HotFreeBooks.com
The City of Domes
by John D. Barry
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

In approaching the "El Dorado" we noted the skill shown in the details of the conception. "This fountain might have been called 'The Land of Gold,' in plain English, or 'The Struggle for Happiness,' or by any other name that suggested competition for what people valued as the prizes of life. When Mrs. Whitney was asked to explain whether those trees in the background represented the tree of life, she said she didn't have any such idea in her mind. What she probably wanted to do was to present an imaginative scene that each observer could interpret for himself. These two Egyptian-looking guardians at the doors, with the figures kneeling by them, suggest plainly enough the futility that goes with so much of our struggling in the world. So often people reach the edge of their goal without really getting what they want."



V

The Court of the Universe



Through the arch we passed into the neck of the Court of the Universe, which charmed us by the warmth of its coloring, by McLaren's treatment of the sunken garden, by its shape, by the use of the dark pointed cypress trees against the walls, and by the sweep of view across the great court to the Marina, broken, however, by the picturesque and inharmonious Arabic bandstand. We glanced at the inscriptions at the base of the tower carrying on the history of the Canal to its completion. Then we stopped before those graceful little elephants bearing Guerin's tall poles with their streamers. "That little fellow is a gem in his way. He comes from Rome. But the heavy pole on his back is almost too much for him. He's used pretty often on the grounds, but not too often. After the Exposition is over we ought to keep these figures for the Civic Center. They would be very ornamental in the heart of the city."

As we walked toward the main court, the architect called my attention to the view between the columns on the other side of the Tower of Jewels, with the houses of the city running down the hills. "San Francisco architecture may not be beautiful when you study individual houses. But in mass it is fine. And, of a late afternoon, it is particularly good in coloring. It seems to be enveloped in a rich purple haze. That color might have given the mural decorators a hint. It would have been effective in the midst of all this high-keyed architecture. It's easy here to imagine that you're in one of those ancient Hindu towns where the gates are closed at night. You almost expect to see camels and elephants."

What was most striking in the Court was its immensity. "Though it comes from Bernini's entrance court to St. Peter's in Rome, it is much bigger. There are those who think it's too big. But it justifies itself by its splendor. The use of the double row of columns is particularly happy. The double columns were greatly favored by the Romans. In St. Peter's Bernini used four in a row. And what could be finer than those two triumphal arches on either side, the Arch of the Rising Sun and the Arch of the Setting Sun, with their double use of symbolism, in suggesting the close relation between California and the Orient, as well as their geographical meaning? They are, of course, importations from Rome, the Arch of Constantine and the Arch of Titus all over again, with a rather daring use of windows with colored lattices to give them lightness and with colossal groups of almost startling proportions used in place of the Roman chariot or quadriga."

Originally, the intention had been to use here the name of the Court of Sun and Stars. Then it was changed to the Court of Honor, and finally to its present name, to suggest the international character of the Exposition.

Those two groups represented by far the most ambitious work done by the sculpture department. From designs by Calder, they were made by three sculptors, Calder, Roth and Lentelli. They presented problems that must have been both difficult and interesting to work out. First, they had to balance each other. What figure in the Pioneer group could balance the elephant that typified the Orient? Calder had the idea of using the prairie schooner, associated with the coming of the pioneers to California, drawn by great oxen.

The Oriental group doubtless shaped itself in picturesque outlines much more quickly than the sturdy, but more homely Americans of the earlier period. The Orientals displayed an Indian prince on the ornamented seat, and the Spirit of the East in the howdah, of his elephant, an Arab shiek on his Arabian horse, a negro slave bearing fruit on his head, an Egyptian on a camel carrying a Mohammedan standard, an Arab falconer with a bird, a Buddhist priest, or Lama, from Thibet, bearing his symbol of authority, a Mohammedan with his crescent, a second negro slave and a Mongolian on horseback.

The Nations of the West were grouped around that prairie wagon, drawn by two oxen. In the center stood the Mother of Tomorrow a typical American girl, roughly dressed, but with character as well as beauty in her face and figure. On top of the wagon knelt the symbolic figure of "Enterprise," with a white boy on one side and a colored boy on the other, "Heroes of Tomorrow." On the other side of the wagon stood typical figures, the French-Canadian trapper, the Alaska woman, bearing totem poles on her back, the American of Latin descent on his horse, bearing a standard, a German, an Italian, an American of English descent, a squaw with a papoose, and an Indian chief on his pony. The wagon was modelled on top of the arch. It was too large and bulky to be easily raised to that great height.

The architect was impressed by the boldness of the designs and to the spirit that had been put into them. "It's very seldom in the history of art that sculptors have had a chance to do decorative work on so big a scale. It must have been a hard job, getting the figures up there in pieces and putting them together. Some of the workers came near being blown off. Some of them lost their nerve and quit. I wonder, by the way, if that angel on top of the prairie wagon would be there if Saint Gaudens hadn't put an angel in his Sherman statue, and if he hadn't made an angel float over the negro soldiers in his Robert Gould Shaw monument in Boston. He liked that kind of symbolism. He must have got it from the mediaeval sculptors who worked under the inspiration of the Catholic Church."

Varying notes we found around the American group. Cleopatra's needle, used for ornamentation, suggested Egypt and the Nile. That crenellated parapet once belonged to military architecture: between those pieces that stood up, the merlons, in the embrasure, the Greek and Roman archers shot their arrows at the enemy and darted back behind the merlons for protection. In spite of its being purely ornamental it told its story just the same, and it expressed the spirit that still persisted in mankind. Nowadays it was even used on churches. But religion and war had always been associated. Besides, in an International Exposition it was to be expected that the art should be international. How many people, when they looked at Cleopatra's needle, knew how closely it was related to the newspapers and historical records of today? The Egyptians used to write on these monuments news and opinions of public affairs. The Romans had a similar custom in connection with their columns. On the column of Trajan they not only wrote of their victories, but they pictured victorious scenes in stone.

The little sprite that ran along the upper edge of the court in a row, the star-figure, impressed me as making an unfortunate contrast with the stern angel, repeated in front of each of the two arches. My criticism brought out the reply that it was beautiful in itself and had its place up there. "These accidental effects of association are sometimes good and sometimes they're not. Here I can't see that they make a jarring effect. In the first place, a Court of the Universe ought to express something of the incongruity in our life. Ideally, of course, it isn't good in art to represent a figure in a position that it's hard to maintain without discomfort. But here the outlines are purely decorative and don't suggest strain. In my judgment that figure is one of the greatest ornaments in the court. It gives just the right note."

The two fountains in the center of the sunken garden were gaily throwing their spray into the air. The boldness of the Tritons at the base represented a very different kind of handling from the delicacy of the figure at the top of each, the Evening Sun and the Rising Sun, both executed with poetic feeling. In the Rising Sun, Weinmann had succeeded in putting into the figure of the youth life, motion and joy. Looking at that figure, just ready to spread its wings, one felt as if it were really about to sweep into the air. Though the Evening Sun might be less dramatic, it was just as fine. "It isn't often that you see sculpture of such imaginative quality," said the architect.

