the floor beside him. In size and importance this large picture is a sort of companion picture to the one on the opposite side of the room, “The Round Table of King Arthur.” Both are beautiful in color and symmetry.
“GALAHAD PARTS FROM HIS BRIDE, BLANCHEFLEUR”
Having released the imprisoned Virtues that they may go about in the world doing good, Sir Galahad returns to King Arthur’s court and marries the Lady Blanchefleur, to whom he had become betrothed while a pupil of Gurnemanz.
On his wedding morning the vision of the Grail appears to him many times, and the thought of poor old King Amfortas, awaiting the knight who is to release him, saddens Galahad. He is seized with a great desire to continue his quest, and finding his young bride in sympathy with his ambition, he decides to start out that day on his journey.
The picture represents the bride Blanchefleur seated in her wedding clothes, the wreath of roses still on her head and holding a bunch of roses in her hands. Sir Galahad waves his hand in parting, preparatory to donning his shield and sword, and goes forth to join the companion waiting for him at the gate. The bride shows no signs of grief, for she knows it is according to the prophecy that he should successfully accomplish his quest, and she feels the high purpose which calls him. And Galahad goes forth with renewed faith and inspiration to the final accomplishment of his great quest.
“AMFORTAS RELEASED BY GALAHAD”
After many days he again finds the Castle of the Grail. Upon entering, he sees the same procession passing before the unseeing eyes of the suffering King Amfortas and his unhappy knights. As before, he cannot understand it, but grown wiser by his hard-earned experience, he now knows that he must ask the question. His keen sympathy for the king brings the involuntary question to his lips, “What aileth thee, O King? And what mean these things?” At his words the spell is broken, and all is light and life again.
But King Amfortas wishes for nothing more in life than to be permitted to die in peace. So in this picture we see Sir Galahad affectionately bending over the dying Amfortas as he lifts him up that he may see the vision of the Grail, at last made visible to him again. The Angel is carrying it away from the castle, and it is not seen again until Sir Galahad finally achieves it at Sarras.
“GALAHAD THE DELIVERER”
Not only has Sir Galahad released the inmates of the enchanted Castle of the Grail, but he has removed the spell that was upon all the country round, the Loathly Damsel, and all others. But he has not yet achieved the Grail itself. So he starts out once more on his noble white charger, surrounded by the grateful people, chief among them the Loathly Damsel who so bitterly upbraided him at his first failure. Now restored to beauty and virtue, she is kneeling in the foreground of the picture.
The hero rides erect, carrying his banner, and looking straight ahead. We see the houses of the people in the background, and catch a glimpse of the sea toward which Sir Galahad rides.
“THE VOYAGE TO SARRAS,” OR “SOLOMON’S SHIP”
According to the legend it was in the time of the wise King Solomon that a ship of mysterious and wonderful workmanship had been built. Just as King Solomon was about to go on board strange letters of fire, written in the air by an angel, warned him not to enter. As he stepped back, the ship suddenly started off by itself and disappeared out to sea. In some miraculous way it had been kept all these years to fulfill its destiny and bring Sir Galahad to Sarras, where he should achieve the Grail. And so, coming to the shore of the sea, he finds there the ship waiting for him. Little is known of the city of Sarras, except that it is supposed to have been in the Holy Land, and that this was the place where the Holy Grail was to be found.
In the picture is represented the voyage to Sarras on King Solomon’s ship. It is a frail-looking ship, guided by the Angel of the Grail, guarding her treasure. Two knights, Percival and Bors, have been permitted to go with Sir Galahad on this journey. They cannot see the Grail itself, having sinned once, yet their faith and persistent search have made it possible for them to go with him.
“THE CITY OF SARRAS”
When they arrived at the city of Sarras, Sir Galahad’s shield was at once recognized, and the voyagers were treated as holy men. The knights went about doing good, and through the power given them by their purity they were enabled to heal the sick and the crippled.
The news of their good works aroused the jealousy and anger of the wicked king of that country, who cast the three knights into prison. Here they were fed by the Holy Grail. The wicked king grew very ill and at last sent for them, begging their mercy. Scarcely had they granted it when the king died. The whole city proclaimed Galahad king.
So here in this picture we see Galahad’s sword and shield laid aside, his adventures over. Three ships are anchored in the bay of the quiet city, and the tall buildings with their stately towers are surrounded by a great red wall.
“THE GOLDEN TREE AND THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE GRAIL”
Galahad had been king of Sarras over a year when sailing one day, in his ship, he prayed that “when he might ask it, he should pass out of this world.” He is promised that his request will be granted and that then he shall see the Holy Grail unveiled.
In this picture the Golden Tree signifies his work on earth completed. As he kneels and makes his request, his sword and shield, now useless, fall from him and the Grail is revealed to his sight. Seven angels with wings of crimson surround him. The Grail is borne heavenward, never to be seen again on earth. Divine wisdom has been attained.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Where are the original paintings? Why did Mr. Abbey choose this subject? What preparation did he make before he painted these pictures? What was the legend of the Holy Grail? What power did the Holy Grail not have? What happened to King Amfortas? Why did Sir Galahad wish to find the Grail? What was required of the knight who should find it? What preparation did Sir Galahad make? What strange events made the other knights decide to follow Sir Galahad? Why did Sir Galahad fail when he reached the Castle of the Grail? How did his failure affect the people about him? Tell about the conquest of the Seven Deadly Sins. What became of the seven sins, and what does that signify? Tell about Sir Galahad’s final success.
To the Teacher: Pupils may be asked to prepare and give orally short descriptions of at least one picture; class discussions should be encouraged.
After the entire series has been studied, pupils may choose one of the pictures as a subject for English composition work. They will be interested in reading Tennyson’s Sir Galahad, The Holy Grail, or other selections from the Idylls of the King.
The story of the artist. Mr. Edwin Austin Abbey was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is one of the few great American artists who has won fame both at home and abroad. Living in Philadelphia, he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which he left at the age of nineteen to enter the art department of Harper and Brothers, New York City. His first success came as an illustrator for their publications. It was through the Harpers, too, that he went to England, for they sent him there to gather material for some poems which they wished him to illustrate. He was especially interested in literary subjects, and while in England prepared many of his best illustrations, among them those for Shakespeare’s comedies and for Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer.
