Art at the Exposition


Art at the Exposition

There are less than two dozen pieces of statuary in the Art building—;a very small and inadequate expression of the modern sculptors.

In the rotunda of the west wing is a reproduction in plaster of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, made the exact size of the original, and sent to our exposition by the French government. It seems to be very perfect in every way save that it does not impress one as being poised on the base at quite so much of an angle as the original. This, however, may be due to the difference in the setting. The original Victory stands on the stone prow of a Greek vessel, at the head of a wide staircase in the Louvre, where, with nothing else near, she seems to spring ahead of the motion of the boat and her wings beat the air with vehement motion. The sculptor has most skillfully represented the effect of the sea breezes blowing the drapery against the body and legs; the caressing folds of this thin tunic now define and now conceal the splendor of the form beneath.

The Winged Victory was found on the island of Samothrace in 1863 by a representative of the French government, who was excavating there, but it was not until 1879 that the stones which form the prow of the boat were discovered to belong to the statue. Before this time the Victory had been given a very unpretentious place in the Louvre and had attracted little attention save from art connoisseurs, who declared it to be one of the greatest treasures of Greek art. It is said to have been made in the fourth century B. C., and the most famous sculptors of that time were Skopas, Praxiteles and Lysippus, whose followers carried Greek art both east and west. Mr. C. T. Newton of the British museum says: "The bold and original treatment by which the flying folds of the drapery are made to express rapid movement has, perhaps, never been surpassed in sculpture. In the execution there is a subtle refinement which reminded me of the master-hands by whom the statues of the mausoleum were carved. As Skopas is known to have worked in Samothrace it is a fair conjecture to at-tribute this Samothracian Victory to some later artist of his school. An opinion, Mr. Childs says, which is universally accepted by modern savants.

"A distinguished French archaeologist, M. Rayet, says that the rising of the breast indicates that the head was erect and looking into the distance, and the movement of what remains of the shoulders enables us to establish with precision the direction of the arms. The right arm, raised and extended in front doubtless held a trumpet; the left arm, thrown back and hanging down, carried one of those wooden crosses which formed the interior frame or stand for trophies."

Near this cast of the Winged Victory is a decorative panel in delicate colors, "tinted as only Mr. Adams knows how to do it. This panel in relief, called "Research," was made for one of the bronze doors of the congressional library in Washington, D. C. The panels for both of the doors were exhibited recently at the spring exhibition in New York City of the National Sculpture society and Mr. Taft, in writing of them, says: "It will be remembered that Herbert Adams was selected at the time of the sculptor Warner's death to complete the second door of the congressional library at Washington. Adams has acquitted himself well, but I think with a less signal triumph than his successor. Adams' forte is his beautiful busts of women. One of Julia Marlowe's was coveted by every one of us. George Barnard pronounced it worthy of the Renaissance—as great as the greatest." Then he goes on to speak of the three statuettes which Bessie Potter had sent to the same exhibition and which are now in the rotunda of the east wing of the Art building.

But of course the real interest of the western exhibit was centered in Miss Bessie Potter's sketches. I was assailed with inquiries about them when I arrived and I noticed at the reception that giants of plaster and bronze stood no chance in the contest with her tiny figures. She sent her "Young Mother," "Girl Dancing" and "Girl Reading." Nearly all of the artist friends whom I met, both painters and sculptors, told me they wanted one of them, were going to buy, or at least inquired the price.

"Well, those fairy figures have a quality which is pitifully lacking in most of our sculpture—the element of pleasure. The look of spontaneity, the appeal which comes from a work which seems to have given de-light in the very doing—these are virtues which cling and continue to give pleasure ever after." I remember seeing Miss Potter occasionally in the autumn of 1895 at the Girls' club in Paris—a little girl apparently not over 18 years of age, but quite the envy of the other students in modeling. Even at that time her little statuettes had attracted popular attention.

Mr. Taft, who is a teacher in the Art institute and well known, not only as a sculptor, but as an art critic and lecturer and who is to be the leader of the art congress which meets here in September, has sent two very interesting busts—one of a young woman, very charming in line and contour, the other of Hamlin Garland, which appears to be a very lifelike portrait of the author. His modeling is broad and simple and not overworked.

Mr. Ernest Keyser has sent a carefully studied head of Ophelia in marble—No. 778—which is graceful and delicate.