Those great symbolic figures by Robert Aitken, at once giving a reminder of Michael Angelo, impressed me as being perfectly adapted to the Court, and to their subjects, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. But my companion thought they were too big. He agreed, however, that they were both original and strong. There was cleverness in making the salamander, with his fiery breath and his sting, ready to attack a Greek warrior, symbolize fire. Under the winged girl representing air there was a humorous reference to man's early efforts to fly in the use of the quaint little figure of Icarus. Water and earth were more conventional, but worked out with splendid vigor, the two figures under earth suggesting the competitive struggle of men. "I remember Aitken in his beginning here in San Francisco. Though he often did poor stuff, everything of his showed artistic courage and initiative. Even then anyone could see there was something in him. Now it's coming out in the work he has contributed to this Exposition. The qualities in these four statues we shall see again when we reach the fountain that Aitken made for the Court of Abundance. They are individual without being eccentric. Compare these four figures with the groups in front of the two arches, by Paul Manship, another American sculptor of ability, but different from Aitken in his devotion to the early Greek. When Manship began his work a few years ago he was influenced by Rodin. Then he went to Rome and became charmed with the antique. Now he follows the antique method altogether. He deliberately conventionalizes. And yet his work is not at all conventional. He manages to put distinct life into it. These two groups, the 'Dancing Girls' and 'Music,' would have delighted the sculptors of the classic period."

Under the Arch of the Rising Sun two delicate murals by Edward Simmons charmed us by their grace, their lovely coloring, by the richness of their fancy and by the extraordinary fineness of their workmanship. "There's a big difference of opinion about those canvases as murals. But there's no difference of opinion in regard to their artistic merit. They are unquestionably masterpieces. Kelham and Guerin, who had a good deal to do with putting them up there, believe they are in exactly the right place. But a good many others think they are almost lost in all this heavy architecture. You see, Simmons didn't take Guerin's advice as to a subject. Each of his two murals has a meaning, or rather a good many meanings, but no central theme, no story that binds the figures into a distinct unity. So, from the point of view of the public, they are somewhat puzzling. People look up there and wonder what those figures are doing. But to the artist they find their justification merely in being what they are, beautiful in outline and in posture and coloring. You don't often get such atmosphere in mural work, or such subtlety and richness of feeling."

Both murals unmistakably showed the same hand. "There's not another man in the country who could do work of just that kind. That group in the center of the mural to the north could be cut out and made into a picture just as it stands. It doesn't help much to know that the middle figure, with the upraised arm, is Inspiration with Commerce at her right and Truth at her left. They might express almost any symbols that were related to beauty. And the symbolism of the groups at either end seems rather gratuitous. They might be many other things besides true hope and false hope and abundance standing beside the family. But the girl chasing the bubble blown out by false hope makes a quaint conceit to express adventure, though perhaps only one out of a million would see the point if it weren't explained."

The opposite mural we found a little more definite in its symbolism, if not so pictorial or charming. The figures consisted of the imaginary type of the figure from the lost Atlantis; the Roman fighter; the Spanish adventurer, suggesting Columbus; the English type of sea-faring explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh; the priest who followed in the wake of the discoverer, the bearer of the cross to the new land; the artist, spreading civilization, and the laborer, modern in type, universal in significance, interesting here as standing for the industrial enterprise of today.

"Those murals suggest what a big chance our decorators have in the themes that come out of our industrial life. They've only made a start. As mural decoration advances in this country, we ought to produce men able to deal in a vigorous and imaginative way with the big spiritual and economic conceptions that are associated with our new ideals of industry."

One feature of this court made a special appeal to the architect, the use of the large green vases under the arches. "They're so good they're likely to be overlooked. They blend perfectly in the general scheme. Their coloring could not have been better chosen and their design is particularly happy."



VI

On the Marina



Along one of the corridors we passed, enjoying the richness of the coloring and the beauty of the great lamps in a long row, then out into the wide entrance of the court to the Column of Progress.

"I wonder if that column would be there now," said the architect, "if Trajan had not built his column in Rome nearly two thousand years ago. The Christianizing of the column, by placing St. Peter on top instead of Trajan, is symbolic of a good deal that has gone on here. But we owe a big debt to the pagans, much more than we acknowledge."

When I expressed enthusiasm over the column the architect ran his eye past the frieze to the top. "In the first place, that dominating group up there ought at once to express the character of the column. But it doesn't. You have to look twice and you have to look hard. One figure would have been more effective. But there is a prejudice among some sculptors against placing a single figure at the head of a column, though the Romans often did it. But if a group had to be used it could have been made much clearer. Now in that design MacNeil celebrated the Adventurous Archer in a way that was distinctly old-fashioned. He made the archer a superman, pushing his way forward by force, and by the dominance of personality. And see how comparatively insignificant he made the supporting figures. The relation of those three people implies an acceptation of the old ideals of the social organization. MacNeil had a chance here to express the new spirit of today, the spirit that honors the common man and that makes an ideal of social co-operation on terms of equality."

At the base we studied the figures celebrating labor. "Konti is a man of broad social understanding and sympathy," said my companion. "But picturesque as those figures are, they're not much more. They give no intimation of the mighty stirring among the laborers of the world, a theme that might well inspire the sculpture of today, one of the greatest of all human themes."

From the Column of Progress the Marina drew us over to the seawall. "The builders were wise to leave this space open and to keep it simple. It's as if they said: 'Ladies and gentlemen, we have done our best. But here's Mother Nature. She can do better.' "

To our right stood Alcatraz, shaped like a battleship, with the Berkeley hills in the distant background. To the left rose Tamalpais in a majestic peak.

When I mentioned that there ought to be more boats out there on the bay, a whole fleet, and some of them with colored sails, to give more brightness, the architect shook his head.

"The scene is typically Californian. It suggests great stretches of vacant country here in this State, waiting for the people to come from the overcrowded East and Middle West and thrive on the land."

Our point of view on the Esplanade enabled us to take in the sweep of the northern wall, with its straight horizontal lines, broken by the entrances to the courts and by the splendidly ornate doors in duplicate. Of the design above the doorway the architect said: "It's a perfect example of the silver-platter style of Spain, generally called 'plateresque,' adapted to the Exposition. Allen Newman's figure of the Conquistador is full of spirit, and the bow-legged pirate is a triumph of humorous characterization. Can't you see him walking the deck, with the rope in his hand? It isn't so many generations since he used to infest the Pacific. By the way, that rope, which the sculptor has made so realistic and picturesque at the same time, reminds me that a good many people are bothered because the bow up here, on the Column of Progress, has no string. The artistic folk, of course, think that the string ought to be left to the imagination."

In the distance, to the west, we commented on the noble outlines of the California Building, an idealized type of Mission architecture, a little too severe, perhaps, lacking in variety and warmth, but of an impressive dignity. The old friars, for all their asceticism, liked gaiety and color in their building.

As we were about to start back to the Court of the Universe the architect reminded me of the two magnificent towers, dedicated to Balboa and Columbus, that had been planned for the approach to the Court of Four Seasons and the Court of Ages from the bay side, but had been omitted to save expense. They would have given the Marina a far greater splendor; but they would have detracted from its present simplicity.



VII

Toward the Court of Four Seasons



"There are critics," I remarked, as we walked back to the Court of the Universe, on the way to the Court of Four Seasons, "who say that the entrance courts ought to have been placed on the other side that the Exposition ought to have been turned round."

"They don't understand the conditions that the architects had to meet. That plan was considered; but when it was pointed out that the strongest winds here blow from the south and southwest, it was seen that it would not be feasible. Besides, the present arrangement has the advantage of leading the people directly to one of the most beautiful bays in the world. The only bays at all like it that I know anything about are the Bay of Palermo and the Bay of Naples. The view of the Exposition from the water is wonderfully fine. It brings out the charm of the straight lines. All things considered, the architects did an uncommonly fine job in making the courts run from the Esplanade."