His water colors and pastels were also very popular. His most important work in oils—“The Holy Grail,” is in the United States. When this picture was almost finished he went, at the request of King Edward VII, to paint a picture of the coronation. The groups of figures, with their elaborate costumes and rich coloring, offered every inducement to one who so loved these things. Mr. Abbey became very popular in England. He received many medals, and all possible honors both at home and abroad.
Questions about the artist. Who painted this picture? Where was he born? Where did he study? How did he achieve his first success? How did he happen to go to England? What is his most important work? Where was it painted?
From a Copley Print copyright by
Curtis & Cameron, Publishers, Boston
THE WOLF CHARMER
Questions to arouse interest. What does this picture represent? What is the man doing? What effect does that have upon the wolves? Tell some of the general traits of a wolf. How many ever saw a tame wolf? Why do you suppose they have not become domesticated like other animals? On what is the man playing? Why do you suppose this picture is called “The Wolf Charmer”? What kind of a picture would you call it—realistic or imaginative?
The story of the picture. The weird charm of this picture lies in the strange, elfish sympathy which this man seems to have with the evil-looking wolves, and is increased by our knowledge of the nature and disposition of those fierce creatures. We have an instinctive fear of them. Perhaps this is due to the fact that very little good has ever been said or written about a wolf.
History tells us that packs of wolves once howled around the city of Paris all night and even tore people to pieces in the very streets of the city. Stories are told of travelers pursued by hungry packs of wolves and tales of horror are brought by the very few who have escaped with their lives. Legends, fables, myths, and traditions which describe the savage ferocity of the wolf are numerous. How often we hear the expressions,—“a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and “keep the wolf from the door”!
Such a reputation, coming from so early a date, we may be sure has a foundation in fact. We have not been taught to fear these animals without reason. Wolves are among the wildest and fiercest of animals, and farther removed from human association than any others. Men have tried again and again to tame them, but have been successful only in rare instances.
Some authorities argue that the fact that wolves have occasionally been tamed goes to prove that the wild, ferocious disposition of the wolf is the result of circumstances. Very rare instances are known in which these creatures have been captured and tamed, following their masters like dogs, even making good watch dogs, and learning to bark almost like a dog. A merchant in Petrograd drove a pair in harness, having trained them when very young. But then we have the story of the Duke of Württemberg, who kept a tame wolf in his beautiful Castle of Louisburg. It had been trained like a dog, and had never been known to attack any one. But suddenly one day without any provocation whatever it flew at an officer and bit a piece out of his cheek.
Treachery, caution, and cunning are the qualities usually attributed to wolves. No one has ever accused them of stupidity, however. On the other hand, trappers have been amazed and chagrined by the shrewdness displayed by these animals. When traps have been placed to which a fuse of gunpowder was attached, they have frequently been known to gnaw the strings so as to prevent the explosion, and then make away with the bait, unharmed. Only extreme hunger, however, will ever drive them near a trap.
Wolves belong to the same family as dogs and look very much like them. We can see in our picture that they are about the same size as a large dog, only leaner and more gaunt, and with a wicked expression on their faces. This expression comes partly from the eyes, which are oblique or slanting, the pupils round; and partly from the muzzle, which is somewhat longer than that of most dogs and displays their cruel-looking teeth. The ears are rather small and are held erect.
Wolves are very powerful and very active, and their claws and teeth are formidable even to look at. All their senses seem unusually well developed, so that they can hear, smell, and see an object long before we could.
They travel with great speed. Hunters tell us of the tireless gallop with which they pursue their prey. A horse can outrun them, but only when the distance is not too great.
Wolves are born in dark caverns or in gloomy holes in trees or rocks. They are of many different kinds and colors—red, black, white, and gray. They are still to be found in many countries, and chiefly in the unfrequented and mountainous regions in the northern parts of Europe, Russia, and North America; but man has almost succeeded in exterminating them. We usually think and read of wolves in packs, but authorities tell us that they do not live in communities, and do not go about in groups or packs unless in search of prey.
Ernest Thompson Seton describes the three calls of the hunting wolf. The first is “the long-drawn, deep howl, the muster that tells of game discovered but too strong for the finder to manage alone”; the second call is higher, “that ringing and swelling is the cry of the pack on a hot scent”; the last is a sharp bark and short howl, which, “seeming least of all, is yet a gong of doom, for this is the cry, ‘Close in! This is the finish.’”
The “Charmer” in this picture does not impress us as a hunter who has been surrounded by wolves and is now turning his music to account in making his escape, but rather makes us feel that he has been far within the wilderness of rocks and woods calling these animals to him with the music of his bagpipe. He has a sort of wild, wolf-like look himself. One critic has suggested that he seems to be gnawing the pipes rather than playing upon them, and that his toes look like the claws of the wolves.
No doubt he sat on one of those great rocks and played in his most seductive way, until he was quite surrounded by the savage creatures.
Can you not imagine him seated thus, drawing the weird yet sweet notes from his pipe, as first one pair of shiny eyes peered through the leaves or around the rocks, then another, and another, until gradually the creatures surrounded him? That music has charms has never been disputed. From the earliest history we have read stories of its wonderful subduing effect upon animals. A familiar quotation is this of Congreve’s:
You will remember in the poem by Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, how the old rat explained why he followed the piper: “At the first shrill notes…. I heard … a moving away of pickle-tubboards, and a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards.” He smelled the most delicious old cheese in the world, and saw sugar barrels ahead of him, and then, just as a great sugar-puncheon seemed to be saying, “Come, bore me,” he felt the Weser rolling o’er him. Perhaps it is in some such way as this that the music holds these wolves as they follow the narrow path between the rocks. Charmed they are no doubt, but not tamed. See how the first two fellows seem to be keeping step with the man and the music, as they move with that soft, cautious tread of the wild animal.
With the artist, La Farge, this picture was purely imaginative. He delighted in all subjects dealing with fairyland or witchcraft.
