Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Henk Feijen Collection

Anker Hoffman (1904-1985)

The Dutch collector,
Henk Feijen,
has kindly sent me pictures
of the 20th C. sculpture
in his collection.

Back in earlier days of the Chicago Art Institute,
the collection was sometimes displayed by collector
rather than by date, period, or style.

The historicizing philosophy of modern scholarship
terminated that trend ---

but I think that's still a good idea,
because with an uncountable (and ever growing)
number of art works from which to choose,
the role of the collector
is nearly as important as that of the artist
in creating visual culture.

And I would say that the choices made
by the amateur collector are
far more important than those made
by the professional museum curator

because collectors have to live
with their choices every day.

So without further commentary,
here's the Feijen collection
(or, at least, my favorite parts of it)

One thing that I've been noticing lately
is how specific styles of figure sculpture
are to each nationality --
even in this modern era
where the curriculum of schools
and the canon of famous artists
is pretty the same
from one country to another.

There are distinctly Spanish, Italian, French,
American, Russian, Japanese, Belgian etc
ways of aestheticizing the human body,
and the Feijen collection seems to be
distinctly northern European.

Valentin "Una"


Vittorio Guttner (1869-1937)

Willhelm Andreas (b.1882)

Pierre Le Faguays (1892-1962)

Pierre Le Faguays

Ferdinand Preiss (1882-1943)

Richard Gaston Dufour

Spiro Schwatenberg (1898-1922)

Jan Toorop (1858-1928)

Limousin foundry

Lucien Alliot (1877-1956)

M. Saiy, 1920

Paul Ducuing (1868-1949)

Helmuth Schievelkamp, b. 1849

Henry Calot

J.Dommisse (1878-1955)

Jacques-Auguste Fauginet

Jan Antheunis (1896-1973)

Franz Bergman Foundry (Vienna)

Friedrich Goldscheider

Georges Petit (1879-1958)

Ghanu Gantcheff (Bulgaria)

Harry Van den Thillart (b. 1915)

Chiparus (1886-1947)

Edouard Drouot (1859-1945)

Edouard Drouot

Emil Cauer (1867-1946)

Emil Cauer

Edouard Drouot

Alfredo Pina (1883-1966)

Anders Jensen Bundgaard (1964-1937)

Vincent Becquerel (1893-1981)

Charles Samuel (1862-1938)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Borglum's Sheridan

I've always admired this piece,
though usually,
I can only give it a glance
while turning onto Belmont
from Lake Shore Drive.

What a contrast with the elegant, severe
St. Gaudens' equestrian in Grant Park.

This one is more earthy,
fleshy, and

From what I've seen so far,
it's my favorite American equestrian,
and my favorite Borglum -
and an improvement over his
earlier version for Washington D.C.

Gutzon Borglum did the piece when he was 55 - about
five years before starting Mt. Rushmore.

the piece is surrounded by some
of the ugliest architecture
Chicago has to offer.

National Elks Memorial - Chicago

Finally got over to the Elk's Memorial this weekend,
it's been nearly 30 years since I saw it last.

The problem being --

I just didn't like it.
It felt dark, heavy, and depressing to me.

But I have been getting more interested in cemeteries lately,
so I thought I'd give it another try.

And I'm afraid
I still don't like it.

But I am kind of interested in the program of murals
that Eugene Savage did up near the ceiling.

They're a bit hallucinogenic.

Unfortunately -- they're also very high and not well lit,
but with the wonders of a high exposure on the camera,
and a bit of photoshop manipulation,
they do look rather exciting.

What would you call such a style?

Byzantine Mannerist?

How do you design something
for such a dark and high location?

To tell a story, it needs to show strong contour lines
with heavy stylization so the action
could be seen from the floor.

It's a shame they couldn't afford mosaic,
where the reflective surface could have
captured whatever light was available.
(which is what the Byzantines used
on those high, dark ceilings)

So ... yes... it's kind of goofy and fun... but...
sad compared with the great Byzantine churches

And I am so glad that Savage
went for the fanciful instead of the sedate.

He would have qualified as a
Viennese Secessionist.

It was really tough to take good photos
in this dark place -- a real challenge to
my image stabilization chip.

But I don't think I did that much worse
than these images from the Elks' own website
that don't really give a feeling for the paintings on-site.

I'm less enthusiastic about the program
of sculpture.

A.A. Weinman was a leading American
public sculptor of his day,
but I've kept him off my sculpture site
because the place for good illustration
is in magazines -- not on buildings.

Even more disappointing
were the pieces by James Earle Fraser
inside the rotunda.

What distinguishes a theme park
from a sacred space?

I'm afraid that Americans
have never quite figured that out.

I'm more interested
in this heavy, convoluted piece
by Fraser's wife, Laura Gardin Fraser.

I find it repulsive,
but at least it's not banal.


So ... it might be another 30 years before I return.
(except -- I want to see Savage's paintings in the library,
which will re-open in July)

And I suppose a place like this
shows why America dropped the figurative
entirely out of art and architecture
in the later decades of the 20th C.

We failed.