Under the star figures, among the sculptured flowers' surrounding the head of the sacred bull, birds were nestling. We wondered if those birds were really fooled by those flowers or whether, in these niches, they merely found a comfortable place to rest. "There's an intimate relation, by the way, between birds and architecture. It's said that the first architectural work done in the world consisted in the making of a bird's nest. Some critics think that architecture had its start in the making of a bird's nest. Have you ever watched birds at work on their nests? If you have, you must know that they go about the job like artists. In our profession we like to insist, you know, that there's a big difference between architecture and mere building. In its truest sense architecture is building with a fine motive. It's the artistic printing press of all ages, the noblest of the fine arts and the finest of the useful arts. I know, of course," the architect went on, "that there's another tradition not quite so flattering. It makes the architect merely the worker in the rough, with the artistic finish left to the sculptors. But the outline is nevertheless the architect's, the structure, which is the basis of beauty. Even now a good many of the great French buildings are roughed out in this way, and finished by the sculptors and the decorators."

Under the western arch, leading to the inner court that united the Court of the Universe with the Court of the Four Seasons, we found the two panels by Frank Vincent Du Mond. Their simple story they told plainly enough, the departure of the pioneers from the Atlantic border for the Far West on the Pacific. In the panel to the right we saw the older generation saying farewell to the younger, and on the other side we saw the travelers arriving in California and finding a royal welcome from the Westerners in a scene of typical abundance, even the California bear showing himself in amiable mood. "That bear bothered Du Mond a good deal. He wasn't used to painting bears. It isn't nearly as life-like as those human figures."

What I liked best about the murals was their splendor of coloring, and their pictorial suggestiveness and vigor of characterization. Perhaps there was a little too much effort on the part of the painter to suggest animation. But why, I asked, had Du Mond made most of the faces so distinctively Jewish?

My question was received with an exclamation of surprise. Yes, the strong Jewish types of features were certainly repeated again and again. Perhaps Du Mond happened to use Jewish models. It hardly seemed possible that the effect could have been intentional.

When I pointed to one of the figures, a youth holding out a long bare arm, and remarked that I had never seen an arm of such length, my criticism brought out an unsuspected principle of art. "The Cubists would say that you were altogether too literal. They are making us all understand that what art ought to do is to express not what we merely see with our eyes, but what we feel. If by lengthening that arm, the painter gets an effect that he wants, he's justified in refusing to be bound by the mathematical facts of nature. Art is not a matter of strict calculation, that is, art at its best and its purest. It's a matter of spiritual perception. All the resources of the artist ought to be bent toward expressing a spiritual idea and making it alive and beautiful through outline and color."

"But how about the mixture of allegory and realism that we see in these murals and in so much of the art here? Don't you find it disturbing?"

"Not at all. There's no reason in the world why the allegorical and the real should not go together, provided, of course, they don't grossly conflict and become absurd. What the artist is always working for is the effect of beauty. If a picture is beautiful, no matter how the beauty is achieved, it deserves recognition as a work of art. In these murals Du Mond has tried to reach as closely as he could to nature without being too literal and without sacrificing artistic effect. He has even introduced among his figures some well-known Californians, a Bret Harte, in the gown of the scholar, and William Keith, carrying a portfolio to suggest his painting."

In that inner court we noticed how cleverly Faville had subordinated the architecture so that it should modestly connect the great central courts. McLaren was keeping it glowing on either side with the most brilliant California flowers. The ornamental columns, the Spanish doorways, and the great windows of simple and yet graceful design were all harmonious, and Guerin and Ryan had helped out with the coloring.



VIII

The Court of the Four Seasons



As we entered the Court of the Four Seasons the architect said: "If I were to send a student of architecture to this Exposition, I should advise him to spend most of his time here. Of all the courts, it expresses for me the best architectural traditions. Henry Bacon frankly took Hadrian's Villa for his model, and he succeeded in keeping every feature classic. That half dome is an excellent example of a style cultivated by the Romans. The four niches with the groups of the seasons, by Piccirilli, screened behind the double columns, come from a detail in the baths of Caracalla. The Romans liked to glimpse scenes or statuary through columns. Guerin has applied a rich coloring, his favorite pink, and McLaren has added a poetic touch by letting garlands of the African dew plant, that he made his hedge of, flow over from the top. See how Bacon has used the bull's head between the flowers in the ornamentation, one of the most popular of the Renaissance motives. And he has introduced an original detail by letting ears of corn hang from the top of the columns. Those bulls up there, with the two figures, carry the mind back to the days when the Romans made a sacrifice of the sacred bull in the harvest festivals. This Thanksgiving of theirs they called 'The Feast of the Sacrifice.' "

Crowning the half dome sat the lovely figure of Nature, laden with fruits, by Albert Jaegers. On the columns at either side stood two other figures by Jaegers, "Rain," holding out a shell to catch the drops, and "Sunshine," with a palm branch close to her eyes. At each base the figures of the harvesters carried out the agricultural idea with elemental simplicity in friezes that recalled the friezes on the Parthenon. Here, on each side of the half-dome, we have a good example of the composite column, a combination of the Corinthian and the Ionic, with the Ionic scrolls and the acanthus underneath, and with little human figures between the two.

What we liked best about this court was its feeling of intimacy. One could find refreshment here and rest. Much was due to the graceful planting by John McLaren. His masses of deep green around the emerald pool in the center were particularly successful. He had used many kinds of trees, including the olive, the acacia, the eucalyptus, the cypress, and the English laurel.

We lingered in front of these fountains, admiring the classic grace of the groups and the play of water over the steps. We thought that Piccirilli had been most successful with his "Spring." "Of course, it's very conventional work," said the architect, "but the conventional has its place here. It explains just why Milton Bancroft worked out those murals of his in this particular way. He wanted to express the elemental attitude of mind toward nature, the artistic childhood of the race."

When we examined the figures of the Piccirilli groups in detail, we found that they possessed excellent qualities. They carried on the traditions of the wall-fountains so popular in Rome and often associated with water running over steps. The figures were well put together and the lines were good. All of the groups had the surface as carefully worked out. In "Spring" the line of festooning helped to carry on the line leading to the top of the group. There was tender feeling and fine workmanship in "Summer," with the feminine and masculine hands clearly differentiated. "The men of today have a chance to learn a good lesson from Rodin," said the painter. "He is teaching them what he himself may have learned from the work of Donatello and Michael Angelo, the importance of surface accentuation, the securing of the light and shade that are just as necessary in modelling as in painting. In these groups there is definite accentuation of the muscles. It makes the figures seem life-like. The work reminds me of the figure of The Outcast, by the sculpter's brother, Attilio Piccirilli, that we shall see in the colonade of the Fine Arts Palace. So many sculptors like to secure these smooth, meaningless surfaces that excite admiration among those people who care for mere prettiness. It is just about as admirable as the smoothing out of character lines from a photograph. But the Piccirillis go at their work like genuine artists."

Those murals we were inclined to regard as somewhat too simple and formal. "After all," said the architect, "it's a question whether this kind of effort is in the right direction. So often it leads to what seems like acting in art, regarded by some people as insincerity. At any rate, the best that can be said of it is that it's clever imitation. But here it blends in with the feeling of the court and it gives bright spots of color. Guerin has gone as close to white as he dared. So he felt the need of strong color contrasts, and he got Bancroft to supply them. And the colors are repeated in the the other decorations of the court. It's as if the painter had been given a definite number of colors to work with. In this matter of color, by the way, Bancroft had a big advantage over the old Roman painters. Their colors were very restricted. In this court they might have allowed more space for the murals. They're not only limited in size, but in shape as well. Bancroft used to call them his postage-stamps.