In this picture we are left to guess what sort of a man this is, and where he is going. Some critics speak of him as a sort of centaur, only instead of being half horse and half man, he is half wolf and half man. However that may be, he is able to control these animals through the power of music. He seems a strange, wild creature, indeed, and as we look at the picture it almost seems as if he were leaving the trees and the companionship of men to go with these wolves to their caves among the rocks.
The glimpse of the thick woods in the distance is interesting because of the variety in the arrangement and size of the tree trunks, the spots of light, and the suggestion of wildness. The picture is made up of curved lines which help give us the feeling of rhythm and music.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. What is there unusual about this picture? Describe it. Describe the wolves. Tell something of their characteristics; their habits. Why are they feared? To what extent should you judge this man has tamed them? Where do they usually live? Where can we find wolves now? Why are they such a terror to travelers there? In what ways are they stronger than a horse? Describe the man in the picture.
To the Teacher: Fairy tales which may be read in connection with the study of this picture are “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” “The Sorceress,” “The Fisherman and the Genii,” and “The Siren’s Song.”
Story of the artist. In reading the life of John La Farge, the artist, we cannot fail to be interested also in the more adventurous one of his father before him. For it was in the days of Napoleon the Great that Jean La Farge, then a young officer under General Leclerc, was sent to the West Indies to suppress an insurrection in Santo Domingo, Haiti. Here he was offered the rank of lieutenant if he would remain with the land forces, and this he decided to do.
Hardly had the small force of men which he commanded reached the shore, when they were surrounded and captured by the natives. He endured the agony of looking on while every member of his company was put to death by slow torture. Expecting every moment that it would be his turn next, he was quite overcome when told that his life would be spared that he might teach the rebel leader how to speak and write French. But he was closely guarded and allowed very little liberty while the rebellion lasted. Then, although still under guard, he was given more freedom.
Most of the natives were of African blood, or a mixture of Spaniard, Indian, and negro; but after the rebellion many white men settled on the island on account of the advantages of commerce. About a year after La Farge was taken prisoner he learned that a general massacre of all the white people on the island had been planned. Feeling sure that he would be included this time, with two others he made his escape. They secured a small rowboat and rowed along the shore until they reached a part of the island that belonged to Spain. Here they were fortunate enough to find a ship just ready to sail to Philadelphia. All took passage at once.
Arrived in America, Jean La Farge became much interested in this country. He saw at once the great possibilities in this new land and decided to make it his home. He became a trader and for twenty-five years he went from place to place, growing very wealthy. Then he bought plantations in Louisiana and farm lands in northern New York.
A number of French aristocrats and others formed a French colony in New York City, and here Mr. La Farge finally came to live. He married the daughter of a former Santo Domingan planter who had joined the colony, and it was in New York that their boy, John La Farge, the artist, was born, March 31, 1835. The boy was named after his father, Jean Frédéric de La Farge, but the name was abbreviated and the English spelling used, so that it became John La Farge.
It was a very comfortable home, in some ways luxurious, and his boyhood was passed under most favorable circumstances. His grandfather was a miniature painter of some note and he gave La Farge his first drawing lessons. The boy, however, showed no especial interest or talent for drawing. After he had finished a classical course at school, he decided to become a lawyer. When he had completed the law course he was sent abroad to Paris, to visit his father’s relatives, who were very prominent people. Here he met many writers and artists of note, and finally began to study painting under Couture. He spent most of his time copying the famous paintings in the Louvre, and the etchings of Rembrandt. His idea at this time was not to become a painter by profession but only to use art as a pastime—he was to earn his living as a lawyer. He says, “No one ever struggled more against his destiny than I. Nor did I for many years fully acquiesce in being a painter, though I learned the methods and studied the problems of my art.”
It was about this time that he met the enthusiastic American painter, William Hunt, who so inspired La Farge that he left everything and followed him back to Newport, Rhode Island, where he began studying in earnest under his new master. The two men became close friends.
It was at Newport that La Farge married Miss Margaret Perry, who was the great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin and the granddaughter of Commodore Perry, so well known as commander of the American fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie. They lived in Newport during the summer, but spent their winters in New York City.
At the time of the Civil War, La Farge wished to enlist, but failed to pass the physical examination because he was nearsighted. Then, giving himself entirely to his art, he succeeded in working out his own methods.
His first paintings were for church decorations—the most important being “Saint Paul,” “The Madonna,” and “Saint John.” The last two were painted for the Church of St. Peter in New York City.
Then came a severe illness from which La Farge recovered very slowly, and it was nearly three years before he could become an active painter again. In the meantime he began drawing on wood, illustrating Browning’s and Longfellow’s poems, and Tennyson’s Enoch Arden. Later another trip abroad resulted in the exhibition of his paintings in the galleries there. He made a careful study of stained-glass windows and by much experimenting he discovered a way to produce an opalescent effect in stained glass and to make the glass look like that in the very old cathedrals.
La Farge was always interested in mural or wall decorations for public buildings, and he felt that our buildings in America lacked very much in that respect. He made a special study of this work, and ten years later he began his mural decorations for Trinity Church in Boston. It was one of the first buildings so decorated in this country, and the work was accomplished under great difficulties. The workmen did not understand just what they were to do, the right kind of materials could not always be obtained and so had to be prepared, and the people, having no idea of the task, required that the work be finished in an unreasonably short time. The result was that La Farge and his assistants were compelled to work night and day, in very cold weather, and under many disadvantages. However, when the scaffolding was finally removed the decoration was considered a great success. La Farge was then asked to decorate St. Thomas’ Church in New York.
The artist now began to decorate windows too, that they might be a part of the mural decorations. One of his first window designs was placed in the Congregational Church at Newport, then one in Memorial Hall, Harvard University. They are wonderful in color and design, containing almost every known kind of glass and every precious stone. Then came demands from all over the country for both public buildings and private homes. He was honored both in this country and abroad.
In 1886 La Farge went to Japan. While there he sent a series of very interesting letters to the Century Magazine describing his travels. These letters have since been published in book form. La Farge also wrote Considerations on Painting, a series of books on the Great Masters, and the Japanese Hokusai.
