Sunday, April 08, 2012

Lorado Taft at the Krannert Museum

Portrait of Bella Celeste Pomeroy Belden

I'm not really Lorado Taft's number one fan,
it's just that he is Chicago's number one public sculptor
so I'm repeatedly running into his pieces
and there is something charming about
the down-home innocence of his American-Classical
that won't be found in the great masters of that genre
like Daniel Chester French or Augustus St. Gaudens.

While the public figure sculpture
of our time is mostly Disney-cartoonish
and idealism of any kind
is absent from contemporary academic art.

Above is a portrait of one of his students
who ended up dropping out of art
when she got married.

Doesn't she look more a mom, anyway ?

Portait of Israel Zangwill

Zangwill was a writer
who briefly hung out with Taft's artistic circle
and is most remembered for his play,
"The Melting Pot"
that celebrates cultural assimilation.

Totally separated from the languages and customs
of my European forebears
I suppose that I should be one of his fans.

Except that something is lost
as well as gained in assimilation,
and while the loss is a fact,
the gain is only an opportunity.

The Taft material in the Krannert Museum
was all taken from what was left in his studio
when he died.

And I can see why he wanted
this dreamy though somber
idealistic head
to keep him company.

Most of Taft's work feels like
it belongs in a cemetary
which makes a lot sense
since the cemetary
was the destination
of most of the figurative sculpture
made in his time.

This is a maquette for the "Fountain of Creation"
which was never completed.

As he often did,
Taft put several figures together
into a solid mass,
but they still don't
relate to each other very well.

Here are some maquettes
for the Lincoln-Douglas debate
that Taft did in 1935,
a year before his death.

They pleasantly tell a story
but Taft did not pick up on
the formal power
of the modern figurative sculpture
of the early 20th C.

Done in the last year of his life,
this represents
"The Spirit of Art"
on behalf
of a local women's art organization.

And once again,
she looks more like a mom
than an artist.

This maquette for a war memorial
looks pretty good,
it's a shame it was never completed.

And I like that his soldiers,
unlike those of Charles Sargent Jagger
look more like boys than fighting men,
even if it's a vain hope
that combat veterans retain their innocence
of human degradation.


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