In the entrance court we found Evelyn Breatrice Longman's "Fountain of Ceres," the last of the three fountains done on the grounds by women, and decidedly the most feminine. "Mrs. Longman hasn't quite caught the true note," the architect remarked. "The base of the fountain is interesting, though I don't care for the shape. But the figure itself is too prim and modish. Somehow I can't think of Ceres as a proper old maid, dressed with modern frills. The execution, however, shows a good deal of skill. The frieze might be improved by the softening of those sharp lines that cut out the figures like pasteboard. And these women haven't as much vitality as that grotesque head down near the base, spouting out water." The architect glanced up and noticed the figure of "Victory" on one of the gables, so often to be seen during a walk over the grounds. "There's more swing to that figure than to the one here, and yet there's a certain resemblance between them. They both show the same influence, the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Of course, Miss Longman has purposely softened the effect on account of the mildness of her subject. But she might have been more successful with her draperies if she had followed the suggestions in the Winged Victory more closely. There the treatment of the draperies is magnificent. Both the Greeks and the Romans were very fond of this type of figure. And it's often found among the ruins of Pompeii, which kept so close to Rome in its artistic enterprise."

The need of separating the entrance to the Court of the Four Seasons from Ryan's display of scintillators on the imitation of Morro Castle at the edge of the bay, had given John McLaren a chance to create another of these deep green masses that surrounded the pool. It shut the court off from the rest of the world and deepened the intimacy, leaving, however, glimpses of the bay and the hills beyond.



IX

The Palace of Fine Arts From Across the Lagoon



In returning to the Court of the Four Seasons, we started along another of those inner courts, made charming by those Spanish doorways and by the twisted columns, a favorite of the Romans, evidently borrowed from the Orientals. "All through the Exposition," the architect remarked, "we are reminded of the Oriental fondness for the serpent. Some people like to say that it betrays the subtlety and slyness of the Oriental people. But they admired the serpent chiefly because, in their minds, it represented wisdom, the quiet and easy way of doing things, a little roundabout perhaps, but often better than the method of opposition and attack."

Before us, looking down as if from an eminence, stood, the Palace of Fine Arts. The architect reminded me of the clever planning that had placed this magnificent conception in so commanding a position, looking down into the courts, on what he called "the main axis."

"It's the vision of a painter who is also a poet, worked out in terms of architecture. Maybeck planned it all, even to the details. He wanted to suggest a splendid ruin, suddenly come upon by travelers, after a long journey in a desert. He has invested the whole place with an atmosphere of tragedy. It's Roman in feeling and Greek in the refinement of its ornamentation. That rotunda reminds one of the Pantheon in Rome. Those Corinthian columns, with the melancholy drooping of the acanthus and the fretwork and the frieze, by Zimm, are suggestive of Greece. Maybeck says that his mind was started on the conception, 'The Island of Death,' by Boecklin, the painting that the German people know so well as the 'Todteninsel,' and by 'The Chariot Race,' of Gerome."

The architect went on to say that the resemblance was remote and chiefly interesting as showing how a great artist could carry a suggestion into an entirely new realm. The Boecklin painting merely suggested the general scope of the work, and the chariot race gave the hint for that colonnade, which Maybeck had made so original and graceful by the use of the urns on top of groups of columns with the figure of a woman at each corner. He had used that somewhat eccentric scheme on account of its pictorial charm. All through the construction Maybeck had defied the architectural conventions; but he had been justified by his success.

My attention was directed to a group of columns at the end of the colonnade. "There's just a hint of the Roman Forum over there. Perhaps it's accidental. Perhaps it's developed from a picture way down in Maybeck's consciousness. However, the idea of putting two columns together in just that way comes from the French Renaissance. The great French architect, Perrault, used it in the Louvre. In the competition he won out over Bernini, who is living again in the Court of the Universe. It gives great architectural richness."

People had wondered what McLaren had meant to indicate by the high hedges he had made over there with his dew plant. He had merely carried out the designs put into his hands. Maybeck had intended the hedge to be used as a background for willow trees that were to run up as high as the frieze, in this way gaining depth. Through those trees the rotunda was to be glimpsed. Willow trees, with overhanging boughs, were also to be planted along the edge of the lagoon, the water running under the leaves and disappearing.

In the lagoon swans were swimming and arching their long necks. "The old Greeks and Romans would have loved this scene, though they would, of course, have found alien influences here," said the architect. "They would have enjoyed the sequestration of the Palace, its being set apart, giving the impression of loneliness. The architects were shrewd in making the approach long and circuitous."

"They might have done more with the water that was here before they filled in," I said. "It offered fine chances."

"Yes, and they thought of them and some ambitious plans were discussed. But the expense was found to be prohibitive."

At that moment a guard, in his yellow uniform with brass buttons, came forward with a questioning lady at his side. They stood so close to us that we could not help hearing their talk.

"What are those women doing up there?"

The guard looked at the urns, surmounting the columns. "They're supposed to be crying," he said.

"What are they crying about?"

The guard looked a little embarrassed. "They are crying over the sadness of art," he said. Then he added somewhat apologetically, "Anyway, that's what the lecturer told us to say."

The lady appealed to us for information. "What this gentleman says is true," remarked the authority at my side. "The architect intended that those figures should express something of the sadness of life as reflected in art."

"Oh," said the lady, as if she only half understood.

Then she and the guard drifted away.

"Those people have unconsciously given us a bit of art criticism, haven't they? One of the most pictorial notes in this composition of Maybeck's is the use of these figures. But it's also eccentric and it puzzles the average looker-on who is always searching after meanings, according to the literary habit of the day, the result of universal reading. Perhaps the effect would have been, less bewildering if those urns were filled with flowers as Maybeck intended they should be. Then the women would have seemed to be bending over the flowers. The little doors were put into the urns so that the man in charge of the flowers could reach up to them. But this item of expense was included among the sacrifices."

The coloring of the columns had been a subject of some criticism. The ochre columns were generally admired; but the green columns were considered too atmospheric to give the sense of support. And that imitation of green marble directly under the Pegasus frieze of Zimm's, near the top, had been found to bear a certain resemblance to linoleum. But in applying, the colors Guerin had worked with deliberate purpose. The green under the frieze was really a good imitation of marble, and the shade used on the column suggested the weather-beaten effect associated with age.

"There are columns that, in my opinion, have more beauty than those Maybeck used. But that's a matter of taste. In themselves those columns are fine and they blend into impressive masses. That altar under the dome, with the kneeling figure, only a great artist could have conceived in just that way. Ralph Stackpole, the sculptor of the figure, worked it out in perfect harmony with Maybeck's idea. To appreciate his skill one ought to get close and see how roughly it has been modeled in order that the lines should be clear and yet give an effect of delicacy across the lagoon. And those trees along the edge of the lagoon, how gracefully they are planted, in the true Greek spirit. The lines in front of the rotunda are all good, as they run down to the water's edge. And how richly McLaren has planted the lagoon. He has given just the luxuriance that Maybeck wanted."



The Western Wall



We turned to get the effect of the western wall looking out on this magnificence. "Faville has done some of his finest work there. All over the Exposition he has expressed himself; but as his name is not connected with one of the great courts we don't hear it very much. When he tackled the Western Wall he had one of the hardest of his problems. There was a big expanse to be made interesting and impressive, without the aid of towers or courts. It was a brilliant idea to break the monotony with those two splendid Roman half-domes."

The figure of "Thought" on the columns in front of the Dome of Plenty and repeated on the Dome of Philosophy started the architect talking on the subject of character and art. "Only a sculptor with a very fine nature could have done that fellow up there. In that design Stackpole shows the qualities that he shows in the kneeling girl at the altar in the rotunda across the lagoon and in his figure of the common laborer and the little group of artisans and artists that we shall see on the doorway of the Varied Industries. They include fineness and cleanness of feeling, reverence and tenderness. This particular figure is one of three figures on the grounds that stand for virtually the same subject, Rodin's "Thinker," in the courtyard of the French Building, and Chester Beach's "Thinker," in the niches to the west and east of the tower in the Court of the Ages. They are all different in character. Stackpole's gives the feeling of gentle contemplation. That man might be a poet or a philosopher or an inventor; but a man of the kind of thought that leads to action or great achievement in the world - never. You can't think of him as competing with his whole heart and soul in order to get ahead of other men. However, it would be an achievement just to be that type and it's a good type to be held up to us for our admiration, better than the conventional ideal of success embodied in the Adventurous Bowman, for example."