Some of his best-known windows and mural decorations are the Watson Memorial Window in Trinity Church, Buffalo; “The Ascension,” a fresco in the Church of Ascension, New York City; “Athens,” in the Art Gallery at Bowdoin College, Maine; “Law,” in the Supreme Court Room, St. Paul; and “Lawgivers,” in the Court House, Baltimore.
Questions about the artist. Who painted this picture? Tell about his father’s experiences in the West Indies. How did the elder La Farge happen to come to America? What did he do in this country? Where and when was the artist born? What education did he receive? Where did he go after he finished college? How did he seem to regard painting at this time? What American artist encouraged him to study art? Tell about his progress; his marriage; his travels. Tell about his first mural decoration. Why was it so difficult to accomplish? To what did this lead? Tell about his window designs. Where can we see some of La Farge’s work? What books did he write?
The antiquity of illustration. The desire for pictures illustrating ideas dates back no doubt to the beginning of the world. The cave dweller left a record of such an ambition on the carved walls of his rude house and on the handle of his battle ax. Savages made of themselves living illustrations, by painting their bodies in gay colors and designs representing their ideas of beauty. The Egyptians used stone and papyrus for mediums of expression, while a century later parchment and vellum were used.
Each illustration was a finished piece of work. In order to reproduce it, the artist must make a new one each time. Then some one discovered the block print. The design or illustration was cut in wood, then inked and placed on sheets of paper much as we use block prints now. Playing cards were produced in this way long before books appeared. It was but a step from printing a whole page of type to separating the letters so they could be rearranged and used many times. The Chinese understood printing with movable type centuries before we ever thought of it.
Since the time the printing press was finally invented there have been new processes and new methods, but an illustration as such has remained unchanged. Joseph Pennell tells us in his book on the Illustration of Books that an illustration “is a design intended to give an artist’s idea of an incident, episode, or topographical site, or it may be but a mere diagram referred to by a writer.”
Requirements for an illustrator. A good illustrator requires good preparatory training. He should know how to draw well, and should have a good education in general subjects, that he may be able to illustrate intelligently the various subjects that will come before him. He must be able to select the important things in the author’s work and so represent them that the attention of the public will be drawn to them. In order that his pictures may be properly reproduced he must understand the process and make his work comply with its limitations for good work. To be successful he must be sure of his material, and his subjects must please both the author and the general public.
The process of illustration. An illustration is usually first sketched with a pencil on stiff paper or bristol board, the size it is to be when completed or in some relation to it. That is, it may be enlarged or reduced when printed. Perhaps the most popular method is to make the drawing twice as large as the finished print. This pencil sketch is then corrected and finally drawn in with pen and ink or brush.
The finished drawing is photographed on the plate to be used, and finished according to some one of many different processes.
Illustration in the United States. It was not until after the Civil War, in 1861, that illustration began to play an important part in the magazines and books of this country. To be sure, caricature had long been popular in the newspapers of the day, Thomas Nast having made his famous political cartoons during the war. Illustration in its more serious sense, however, received its first awakening when La Farge illustrated Tennyson’s Enoch Arden and other poems. Some authorities declare that E. A. Abbey’s pen-and-ink drawings and illustrations of the works of Goldsmith were the first of importance in America.
Most of our best illustrators have contributed to the leading magazines, and so we are able to judge their work.
A few of the most prominent names are:
|Howard Pyle||Colonial times in New England.|
|W. A. Woolf||Life of street arabs; humorous.|
|E. W. Kemble||Negro life.|
|W. A. Rogers||Tenement districts; pathetic.|
|A. B. Frost||American life.|
|Elihu Vedder||Rubáiyát of Omar Khayám.|
|C. D. Gibson||American girl.|
|F. Remington||The Indian.|
|Reginald Birch||Children’s stories.|
|A. B. Wenzell||Society life.|
|Alice Barber Stevens||Childhood.|
|Howard C. Christy||The Christy girl.|
|H. B. Taylor||Longfellow’s poems.|
Questions about the art of illustration. When and how did people first begin to illustrate? How did these illustrations differ from ours in execution? Of what use was a wood-block print? To what did this lead? What preparatory training does a good illustrator need? Tell something of the process, or how illustrations are made. Tell something of the history of illustration in the United States. Name some of the best-known illustrators. Who is your favorite illustrator? why? Is it the subject of his illustration or his execution that appeals to you the more?
To the Teacher: The lesson may be assigned by topics to various pupils for preparation and recitation.
Copyright by the Curtis Publishing Co. From a Copley
Print copyright by Curtis & Cameron, Boston
Questions to arouse interest. How many of you have read Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Why do you suppose this picture is so named? Describe the Evangeline in this picture—her appearance, expression, and surroundings. Where do you think she is going? why? How many of you think she is coming home from church? why? Describe the house near the road; the people you see. What can you say of the perspective of this road? What impression does this picture give you—one of peace, plenty, quiet, or the reverse, and why?
The story of the picture. In illustrating Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Evangeline, Mr. Taylor has chosen to represent the heroine during the happiest part of her life, and before anything very exciting or at all strange began to happen, unless, perhaps, we feel that it is strange and wonderful that there should be such a little village as Grand-Pré, where Evangeline lived. History tells us that such a village did exist in Acadie—or Nova Scotia, Canada, as we call it now. The French and English had quarreled bitterly over this island, for each wanted possession of its fisheries. The English claimed the territory by right of discovery, and they finally secured possession of it.
Most of the people living there were French and had been given the privilege of leaving within two years. Though they desired to remain, yet they refused to take the oath of allegiance, and their oath of fidelity to the British king was accepted instead. They were exempted from bearing arms against their own countrymen, allowed to enjoy their religion, to have magistrates of their own selection, and, in fact, they had been permitted to do about as they pleased. Each man owned his farm and his stock, and all that goes to make a life of usefulness as well as of plenty and content.
Mr. Longfellow tells us:
How carefully Mr. Taylor studied all these details is shown by the way he represents the main street of the little village of Grand-Pré. How much more picturesque these thatched-roofed houses are than some of our more costly and elaborate modern homes! A roof made of simple framework, however, covered with thick layers of skillfully arranged straw or reeds, called thatch, does not seem very practicable to us in these days.
