Sunday, July 1, 2007

'Springfield Present and Prospective, Art and Literature' (Pond & Campbell 1905)

Half of the year already behind us...Where does the time go?

This week's segment of EWM's Sunday historical book transcription series is worth devoting a few minutes to as we continue the chapter 'Art and Literature,' by Charles Goodrich Whiting, from the 1905 book, 'Springfield Present and Prospective' (Pond & Campbell.) Enjoy.

Title/contents page

Art and Literature (previous segment)

Art and Literature (cont.)
The other extraordinary record of Springfield in the line of art has been the series of exhibitions of American paintings which James D. Gill (now collector of internal revenue in Boston) has carried on for twenty-seven years, with a success unrivaled in the country. If any man can assert himself a friend and furtherer of American art, it is Mr. Gill. These exhibitions, however, owe their initiative, their launching, to George Walter Vincent Smith, who in 1878 enlisted the ready interest of Mr. Gill, then dealer in books, art and stationery, who had already held some picture exhibitions in his store; and Mr. Smith filled an improvised gallery with a collection of somewhat more than fifty paintings by noteworthy American artists - his wide and intimate acquaintance with them all enabling him to secure a fine representative collection. He succeeded in selling here thirty-six out of the number hung, and in the next year gave valuable service in establishing that standard of excellence which ever since has been maintained by Mr. Gill, with resulting success in reputation and pecuniary reward that is quite unparalleled in the country. Mr. Gill has in the course of these nearly thirty years brought into Springfield more than three thousand oil paintings (and for one season, water colors also), and has sold from twenty-five to forty out of each separate display; thus he has placed in the homes of this city and its neighbors - sometimes, indeed, in cities hundreds of miles away - at least eight hundred, and probably more than a thousand, representative works of American art. In all this time, though often tempted to exhibit foreign paintings, Mr. Gill has remained true to that patriotic feeling; the only European work to receive a place in his exhibitions during these many years being a landscape by Rosa Bonheur - which, we regret to say, found no purchaser here. Mr. Gill has thus gained room in Springfield for some of the most admirable landscapes or marines of Inness, Wyant, Swain Gifford, Sanford Gifford, Jervis McEntee, Worthington Whittredge, Frederick E. Church, Winslow Homer, J. C. Nicoll, Maurice De Haas, John G. Tyler, Francis Murphy, Samueal Co,man, R. M. Shurtleff, Thomas Lachlan Smith, Robert C. Minor, James M. Hart, William Hart, Thomas Moran, Edward Moran, J. B. Bristol, F. K. M. Rehn, among others; the figure pieces of J. G. Brown, T. W. Wood, Leon and Percy Moran, F. S. Church, F. E. Bridgman, Hamilton Hamilton, Edgar M. Ward; the cattle or sheep pieces of Howe, Wentworth, Tait; the historical compositions of Wordsworth, Thompson, the genre work of E. L. Henry and Harry Roseland, - and more whom to name would make the list tedious. The exhibition of Mr. Gill has thus been for over a quarter century the art event of the year, and bids fair still to remain so. That American art has been encouraged and helped by Mr. Gill's ceaseless and intelligent business enterprise is patent to all who note this unrivaled record. He has known how to bring to his market the pictures that will surely sell, and with them also works of such eminence as must dignify the exhibition and may find a wise buyer. Many masterpieces of the foremost of our artists are owned in the city or near by because of Mr. Gill's shrewd judgment and educated taste.

The city is fortunate in possessing two works of art of the first order in their respective lines, the heroic bronze statue of "The Puritan," by Augustus St. Gaudens, on Merrick park, and the stained glass painting of Mary Magdala at the Tomb, by John La Farge, in the parish house of Christ church. The statue is the gift to the city of the late Chester W. Chapin, president of the Boston and Albany railroad and member of Congress, in honor of the ancestor of all "the Chapin tribe," now a very great one in this country, who was Deacon Samuel Chapin, one of the early settlers of Springfield and a sturdy man, as befitted the time and his duty. The statue is no portrait of any Chapin, but a composite in the sculptor's mind of the family type, and fitly given the ideal name, "The Puritan." Under that name it is famous in the wider world, and a cast in the Luxembourg ranks it in France with the foremost sculptures of the day, and indeed St. Gaudens is by worthy critics placed beside the men of the Italian Renaissance.

John La Farge is represented here by one of his most beautiful of glass paintings through the desire of Mrs. Daniel Putnam Crocker to memorialize her husband, a prominent parishioner of Christ church. There is in all this artist's work a quality of individual inspiration, especially in religious subjects, which glows in his very device of color. The window is one to remember. There are also in the parish house several other memorial windows, of simpler subjects, from the studio of Mr. La Farge, and others; and in the chancel of Christ church there is a group of windows wrought by the most eminent glass painting house in England, that of Heaton, Butler & Payne of London, which is well worth seeing. The Church of the Unity is adorned with a series of beautiful windows, mainly from the Tiffanys, but also from the Church Decorating company, and of these a copy of Correggio's "Holy Night," and a noble figure of Heosphoros, the Light Bringer, by Edward Simmons, are to be noted. The last mentioned is in memorial of Samuel Bowles.

Besides the St. Gaudens statue, there is on Court square a memorial of another first settler of Springfield, in the statue of Sergeant Miles Morgan with bell-mouthed gun over his shoulder and hoe in hand, as wrought in bronze by Jonathon Scott Hartley; a gift to the city by a New York banker, Junius S. Morgan, descendant of the sergeant. Also there is the soldiers' monument on Court square, given by Gurdon Bill, - a sentinel surmounting a granite shaft; while in the Springfield cemetery there is another soldiers' monument in the burial plot of the veterans, done by Manuel Power. The bust of President McKinley, the work of Philip Martiny, is erected in Forest park, on the southern point over the Pecowsic valley. It was placed there through the subscription of the citizens. The treasures of art that are kept in Springfield's homes are numerous, as the record of Mr. Gill's sales bears witness; but besides these are many paintings which the local public has not seen, the purchases of citizens in New York of foreign art. There are several collections, largely of the art of Paris, in the city and in near towns, such as that of James T. Abbe; and Dr. Luke Corcoran has a fine picture gallery at his home on Maple street. In the privacy of some of the few old houses and old families there are noteworthy portraits of past generations; perhaps no Copely, Stuart or Smibert, but work of artists of much fame in their day, as, for example, Chester Harding; one of the most striking portraits of the many Harding painted of Daniel Webster long hung in Highland Place, the mansion of the late Col. James M. Thompson, and is now the property of the Algonquin club of Boston.
Continued: Art and Literature (segment three)

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