The proportions of the domes we could see at a glance had been well worked out. Earl Cummings' figure of the Youth had a really youthful quality; but there was some question in our minds as to the wisdom of repeating the figure in a semi-circle. "After all," the architect remarked, "in this country art owes some concession to habit of mind. We are not trained to frankness in regard to nudity. On the contrary, all our conventions are against it. But our artists, through their special professional training, learn to despise many of our conventions and they like to ignore them or frankly show their contempt for them."

That elaborate Sienna fountain was well adapted to the Dome of Plenty, though it was by no means a fine example of Italian work, with its design built up tier on tier. "It's the natural expression of a single idea that leads to beauty, isn't it? The instant there's a betrayal of effort, the charm begins to fade."

There was no criticism to be made, however, of the Italian fountain in the Dome of Philosophy, the simplest of all the fountains, and one of the most beautiful, the water flowing over the circular bowl from all sides. "It makes water the chief feature," said the architect approvingly, "which is the best any fountain can do. Is there anything in art that can compare for beauty with running water? This fountain comes from Italy and these female figures, above the doorway, with books in their arms, are by one of the most interesting of the sculptors represented here, Albert Weinert. We'll see more work of his when we get to the Court of Abundance."

At sight of the curious groups in the niches I expressed a certain disappointment. It seemed to me that, in the midst of so much real beauty, they were out of key. But the architect had another point of view. "They are worth while because they're different," he said. "They ought not to be considered merely as ornaments. They have an archaeological interest. They are related to those interesting studies that Albert Durer used to make, and they are full of symbolism. When Charles Harley made them he knew just what he was doing. The male figure in 'The Triumph of the Fields' takes us back to the time when harvesting was associated with pagan rites. The Celtic cross and the standard with the bull on top used to be carried through the field in harvest time. The bull celebrates the animal that has aided man in gathering the crops. The wain represents the old harvest wagon. That head down there typifies the seed of the earth, symbol of the life that comes up in the barley that is indicated there, bringing food to mankind. The woman's figure, unfortunately, is too small for the niche, 'Abundance.' The horn of plenty on either side indicates her character. She's reaching out her hands to suggest her prodigality. The head of the eagle on the prow of the ship where she is sitting, gives the idea an American application, suggesting our natural prosperity and our reason for keeping ahead in the march of progress. In one sense, those figures represent a reactionary kind of sculpture. Nowadays the sculptors, like the painters, are trying to get away from literal interpretations. They don't want to appeal to the mind so much as to the emotions."



X

The Palace of Fine Arts at Close Range



The path leading to the northern end of the colonnade attracted us. It brought us to the beautiful little grove of Monterey cypress that McLaren had saved from the old Harbor View restaurant, for so many years one of the most curious and picturesque of the San Francisco resorts, one of the few on the bay-side. Though the architect frankly admired Paul Bartlett's realistic "Wounded Lion," the pieces of sculpture set out on the grass bothered him somewhat. He couldn't find any justification for their being there. He wanted them, as he said, in a setting. "I think I can see what the purpose was in putting them here, to provide decoration that would be unobtrusive. But some of these pieces, like Bartlett's, stand out conspicuously and deserve to be treated with more consideration. Besides, there's always danger of weakening a glorious conception like Maybeck's by putting too many things into it, creating an artistic confusion."

We began to see how the colonnade in Gerome's painting had worked its influence. It was easy to imagine two chariots tearing along here, between the columns, after the ancient fashion. And those bushes, to the right, rising on the lower wall, between the vases, surely had the character of over-growth. They carried out Maybeck's idea of an abandoned ruin.

The architect pointed to the top of the wall: "The little roof-garden on the edge of the upper wall gives the Egyptian note in the architecture that many people have felt and it is emphasized by the deep red that Guerin has applied, the shade that's often found in Egyptian ruins."

Above the main entrance of the palace we saw Lentelli's "Aspiration," that had been the cause of so much criticism and humorous comment during the first few weeks of the Exposition. "Lentelli had a hard time with that figure. It drove him almost to distraction. Perhaps a genius might have solved the problem of making the figure seem to float; but I doubt if it could have been solved by anyone. The foot-rest they finally decided to put under it didn't help the situation much."

Directly in front of "Aspiration," on its high pedestal, stood Charles Grafly's monumental statue of "The Pioneer Mother." "I suppose the obvious in sculpture has its place," the architect remarked, "and this group will appeal to popular sentiment. Its chief value lies in its celebrating a type of woman that deserves much more recognition than she has received in the past. Most of the glory of the pioneer days has gone to the men. The women, however, in the background, had to share in the hardships and often did a large part of the work. It's a question in my mind whether this woman quite represents the vigorous type that came over the plains in the prairie schooner. However, just as she is, she is fine, and she has a strong hand that looks as if it had been made for spanking. I wonder why the sculptor gave her that kind of head-covering. She might have appeared to better advantage bare-headed. The children are excellent. Observe the bright outlook of the boy and the timid attitude of the girl. There's a fine tenderness in the care the girl is getting from her mother and from the boy, too, suggesting dawning manhood. Altogether, the group has nobility and it's worthy of being a permanent monument for San Francisco. By the way, there's the old Roman idea of the decorative use of the bull's head again, at the base of the group. It has a very happy application here. It reminds us of the oxen that helped to get the Easterners out to California in the old days before the railroads. A good many of them must have dropped in their tracks and left their skulls to bleach in the sun."

The other ornamental design we found very appropriate and direct, as we studied the pedestal. There was the ship that used to go round the horn, with the torches that suggested civilization, and, at the back of the pedestal, the flaming sun that celebrated the Golden Gate.

In the rotunda we found Paul Bartlett, represented again by the equestrian statue of Lafayette, in full uniform, advancing sword in the air. It unquestionably had a magnificent setting, though it suffered by being surrounded by so many disturbing interests. "The director of the Fine Arts Department cared enough about this figure to have it duplicated for the Exposition. It's a good example of the old-fashioned heroic sculpture, where the subjects take conventional dramatic attitudes."

The ceiling of the rotunda displayed those much-discussed murals by Robert Reid. Up there they seemed like pale reflections. "You should have seen them when they were in Machinery Hall. Then they were magnificent. But the instant they were put in place it was plain that the effect had been miscalculated. At night, under the lighting, they show up better. Judged by themselves, apart from their surroundings, they are full of inspiration and poetry. Only a man of genuine feeling and with a fine color-sense could have done them. But in all this splendor of architecture they are lost."

On examining them in detail we found that they covered an extraordinarily wide range of fancy, graceful and dramatic, even while, save in one panel, they showed an indifference to story-telling. One group celebrated "The Birth of European Art," with the altar and the sacred flame, tended by a female guardian and three helpers, and with a messenger reaching from his chariot to seize the torch of inspiration and to bear it in triumph through the world, the future intimated by the crystal held in the hands of the woman at the left. Another, "The Birth of Oriental Art," told the ancient legend of a Chinese warrior who, seated on the back of a dragon, gave battle to an eagle, the symbol relating to man's seeking inspiration from the air. "Ideals in Art" brought forward more or less familiar types: the Madonna and the Child, Joan of Arc, Youth and Beauty, in the figure of a girl, Vanity in the Peacock, with more shadowy intimations in two mystical figures in the background, the tender of the sacred flame and the bearer of the palm for the dead, and the laurel-bearer ready to crown victory. "The Inspiration in All Art" revealed the figures of Music, Architecture, Painting, Poetry and Sculpture. Four other panels glorified the four golds of California, gold, wheat, poppies and oranges, a happy idea, providing opportunities for the splendid use of color.