It is not difficult to determine who is the center of interest in this picture. We recognize Evangeline with her white Normandy cap, her kirtle or short jacket with its flowing sleeves, and we can even distinguish her beads. Her missal, or Roman Catholic mass book, is clasped in both hands as she passes quietly down the street, and the expression in her face is one of perfect peace and happiness.
She has passed the group of visiting women, as well as the two men standing by the gate who have turned to look after her. We know that she has greeted them all pleasantly, if a bit absently, and it is plain that she has now forgotten them again in the absorption of her mind.
Although the picture does not even suggest the strange and adventurous future before her, still it is all the more pleasing because it gives us a glimpse of Evangeline in the hour of peace and happiness. We are made to feel the secret of the reserve strength of our heroine who, thus fortified, will be equal to all that must befall her. We shall wish to read again Mr. Longfellow’s poem Evangeline.
According to the story, Evangeline keeps house for her father, who is known as the wealthiest farmer of Grand-Pré. He is well on in years, genial, kindly, always looking on the bright side of life, and his home is known far and wide for its hospitality and cheer. The house is out a little way from the village and is built on the side of a hill, so that it commands a fine view of the ocean. Meadows, orchards, great barns with their dovecotes, beehives, a well with its moss-grown bucket, weathercocks, and sheepfolds complete the picture.
One of the farmer’s best friends is Basil, the blacksmith, who is a much honored man in the village. He has one son, Gabriel. Evangeline and Gabriel have played together as children, have grown up together, and now they are engaged to be married. Already the contract is signed, the dower of the bride in flocks of sheep and in cattle has been determined, and all is ready for the wedding feast.
But their wedding is almost forgotten because of the terrible events which prevent it. For several days a fleet of English ships has been observed approaching the harbor with their guns pointed toward the peaceful little village of Grand-Pré. On the very day set for the wedding, the English soldiers land and demand the surrender of all their arms in the name of the king. All the men are commanded to assemble in the meetinghouse at noon of that day. The people drive in from all the country around, a happy, care-free crowd, thinking that, since they have harmed no one, no harm can come to them.
But once in the meetinghouse the soldiers lock and bolt the door while the commander reads the king’s proclamation from the pulpit. It is terrible beyond all belief, for it not only commands that they forfeit all their lands, dwellings, and cattle to the crown, but that they and their families shall be transported to other lands. A great cry arises, and all the men rush to the doorway. But there is no means of escape, for the soldiers are well armed and prepared.
Then Basil the blacksmith calls upon them all to resist and is promptly felled by a soldier. All is angry commotion when the door of the chancel opens and Father Felician, whom all revere, stands before them commanding their silence. He appeals to their faith, and their reverence for the house of God, and by his wise counsel succeeds in quieting his people. Meanwhile the women wait outside in the churchyard, fearful when the tumult is greatest but reassured when all is quiet again. Hour after hour passes by and still they wait.
At length the door of the meetinghouse opens and a soldier appears. Again the fearful proclamation is read. Then the women are commanded to pack their household goods and be ready for sailing on the fifth day.
Now indeed a great cry of distress arises, echoed by the men, who are still held prisoners. Then, in obedience to a second command, the women depart for their homes. With heavy hearts they begin their packing. Evangeline, left alone without father or lover, looks at the table set for the wedding feast and at all the signs of rejoicing, then softly goes back to the meetinghouse. There she calls Gabriel by name several times but receives no answer.
On the fifth day all is ready. The great wains empty their loads on the shore, and the women and children are waiting. At last, at a signal, the church door is thrown open and the prisoners march to the boats. Then comes the most terrible part of all. In their haste the soldiers separate families, placing some members in one ship, some in another.
Gabriel and his father are placed in different ships, while Evangeline and her father remain on the shore awaiting the last boat. And then comes the fearful sight of their homes and barns in flames, and the utter destruction of the village.
The horror and injustice of it all are too great for Evangeline’s father, who dies there upon the shore. Evangeline, left thus alone and crushed by her sorrow, scarce knows when she is led into the ship or when the ships depart.
Many days pass before the people are landed on a foreign shore. Then the first thought of all is to seek relatives and friends.
The rest of the story tells of Evangeline’s long search for Gabriel and her many discouragements as she follows this rumor and that. The priest, Father Felician, goes with her on the journey, encouraging and helping her.
Once Gabriel and Evangeline pass each other on the water, but it is during the night and neither is aware that the other is so near. Gabriel finds his father but, restless and unhappy, he does not remain with him long. And so it happens that when Evangeline at length finds Basil the blacksmith, Gabriel is not with him. He had left just the day before. So Basil sets out with Evangeline in search of his son.
After years of patience and perseverance, rewarded only by failure, Evangeline ceases her wandering and becomes a nurse. And then it is she finds Gabriel, on his deathbed.
It is a sad but beautiful story, and it is all founded on facts. Not only was there such a village as Grand-Pré with just such people living in it, but it is also true that in 1755 King George II of England sent his fleet to scatter them among the other British provinces. He believed that these people aided the Indians and, because of the almost independent character of the colony, embarrassed the local government.
As we read the story we cannot but be glad that Mr. Taylor chose the Evangeline of the happy days of Grand-Pré, rather than any other picture of her that he might have shown us.
The soft tones in the picture are especially pleasing, as well as the few strong notes of color in the dresses and the houses. The perspective of the road is made interesting by the figures in it, as well as by the houses and trees on each side. Note the difference in size of the various figures according to their distance. This makes the road appear longer and more winding.
Questions to help the pupil understand the picture. Where did Evangeline live? Describe the village of Grand-Pré. Of what nationality were most of the people? How did they happen to be under English rule? What special privileges were they given? Who was the British king at the time of this story? Why did he wish to dispose of the Acadians? How did he do this? What became of the village? of the houses? of the people? their cattle, horses, sheep? Who was Evangeline? Gabriel? Basil the blacksmith? What event was to take place the day the king’s proclamation was read? Where was the proclamation read? What effect did it have upon the men? upon the women? What part of the story is represented in the picture? If you were to draw just one picture from this story, which would you choose? why?
