Art Exhibitions

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With the turn of the century and as a result of the ever growing prosperity of the country, painting came more than ever into its own and the various societies held exhibitions every year in which the work of the various artists was displayed. The National Academy of Design held two exhibitions every year, one in the spring and one in the winter. The prize awards usually indicated a wide range of taste on the part of the jury. The Thomas B. Clarke prize for "the best American citizen" want in 1910 to Frederick A Waugh for his "Buccaneers," representing a lively scrimmage aboard ship, with flashing swords, powder smoke and a scene of carnage.

 The Saltus medal fell to Douglas Volk for a group entitled "The Little Sister," two children happily treated in a golden tone. For the best landscape J. Francis Murphy's "In the shadow of the Hills" received a first prize, the Inness gold medal. The Hallgarten prizes for the best three pictures painted by Americans under thirty-five went to Gifford Beal, Louis D. Vaillant, and Charles Rosen. The winner of the Shaw Memorial Prize for the best work by an American woman was awarded to Susan Watkins for an interior showing much Chinese porcelain, runs on a polished floor, a delightful room to work or dream in.

The Winter exhibition brought up the need for a larger gallery for New York, for so restricted was the space that no more than two pictures by one painter could be accepted. The most interesting exhibit of the Winter Academy was perhaps that of the four Winslow Homers, lent by citizens and institutions. They were "Camp Fire," "The Coming Storm," "High Cliff," and "The West Wind," all of them familiar to admirers of the late artist. The post of honor in the exhibition was held by John W. Alexander's vision of two pretty girls, entitled "A Summer Day," which had previously been seen in Philadelphia.

The prizes were awarded as follows: The Carnegie prize for the most meritorious oil painting not a portrait went to William S. Robinson for his landscape "Golden Days"; the Thomas R. Proctor prize for the best portrait to Douglas Volk's "Marion of Hewn oaks"; the Isidor Memorial Medal for the Best Figure composition to Kenyon Cox. In the same year the annual exhibition of the Water Color Society had as its most conspicuous contribution John S. Sergeant's portrait of William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet. A curiosity in the way of art exhibitions was the show held in New York by the Independent Artists. Nearly 300 paintings, some of them excellent, some of them merely grotesque experiments, were shown to the bewilderment of many visitors.

Exhibition of War Posters

Later, at the entrance of the United States into participation in the European war, a different direction was given to activities in many art circles. Many artists were employed by the government to make official drawings, etc., not only of conditions at the front, but in marine camouflage departments and the varied industries immediately connected with modern warfare, The Liberty Loan drives had the cooperation of many artists, particularly in New York City, where the Fifth Avenue shops formed an almost continuous exhibition of war paintings. War posters were executed by prominent artists in front of the New York Public Library.

The Allied War Salon showed the works of artists officially chosen to portray scenes of the front. Particularly noted were the realistic lithographs of George Bellows, the lively "Blue Devils of France on Fifth Avenue" by George Luks, and the painstaking series of drawings by Captain Andre Smith. The British government lent works by Brangwin, Augustus John, Eric Kennington, C.H.l Nevinson, Muirhead Bone, and others, and the French government contributed the Forain and Steinlen lithographs and drawings, sinister and powerful.

The spring exhibition of the National Academy in that year showed a predominant interest in landscape paintings, probably owing to the fact that the important prizes of the spring exhibition were confined to landscape paintings. Of about 400 paintings, 282 were by non-members, which gave opportunity to the younger artists. The first Altman prize was awarded to Paul Dougherty for a forceful painting of the rocky Maine coast; the second to Childe Hassam for "Allies' Day, May, 1917," one of a series, "The Avenue of the Allies," representing Fifth Avenue bedecked with flags in war time, and later exhibited in a New York gallery.

The Inness gold medal went to Howard Giles for a picture of Maine woods. In the winter exhibition the first Altman prize was awarded to Victor Higgins for "Fiesta Day," a study in white of Indians. Other prize winners were Leopold Seyffert's "The Lacquer Screen," J. F. Carlson's "Winter Rigor," Louis Betts' "Portrait of My Wife," and A. Blondheim's "Decoration." Of great interest was the Ryder Memorial held at the Metropolitan Museum which included the "White Horse" series, the "Forest of Arden," "Pegasus," "Flying Dutchman," some pastorals, several marines of a strange and weird loneliness, all replete with mystical, symbolic quality which belongs to the artist.

The second annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists had nearly 1,500 in line, arranged alphabetically and with much consequent clashing of colors and inharmonious contrasts. With the exception of those artists who composed the committees in charge, like John Sloan, Randall Davey, Ernest Lawson, Leon Kroll, W. Glackens, George Bellows, William Starkweather, most of the exhibitors were new; but since the aim of the society is to bring before the public just such little known artists, this was as it should be. In the same year important individual exhibitions were held in New York galleries of the works of Edmund Tarbell, Robert Henri, and Bryson Burroughs.

In recent years in New York art interests have been marked by a noticeable effort on the part of dealers, art societies, and magazines to stimulate the interest, especially the buying interest, of the public. The dealers' reports in this regard have been optimistic and the constant spread of art appreciation in schools, clubs and the increasing cooperation of the museums have produced gratifying results. The constant stream of works of art from the old world to the new, to swell the great private collections as well as the growing museums, has continued unabated, not without expressions of disapproval from the original sources.

The spring exhibition of the National Academy in 1924 consisted of 386 paintings and sculptures of which 221 were by non-members. Notable among the prize winners was the first Altman award, "The Jericho Road," by W.L. Lathrop. The winter exhibition opened with nearly 350 paintings and sculptures in the three large galleries. The exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists was notable for the display of the work of twenty contemporary Chinese artists, painted in the spirit and the traditions of the ancient art of their native land. The retrospective work of John Singer Sergent was also shown at the Grand Central Art Galleries, with an amazing display of his numerous portraits and figure pieces, painted with a virtuosity unknown to any other contemporary painter. It was estimated that over 50,000 people viewed this exhibition during the month it was open to the public.


Website: The History
Article Name: Art Exhibitions
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: My collection of Books: New York State, A History, Publisher: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc. New York, Copyright: 1927 also New International Encyclopedia, Dodd, Mead and Company-New York Copyright: 1902-1905 21 volumes
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