"It's a pity those murals couldn't have been tried out up there and then taken down and done over," said the architect. "But sometime they will find the place where they belong, perhaps in one of our San Francisco public buildings. They're too good not to have the right kind of display."

"The Priestess of Culture," by Herbert Adams, one of the best-known of American sculptors, eight times repeated, we felt, had its rightful place up there and blended into the general architectural scheme. But some of the other pieces of statuary might have been left out with advantage.

Through the columns we caught many beautiful vistas. And those groups of columns themselves made pictures. "What is most surprising about this palace is the way it grows on you. The more familiar you are with it the more you feel the charm. Maybeck advises his friends to come here by moonlight when they can get just the effect he intended. In all the Exposition there's no other spot quite so romantic. It might have been built for lovers."



XI

At the Palace of Horticulture



At the Palace of Horticulture the architect said: "Here is the Mosque of Ahmed the First, taken from Constantinople and adapted to horticulture and to the Exposition. It has a distinct character of its own. It even has temperament. So many buildings that are well proportioned give the impression of being stodgy and dull. They are like the people that make goodness seem uninteresting. But here is use that expresses itself in beauty and adorns itself with appropriate decoration."

When I mentioned that some people found this building too ornate, the architect replied:

"There's an intimate and appropriate relation between the ornament and the architecture. Personally I shouldn't care to see just this kind of building in the heart of the city, where you'd have it before your eyes every day. But for the Exposition it's just right. And how fitting it is that the splendid dome should be the chief feature of a building that is really an indoor garden and that the most prominent note of the coloring should be green, nature's favorite and most joyous color. Some joker," he went on, "says that this Exposition is domicidal. He expresses a feeling a good many people have here, that there are too many domes. But I don't agree. The domes make a charming pictorial effect, and they harmonize with the general spirit of the architecture. And as for this dome, it is one of the greatest in the world. See how cleverly the architects, following the spirit of the French Renaissance, have used those ornamental shafts. The only criticism that can be made on them is that they serve no architectural purpose, which ought, of course, always to be intimately associated with use. Instead of growing from the nature of the building, they are put on from outside. Now, in the mosque they were very important in their service. They were the minarets where the Muezzins used to stand in order to call the faithful to prayer. Those minarets up there, carrying on the dome motive, on the corners of the walls of the main palaces are much closer to the old idea."

Our talk turned to the subject of domes in general. The idea had come from the bees, from the shape of their hives. Prehistoric man used for a dwelling-place a hut shaped like a hive, as well as an imitation of a bird's nest. In formal architecture, the dome showed itself early. The Greeks knew it; but they didn't use it much. The greatest users of the dome were the Byzantines. It was all dome with them. The first important dome was built in Rome in the second century, to crown the Pantheon. Of all the domes in the world the most interesting historically was St. Peter's, the work of several architects. It was the inspiration of the dome of St. Paul's in London, built by the English architect, Sir Christopher Wren. Architecturally the most interesting of the domes was Brunelleschi's, built for the Florence Cathedral in the fifteenth century, known throughout the world by the Italian name for Cathedral, the Duomo.

It was in connection with the Duomo that the architect reminded me of the celebrated story about Brunelleschi. When the Florentine church authorities decided to build the Duomo they were puzzled as to how so mighty a dome should be developed. So they invited the architects to appear before them in competition, and to present their ideas. One architect, Donatello, explained that, if he secured the commission, he should first build a mound of earth, and over it he would construct his dome. But the authorities replied that there would be great labor and expense in taking the earth out. He said that he would put coins into the earth and, by this means, he would very quickly have the earth removed by the people. When Brunelleschi was asked how he would build his dome he said: "How would you make an egg stand on end?" They didn't know how, and he showed them, by taking a hard-boiled egg and pressing it down at one end, an idea like the one that occurred to Christopher Columbus about fifty years later.

The Palace of Horticulture as an illustration of French Renaissance architecture fascinated this observer, in spite of its overelaborateness. "It's marvelous to think of what the Renaissance meant throughout Europe," he said, "and how it showed itself in art through the national characteristics. French Renaissance and Italian Renaissance, though they have qualities in common, are very different. And you'll find marked differences even in the Renaissance art of the Italian cities, such as Rome and Florence and Venice. But the Renaissance showed that no matter how far apart the people of Europe might have been they were all stirred by a great intellectual and spiritual movement. It was like a vast moral earthquake. It meant the rediscovery and the joyous recognition of the relation of the past to the present and the meaning of the relation for mankind. It led to a new kind of self-emancipation and individualism. It created art-forms that have stamped themselves on the work all over these grounds. In a sense it was a declaration of artistic independence."

"Is there really such a thing as independence in art?" I ventured to ask.

The architect began to smile. "I'm afraid there isn't much independence. If there were this Exposition would not be quite so intimately related to Europe and the Orient. But wait till we get into Mullgardt's Court of the Ages. Then you'll find an answer to your question."

At this palace the architect found much to speculate on. "Here is one of the few buildings in the whole Exposition done in what might be called the conventional exposition spirit. I like it immensely as an exposition building, but I should hate it as a public building that I had to see every day. It's too fantastic. In this place it serves its purpose. But it might fit into a setting like the Golden Gate Park, where it would be close to nature. Now this Exposition is very different from most of the enterprises of the kind that have taken place in Europe. It is probably the most serious exposition ever known, with the possible exception of the one in Chicago. If it were in a great European capital, for example, it would mainly express the spirit of gaiety. But the builders here, though they have been gay in their use of color, have been tremendously serious in purpose. They have worked largely for the sake of education."

The use of green on the building was unquestionably one of the most successful features of the coloring, particularly when it suggested, as it so often did, old copper. "To me the deeper green that Guerin uses is the more charming shade, far more charming, for instance, than the light green applied to Festival Hall. And the suggestion of green in the dome is altogether delightful. But it's a pity they didn't use another kind of glass. When people criticise Ryan for not doing more with his lighting effects-in this dome they evidently don't know that a mistake was made when the glass was sent and Ryan could do very little with it. In order to carry out his original plans Ryan would have to apply a coat of varnish to the interior of the dome, a rather expensive process. However, it may be done later."



Returning to the South Gardens



From where we stood we could get a good view of those green columns in the Tower of Jewels, occasionally criticised as being too atmospheric to give the sense of support. "Those columns were colored by Guerin to get an effect of contrast. That shade was one of the first of the shades he experimented with. He tried it out on the sashes in Machinery Hall. The French landscape painters used it a good deal in outdoor scenes, on trellises, for example. It made a pleasing effect against the deeper tones of the grass and foliage. The notion that it isn't suited to columns seems to me unwarranted. As a matter of fact, there are several kinds of green stone that have often been successfully used for columns in architecture, like malachite and Connemara marble. The Bank of Montreal has some magnificent Connemara columns. Of course, the use up there is theatrical, exactly as Guerin intended it to be. People seem to forget that Guerin got his earlier training as a scene painter. He was recognized as one of the greatest scene painters of his time. He deliberately undertook to make this Exposition a great spectacle, and he ought to be judged according to what he tried to do. It seems to me that his success was astonishing. He created a picture that was spectacular without being garish or cheap and that harmonized with the dignity and the splendor of the architecture. One explanation of his success lies in his being so fond of the Orient, where the architects have worked in color as far back as we can go. Every chance he makes a trip to the Orient and he comes back with a lot of Oriental canvases that he has painted there. Only a lover of the Orient would have dared to put that orange color on the domes. See what a velvety look he got, almost wax-like. He was careful not to apply, in most instances, more than one coat of paint. He wanted it to sink in and to become weathered. He knew that nature was the greatest of all artists, always trying to remove the shiny appearance of newness and to give seasoning."