The story of the artist. As in the case of so many of our living artists, we know very little of the details of Mr. Taylor’s life. We do know that William Ladd Taylor was born at Grafton, Massachusetts, December 10, 1854, and that most of his education was received at Worcester, Massachusetts. He attended art schools in Boston and New York, and studied one year in Paris, France. He has traveled extensively, making a special study of mediæval architecture, costumes, and customs.
Owing to ill health, Mr. Taylor spent a year in Colorado, which proved most beneficial. There he produced several paintings, two of the best known being “The Caribou Hunter” and “Shooting the Rapids.” Mr. Taylor has lived most of his life in or near Boston.
He has painted a series of pictures representing nineteenth-century New England; a series of pictures of the pioneer West; and the Longfellow series, including “Evangeline,” “Minnehaha and Hiawatha,” “The Village Blacksmith,” “The Hanging of the Crane,” “Maidenhood,” “The Old Clock on the Stairs,” “The Building of the Ship,” “Priscilla and John Alden,” “The Children’s Hour,” and others. Other paintings are the Psalm Series; Old Song Series; Our Home and Country, a book of pictures of American life; “The Earl’s Return,” illustrating Owen Meredith’s poem; and “Rosita,” illustrating Bret Harte’s The Mystery of the Hacienda.
Questions about the artist. Who painted this picture? Where was he born? What education did he receive? Name some of his best paintings.
CARTOONS AND CARICATURES
Significance of this form of illustration. Very little or no distinction is made between the two words, caricature and cartoon, as we use them at the present day. Yet the word caricature instantly suggests something made ridiculous or absurd in a spirit of attack or burlesque, while a cartoon may be merely a suggestive representation of any person or idea of present interest. A caricature always makes ridiculous, but a cartoon may either ridicule or praise, and although usually humorous, it is more serious in its aims and subjects.
To cartoon a public man once meant to insult him. If by any chance he had some prominent physical defect it was hailed with delight, and made the butt of the cartoonists’ characterizations. Now our best cartoonists would not stoop to secure recognition by such means; they are more considerate, and we are allowed to appreciate their clever representations without feeling the sting of resentment, even though our sympathies are on the other side. But our cartoonists of to-day do not spend all their time representing the political issues; they also deal with the affairs of everyday life.
We are told that the word cartoon originally meant a design or model for a large picture in fresco, oil, tapestry, statuary, glass, or mosaic. The most famous of these are the cartoons of Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. But in 1843 a great exhibit of cartoons was held at Westminster Hall, London, from which the fresco decorations for the new houses of Parliament were to be chosen. At that time Punch declared itself a competitor, and presented its claims in its most humorous manner. The most absurd caricatures were dignified by the name cartoon, and the reasons why they should be accepted were set forth in a most laughable manner. For some time after this Punch continued to use the name cartoon for its representations, and when it would have gone back to the term caricature the public would not permit it. Perhaps the fact that the word cartoon is so much easier to pronounce had something to do with it.
To the Teacher: Pupils should be encouraged to bring good cartoons to school. These may be collected, and the best put up where all can see and be ready to discuss as to size, composition, variety, number, and color of lines used in expressing the idea.
History of caricature and cartoon. It is hard for us to realize that caricature is as old as man’s ability to express himself with chisel, pen, or ink. Away back in the time of the Assyrians and Egyptians we find certain caricatures representing grotesque figures drawn on papyrus. The Greeks caricatured their gods and heroes, although their sense of the beautiful made it impossible for them to distort the human figure. In Rome they were not so particular, and one caricature representing a dwarf philosopher preaching to a fox has been handed down to us in many different forms. During the Middle Ages caricatures were made of such unpopular ideas and experiences as Satan, death, pride, hatred, and so forth.
By permission of Mr. John T. McCutcheon
Baseball, Golf, Election Returns, and Swatting the Fly
The invention of the printing press greatly increased the power and influence of the caricature, in spite of the many regulations and hindrances that had to be complied with. During the Revolution, Napoleon I tried to repress caricature in France, and on this account the English made him a special victim of their ridicule. The kings and aristocracy that held sway after the Restoration next became the subject of satire. Then in 1830 came the invention of lithography and, with the increasing freedom of the press, caricature, of course, reached its height. Poor Louis Philippe, of France, was the most caricatured of all the kings, because of his pear-shaped head, which was so easy to draw. In London, caricature became more and more popular with the founding of Punch in 1841. The best-known contributor to Punch was Du Maurier, whose burlesques of aristocratic society in England were taken in good part. In Germany, Wilhelm Scholz’s caricatures of Bismarck are famous. And so on through all the countries, we find traces of the art of caricature.
In America we find Benjamin Franklin first on the list. We are told that the talent came naturally to him, as his grandfather and father before him had shown considerable ingenuity in that direction but had not ventured to express it except in the signs and printed handbills advertising their trade. It was the custom at that time to advertise by means of pictures or representations—a gilt Bible in front of a store meant a book store; an anchor, naval supplies; the figure of a mermaid, an ale house; a gilt sheaf, a paper store, and so on. The figure of an East Indian queen gayly dressed in a many-colored gown advertised the store belonging to Franklin’s grandfather, where he offered “to dye into colors” all cloth, silk, and calico. The handbills which he sent out were more elaborate, representing the same queen but with two servants, one holding up her train, the other holding a parasol over her. All public buildings were easily recognized by the carved royal lion and unicorn.
Benjamin’s brother James started the first sensational newspaper in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1721. This paper was called the Courant, and to it Benjamin Franklin first contributed his articles and caricatures. Their wit was not appreciated by the sober people of Boston, and it was not long before the brother was put in prison on account of his editorials. Benjamin continued the paper, fearlessly ridiculing in writing and pictures not only Harvard College but the ministers and well-known church members. The people were now thoroughly aroused, and soon both brothers were forbidden to print their paper.
So far, however, work in caricature had been crude and was to be completely overshadowed by the brilliant Thomas Nast, the great political cartoonist. Mr. William M. Tweed was the first political “boss,” and the subject of Mr. Nast’s cartoons. He represented that leader’s face as a money bag with dollar signs as features, and in this strange way he somehow managed to secure a very good likeness of the man. It is even said that when at last Tweed was forced to run away to escape imprisonment, he was recognized and caught through the familiarity of all with his cartooned face. Mr. Nast’s cartoons were published in Harper’s Weekly, and became so popular that they opened a way for the publication of a new humorous magazine, Puck. Then came Judge and Life. These three are devoted mainly to cartoons.
By permission of Mr. John T. McCutcheon
The Mounted Policeman’s Lot Is Not a Happy One
Now many weekly journals, as Harper’s, Leslie’s, and a monthly magazine called Cartoons, make this a special feature. Nearly every newspaper in the country contains at least one cartoon in each issue, and many have their own cartoonists, whose time is busily occupied preparing drawings for the daily issues.
Then, too, the Sunday supplements are full of them, and we have become well acquainted with Frederick Burr Opper, creator of “Happy Hooligan,” “The Folks in Funnyville,” “Alphonse and Gaston,” “Maud, the Matchless,” “John Bull,” and others; Richard Felton Outcault, creator of “Hogan’s Alley,” “Yellow Kid,” “Buster Brown,” “Buster, Mary Jane, and Tige”; A. B. Frost, creator of “Tragedy of the Kind Hearted Man and the Ungrateful Bull Calf” and “The Spinster’s Cat That Ate Rat Poison,”; Carl Emil Schultze, known as “Bunny,” creator of “Foxy Grandpa” and “Bunny’s Blue Book,” and many others.
Requirements. A good cartoon must show the real characteristics of the original, exaggerated, yet easy to recognize. A picture that will tell its story at a glance can be understood by all, and will be remembered long after paragraphs are forgotten. So it is readily seen what a power for good may be found in the daily cartoon.
It is necessary that a good cartoonist have a clear sense of form, although great freedom is allowed in his drawing and no attempt is made for a studied or accurate representation. He should be a keen observer and well informed, especially on all topics of daily interest, and possessed of much originality and a ready pencil.
Process of making a cartoon. A general idea may be given of how a cartoon is made. First, the cartoonist must have a subject or an idea to be represented. This is sometimes suggested by the city editor, by members of the staff, or more often left entirely to the judgment of the artist. Then the idea is usually sketched in with pencil on a piece of medium weight cardboard, corrected, and then finished in pen and ink. Black ink is used with pens of various sizes depending upon the width of line desired. The best cartoonists use lines of different widths. Often we find a strong bold line for the foreground, a medium line for the middle distance, and a thin line for extreme distance. The drawing is usually made twice the size it is to appear in the paper. When sent to the printer a photograph is made of the drawing of the size required. The film is then stripped off the plate and put on a heavier, thicker plate and printed through on a piece of zinc, covered with some substance which is not affected by acid. The zinc is then placed in an acid bath which eats away the parts exposed to light in the printing, leaving the lines of the drawing untouched.
JOHN T. McCUTCHEON
One of the best-known of our cartoonists is Mr. John Tinney McCutcheon, of the Chicago Tribune. He is one of a comparatively small number of cartoonists who have studied art and understand the principles governing it. Many have not had this special training, and must rely entirely upon the clever idea represented and the natural skill which they possess. Besides this preparation Mr. McCutcheon is a graduate of Purdue University, Purdue, Indiana. He has traveled around the world, and seems to have qualified himself for his work in an ideal way. An eyewitness of the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish War, he sent a detailed account to the Chicago Record which was one of the “most notable events of journalism in connection with the war.” He also visited many places in the Orient, in the Philippines, and was with the Boer Army in Africa as correspondent for the Record. In 1900 he returned to Chicago as political cartoonist for this paper, but later accepted a position with the Chicago Tribune.
Mr. McCutcheon is also an author, having published Stories of Filipino Warfare, and several series of cartoons in book form, as Boy in Springtime Series, and others. As a lecturer he has proved very popular in Lyceum and Chautauqua courses.
It is interesting to know that the dog appearing so often in his earlier cartoons was first introduced merely because there was a space in his picture that needed filling. The same thing happened several times, and when later he made a cartoon without the dog, people wrote and asked him what had become of it.
By permission of Mr. John T. McCutcheon
When Newspapers Are Scarce
George Ade, in his introduction to the Boy in Springtime Series, has summed up Mr. McCutcheon’s qualities as a cartoonist in this way: “Clever execution, gentle humor, considerate treatment of public men, and wisdom in getting away from political subjects and giving us a few pictures of everyday life, which is our real interest.”
Questions about the art. What is the difference between a cartoon and a caricature? How did the word cartoon come to have its present meaning? What kind of a magazine is Punch? Tell something of the early history of caricatures and cartoons. What effect did the invention of the printing press have upon them? Who was the first American caricaturist? Tell about Benjamin Franklin and his newspaper. What magazines publish cartoons now? What is your idea of a good cartoon? What subjects are usually chosen in newspaper cartoons? What good can they do in the world? what harm? What preparation is it necessary for a cartoonist to have? What preparation has Mr. J. T. McCutcheon made for his work? Tell something of his life and his cartoons.
To the Teacher: The lesson may be prepared by assigning subjects to various pupils as follows:
ENGRAVINGS, ETCHINGS, PRINTS
When we visit an art gallery we find pictures in all mediums—oil, water color, pastel, charcoal, pencil, pen and ink; and then farther on we find photographs, etchings, engravings (steel, copper, and wood), and lithographs.
It takes much careful study and practice before we can expect to recognize the medium or process used. Most of us recognize water color, oil, pencil, charcoal, and pastel work, but prints made from engravings, etchings, and photographic plates are more difficult to distinguish.