As we looked up toward the center of the South Garden the white globes on the French lamp posts caught the architect's eye. "Don't you remember how cheap they looked on the first days?" he said. "The trouble was that they were too white. They seemed cold and raw. So they were sprayed with a liquid celluloid to soften them into their present ivory hue. The change shows how important detail is, and how carefully Guerin's department has worked. While the construction was going on there was one remark that often used to be heard, 'It will never be noticed,' and a most foolish remark it was. It showed that the people who made it were lacking in imagination. Millions of eyes have been watching the details of this Exposition and very little has escaped notice."

A great crowd was pouring out of the afternoon concert in Festival Hall. The architect, as he looked on, remarked: "It's like being in Paris, isn't it? Or, perhaps, it's more like being in a lovely old French provincial city, where the theater is the chief architectural monument. It's hard for me to understand why the French have encouraged that kind of architecture for their theaters and opera houses. It seems so unrelated to sound, which ought to give the clue to the building. The use of the word festival here is a little old-fashioned and misleading. It doesn't mean what we usually consider festivity. It is essentially a concert hall, and the architecture ought to suggest concentration of sound by being built in a way that shall make such concentration inevitable. But this kind of building is obviously related to dissipation of sound. No wonder the acoustics turned out bad and the interior had to be remodeled."



XII

The Half Courts



In front of the Court of Palms we stopped to admire James Earl Fraser's "End of the Trail," the most popular group of sculpture in the Exposition. "It deserves all its popularity, doesn't it? It's finely imagined and splendidly worked out. The pony is excellent in its modeling and the Indian is wonderfully life-like."

At our side a man and a woman were standing, the man more than six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a face that had evidently seen a good deal of weather. "I've known fellers just like that Indian," we heard him say, "up in Minnesota. He might be a Blackfoot after a couple of days' tusselling with the wind and the rain in the mountains. I've seen 'em come into town all beat out. The man that made that statue knew his business. An' I guess he knew what he was doing when he called it 'The End of the Trail."'

When the visitor had passed, the architect said: "The symbolism gets them all, doesn't it; and the realism, too? But Fraser couldn't have expressed so much if he hadn't put a lot of heart into his 'Work. He really felt all that the Indian represented, as a human being and as a representative of a dying race."

"The Court of Palms" captured us both, by its shape, by the splendor of the Ionic columns, by the loveliness of its detail, by its coloring and by that charm of its sunken garden. "You can feel here the mind that developed those four Italian towers. It shows the same balanced judgment, and skill and taste. The two towers here, though they stand at either end of the court, and make a beautiful ornamentation, are really a part of the wall. They help to give it dignity and variety. And how artistically the palms have been used here. They can be among the least graceful of plants; but here they are really decorative. And those laurel trees at the side of the main doorway make fine ornamental notes. The sculptured vases, too, are wonderfully graceful."

Above the doorways we found the three murals that gave further distinction to this court and enriched the coloring. In "Fruits and Flowers" Childe Hassam had done one of his purely decorative pictures, without a story, contenting himself with graceful pictures and delicate color scheme. Charles Holloway made "The Pursuit of Pleasure" frankly allegorical, the floating figure of the woman pursued by admiring youths. Over the main doorway Arthur Mathews had also painted an allegory, "Victorious Spirit," the Angel of Light, with wide-spread wings of gold, standing in the center and keeping back the spirit of materialism, represented by a fiery horse driven by his rider with brutal energy. "Observe how successfully Mathews has chosen his colors. These deep purples help to bring out the splendor of those golden tones. This canvas is unquestionably one of the best of all the murals. It shows that in Mathews San Francisco has a man of remarkable talent, one of the great mural painters of the country."

On the way to the second half-court we had a chance to see the South Wall at close range, with its rich ornamented doorways, its little niches and fountains devised to make it varied and gay. Those little elephant heads were another sign of Faville's careful attention to ornamental detail. And the coloring gave warmth to the background, contrasting with the deep green of the planting.

At the Court of Flowers we met Solon Borglum's "Pioneer, too old to be typical, different from the man in lusty middle age or in youth who came to California in the early days. But it justified itself by suggesting perhaps the greatest of the pioneers in old age, one who had grown with the community, the poet, Joaquin Miller. "It's Miller sure enough," said the architect, "even if the likeness isn't close. But why those military trappings on the horse? Like the rest of the pioneers, Joaquin was a man of peace."

The Court of Flowers we thought well named, both for its planting, McLaren at his best, and for its Italian Renaissance decoration, with that pretty pergola opening out on the scene, Calder's Oriental "Flower Girl" decorating the spaces between the arches. And those lions by Albert Laessle were a fine decorative feature. The fountain, "Beauty and the Beast," by Edgar Walter, of San Francisco, was one of the most original and decorative pieces of sculpture we had seen. The figure of the girl standing on the coils of the beast was remarkably well done and the water flowing over the bowl, with the pipes of Pan glimpsed underneath, made a charming picture. There was a whimsical and a peculiarly French suggestion in the use of the decorative hat and sandals on the nude figure. In detail those two towers at the end were slightly different from the other two. Like the others they served as a decoration of the wall, breaking the long lines."



XIII

Near Festival Hall



At close view we found the Festival Hall more interesting than it had seemed at a distance. It unquestionably had something of the elegance associated with the best French architecture. But, unlike most of the buildings here, it did not develop out of a central idea. Much of its ornamentation seemed put on from the outside.

Of all the domes this dome impressed us as being the least interesting. It did not even justify itself as being a means of giving abundant light. "This kind of architecture doesn't really belong in this country; but it seems to be making its way. Observe the waste of space involved. However, the curving arches on either side are rather charming. And the architect has succeeded in putting into the whole structure a certain amount of sentiment. In fact, throughout the whole Exposition you feel that the architects haven't worked merely for money or for glory. They have appreciated the chance of doing something, out of the commonplace."

The sculpture by Sherry Fry was evidently executed with the idea of festivity in mind, the "Bacchus" and "The Reclining Woman" and two "Floras" decorated with flowers, and "Little Pan," and "The Torch-bearer" reproduced above each of the smaller domes. But, somehow, those figures did not quite indicate the real character of the building, intended for concerts and lectures and conventions, rather serious business. The coloring, too, of the statues, was disappointing, the dull brown being out of key with the light green of the domes.

"In the smaller concert room upstairs, Recital Hall," said the architect, "there is some very fine stained glass; two windows, and on the landing of the north stairway there's a third window, all done by the man who has been called the Burne-Jones of America, Charles J. Connick, of Boston. Instead of being hidden away there, they ought to have been put in the Fine Arts Building. They represent something new in the way of stained glass, and they have a wonderful depth and brilliancy."

As we drew near the Avenue of Progress we saw the magnificent doorway of the Varied Industries, overladen with ornamentation. "It was clever of Faville to put that doorway just in this spot where it would be seen by the crowds that entered by Fillmore Street. It comes from the Santa Cruz Hospital, in Toledo, Spain, built by the Spanish architect, De Egas, for Cardinal Mendoza, one of the most famous portals in Europe. The adaptation has been wonderfully done by Ralph Stackpole, with those figures of the American workman carrying a pick at either side and the semicircular panel just above the door and the group on top. That panel is one of the finest pieces of sculpture in the Exposition. It has tenderness and reverence. It's the kind of thing the mediaeval sculptors who worked on religious themes would have been enthusiastic over. See how simple it is, just a group of workers, with the emblems of their work, the women spinning with the lamb close by, the artist and the artisan, and the woman with the design of a vessel's prow in her hands, suggesting commerce. The single figure in the center is the intelligent workman who works with his hands and knows how to work, too. The group on top is a very pretty conception, the Old World Handing Its Burden to the Younger World, with its suggestions of the European people coming over here and raising American children."