At the time most of our famous old masters were painting, photography was unknown and the first etchings and engravings were laboriously done by hand and usually by the artists themselves. Now, the time and expense of hand work are so great that, although the important lines are still put in by hand, yet the camera plays an essential part in most etchings and engravings. Originally the artist drew direct on the steel, copper, or wood block, but as the drawing must be reversed, it required a great deal of skill to do this. It was only after much practice that the engraver could reverse his sketch as he drew it, and in most cases he either made a reversed study on paper to work from, or fastened his drawing opposite a mirror and drew from that. As soon as photography came into use all this was simplified, as the drawing was reversed in the photograph and much time was saved. In the case of wood engraving, which is the cheapest and most perishable, the picture is photographed directly upon the block of wood. The steel, copper, or zinc plates are often covered with some waxy substance and the design drawn upon them with fine engraver’s tools. After the drawing is completed there are three distinct processes of engraving:
1. The lines of the drawing are sunk below the surface of the plate, as in etchings and steel and copper-plate engravings.
2. The background is cut away or eaten by acids, leaving the lines in relief as in wood engravings, half tones, and zinc plates.
3. There is no relief or depression, but the surface is smooth, as in lithographs.
In etchings and steel and copper plates the surface is usually covered with a waxy substance, or something which resists the action of acid. Then it is often smoked so that it will be easier to see the lines of the drawing which are made with fine steel tools, cutting through the wax to the surface of the metal. It is not the intention to cut the metal, but merely to scratch through the coat of wax to expose the metal. Then the plate is put in acid, and each line is eaten into a groove varying in depth according to how long it is left in the acid. If some of the lines are not deep enough, the rest of the plate may be covered with the waxy substance and it may be put in the acid many times until all lines are the desired depth.
A print is made from this plate by covering it with ink, allowing the ink to fill the grooves, and wiping the rest of the plate clean. Then paper is pressed upon it.
Rembrandt ranks first among etchers. Other well-known artists are Albrecht Dürer, Van Dyck, and James McNeill Whistler.
In wood engravings, half tones, and zinc plates the picture is either drawn or photographed upon the plate. Then the spaces between the lines are either cut away with the sharp steel tools of the engraver, which vary in shape and size, or, the lines being protected by the waxy substance, the surfaces between are eaten away by acid. Thus the original lines are raised higher than the rest of the plate. The raised lines are then inked and pressed against the paper. A wooden block may also be molded into a “metal cast” in order to preserve the engraving.
“Lithography is the art of drawing or writing upon stone.” The best lithograph stone is found in Bavaria, and is usually cut from three to four inches thick, varying in size from six by eight inches to forty-four by sixty-four. The larger sizes are very rare. It is said that drawings may be removed and one stone used as many as two hundred times. Sometimes zinc or aluminum plates are used as a substitute.
The drawing must be reversed and should be drawn direct upon the stone, although transfer paper is sometimes used. The ink or crayon used is made of fatty substances, and when the drawing is complete the stone is bathed with a solution which fixes the lines permanently and gives them a greater attraction for fatty substances, such as printers’ ink. The spaces between the lines, however, do not attract the ink, so that when a roller of ink is passed over the stone, only the lines are affected. A piece of paper is then pressed upon the stones by the aid of the printing press, and every line of the drawing is reproduced.
The art of engraving on metal plates is not new. It is mentioned in the Bible in the twenty-eighth chapter of Exodus, thirty-sixth verse. The Israelites probably learned the art from the Egyptians, for they, as well as the Assyrians, engraved upon both stone and metal. Copper engravings have been found in mummy cases. The Egyptians do not seem to have thought of printing from these plates, however. In India and China the art dates back to remote times. Marco Polo describes money made in China by stamping it with a seal covered with vermilion.
THE SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS
Studying pictures. A few days before a picture is to be studied, it should be placed where all members of the class can see it.
As a preparation for the lessons on Illustration and Cartoons, pupils should be told at least a week in advance, so that they may save good examples to bring to class.
Most teachers seem to feel that the pupils are more interested in this work when it is prepared and presented by members of the class. Equally good results, however, are sometimes secured when the teacher provides the subject-matter and leads the discussion.
Pupils are sometimes able to bring in specimens of copper, steel, or zinc plates, and if a friend or a member of some pupil’s family is a printer, engraver, or lithographer, permission may be obtained for the class to visit his place of business. In that case, a visit would be much more beneficial than a classroom lesson.
Visits to an art museum, when possible, are equally instructive. Pupils of grammar-school age have a tendency to criticize pictures, or, perhaps we should say, to make remarks about them which often cause others to laugh. This practice soon grows into a habit which, unfortunately, is not confined to children alone, as any visit to an exhibition of paintings will show. I have used the following little story many times and found it helped to discourage this habit: The students at an art school in New York were taken for their first visit to the great Metropolitan Art Gallery. It was their first week at school, and they were strangers to the city, to the school, to the teacher, and, with but few exceptions, to each other. The afternoon passed all too quickly. The next day their instructor began to question them. What did they think of this picture? Of that? The first pupil gave a severe criticism of the picture mentioned, as did his neighbor and others in the class. Were they not there to study art and to learn how to tell what is wrong in pictures? Suddenly they were amazed to find their instructor laughing heartily at them.
“There,” she said, “you have done just what beginners always do. You have looked only for faults, and you have found faults.”
She then tried to tell them that until they could learn to put themselves in the artist’s place and to see with his eyes, so to speak, the picture he wished to paint (which is always infinitely less than the picture he does paint) they could not hope to appreciate his picture. They were advised to study carefully two or three pictures which appealed to them and to leave the others until greater knowledge, gained through experience, travel, pain, or pleasure, should make it possible for them to understand the message of the artist.
The review lesson. The review lesson should cover all pictures and artists studied throughout the year. At this time other pictures available by the same artists should be on exhibition.
The review work may be conducted as a contest in which the pictures are held up, one at a time, while the class writes the name of the picture and the artist on slips of paper which have been prepared and numbered for that purpose.
Many teachers, however, will prefer to use this time for composition work, although the description of pictures is often given as an English lesson. Pupils may write a description of their favorite picture. In fact, the lessons can be made to correlate with history, geography, English, spelling, reading, or nature study.
In any event the real purpose of the work is that the pupils shall become so familiar with the pictures that they will recognize them as old friends whenever and wherever they may see them.
It is hoped that acquaintance with the picture and the interest awakened by its story will grow into a fuller appreciation and understanding of the artist’s work. Thus the children will have many happy hours and will learn to love the good, the true, and the beautiful in everything about them.