XIV

The Palace of Machinery



On reaching the Avenue of Progress we found ourselves at the gayest corner of the Exposition, with two fine vistas of the two avenues. To our right stood the massive Palace of Machinery, one of the largest buildings in the world, so successfully treated by the architect that it did not give the faintest suggestion of being cumbersome or monotonous. "It's the Baths of Caracalla in Rome," said the architect, "adapted by a master. Those three gables above the main entrance are taken directly from the baths. See how simple the ornamentation is and yet how satisfying. The building as a whole is a perfect example of old Roman architecture, feeling its way toward the big architectural principles that are in vogue today, among others the economical principle involved in the counteracting of thrusts. If the Roman Emperor who was nicknamed Caracalla on account of the hooded military tunic that he made fashionable in his day hadn't built those baths we should probably not have the glorious Pennsylvania station in New York, that some of the architectural authorities consider the most important building of its kind built in this country. Although the work here is all concrete, Clarence Ward, the architect, says that with care, it could last hundreds of years."

Now we were struck by those vigorous-looking figures, by Haig Patigian, that stood on top of the Sienna columns all evidently designed to express the power of machinery. At the entrance the reliefs of the columns were in the same spirit and, as one might have surmised, by the same sculptor working out the meaning of the buildings in designs that kept the contour of the columns, strong and well-modeled.

"There's distinctive character in this building," said the architect. "It actually conveys the sense of tremendous energy, and by the simplest means. And inside, Ward has done something new and interesting."

When we entered we found the supports of the roof left bare. Instead of being unsightly, they had a kind of beauty and impressiveness. "Observe the magnificence of the spaces here on the floor and up to the ceiling. Some one asked Ward if all this height were necessary. He said it wasn't; but he wanted it for pictorial effect, to carry out the feeling of massiveness and splendor."

In the great figures that stood on the columns in front of the Palace of Machinery the architect found a theme for a discourse on the human figure as the chief inspiration of art. "It is possible that we shall change our minds on that subject," he remarked. "Already the world is showing a tendency to get away from the worship of the body. Ever since the Christian era, of course, the physical has been deprecated. We may come to see that the body is useful as it develops and serves the spiritual, that is, as it subordinates itself. The marvel is that the pagan tradition has persisted so long in spite of the Christian influence. This Exposition shows how strong it remains."

"But what would you have in place of the human figure as the inspiration of art?" I asked.

"Oh, there are plenty of things that might take its place. Flower themes are just as beautiful in decoration as the shapes of men and women. I can conceive of the time when it will be considered uninteresting and commonplace to have human bodies used as a means of aesthetic display. The self-glorification in it alone becomes wearying. We are gradually learning that the best we can do in life is to forget about ourselves and our old bodies. There are even those who go so far as to look forward to the time when we shall escape from our bodies altogether. It would be interesting, by the way, to get the point of view of a very spiritual Christian Scientist on the display here. I suppose that it would see good in the tendency to reach finer and nobler conceptions of art according to our present understanding."

Then the architect proceeded to discuss the artistic superiority of the Japanese. Though they used the human figure in their art, they did not play it up, after the habit of the Western world. They did not make it seem to be of supreme importance. They conventionalized and subordinated it to outline and color. The use of the nude they never cultivated. Their attitude toward the body was characterized by discretion and modesty, qualities that they showed in their dress. You would never see a Japanese woman, for example, wearing a dress that conspicuously brought out the lines of her figure.

"On the other hand," the architect went on, "there's no doubt we've become absurdly prudish in this country. We're afflicted with shame of the body which, in itself, is unhealthy. If art can help us to get back to a more normal attitude it will do a big service. All the more reason then why it should keep within reasonable bounds."



XV

The Court of the Ages



As we turned from the Avenue of Progress toward the Court of the Ages the architect said: "The workmen about here call this inner court 'Pink Alley,' not a bad name for it, though its real name is the Court of Mines. Throughout the Exposition Guerin shows that he is very fond of pink, probably on account of its warmth. He has been criticised for using it so much on the imitation Travertine for the reason that there is no stone of exactly this color. And yet there is pink marble. But even if there weren't any pink stone in the world, Guerin would be justified in his use of the color for purely decorative purposes, just as he was justified in using it on his four towers."

Inside the Court of the Ages the architect drew a long breath.

"In this court we architects feel puzzled. We think we can read new architectural forms like a book, and find that they are saying things repeated down the ages. But we can't read much here. In that lovely round arch there are hints of Gothic, and yet it is not a Gothic arch. Throughout the treatment there are echoes of the Spanish, and yet the treatment is not Spanish. The more one studies the conception and the workmanship the more striking it grows in originality and daring. Mullgardt has succeeded in putting into architecture the spirit that inspired Langdon Smith's poem 'Evolution,' beginning 'When you were a tadpole and I was a fish.' In the chaotic feeling that the court gives there is a subtle suggestiveness. The whole evolution of man is intimated here from the time when he lived among the seaweed and the fish and the lobsters and the turtles and the crabs. Even the straight vertical lines used in the design suggest the dripping of water. When you study the meaning of the conception you find an excuse for Aitken in flinging his mighty fountain into the center of all this architectural iridescence. He caught the philosophy of Mullgardt without catching the lightness and gaiety of the execution. In that fountain he has brought out the pagan conception of the sun, and he has used the notion that the sun threw off the earth in a molten mass to steam and cool down here and to bring forth those competitions between human beings that reveal the working of the elemental passions. Aitken is material and hard, where Mullgardt is delicate and fine. How subtly Mullgardt has interwoven the feeling of spirituality with all the animal forces in man. That tower alone is a masterpiece. I know of no tower just like it in the world. From every side it is interesting. And at night it is particularly impressive from the Marina."

The architect went on to explain something of the court's history. "When Mullgardt started to work out his plans he must have had in mind the transitional character of an exposition. He knew that he could afford to try an experiment that might have been impracticable if the court had been intended for permanency. He evidently was determined to cast tradition to the winds and to strike out for himself."

"I should think most architects would like to work in that way."

"The usual process is very different. As soon as an architect decides to design a building. he first chooses a certain type of architecture; then he saturates his mind with designs that have already been done along that line. Out of the mass of suggestions that he receives he is lucky if he evolves something more or less new. Often he merely re-echoes or he actually reproduces something that he is fond of or that has happened to catch his fancy. The chances are that Mullgardt will go down into history for his daring here. It isn't often that a man takes a big biological conception and works it out in architecture with such picturesqueness. It's never intrusive and yet it's there, plain enough for anyone to see who looks close. It represented a magnificent opportunity and Mullgardt was big enough to get away with it."

Then the architect told me the human story behind all this beauty as we wandered back into the center of the court and stood there. "Notice the incline," he said, "from the entrances? It reminds me that Mullgardt had originally intended to have the floor of the court like a sunken garden. And remember that the name expresses the original idea. The Court of Abundance, that it is wrongly called, would have applied much better to the Court of Four Seasons. Well, after the notion came to Mullgardt to suggest in the court the development of man from the life of the sea to his present state as a thinking being, less physical than spiritual, he planned to build a court that should be the center of the pageants for the Exposition, where art should have its living representation in the form of processions and of plays, some of them written for the purpose. In the sunken garden there should be plenty of room for the actors to move about, using it as a stage. There should also be room for the sculptured caldron that was to be an architectural feature and that later developed into Aitken's massive evolutionary fountain. For the base of the tower there was designed a gorgeous semi-circular staircase, which was to serve as an entrance for the actors. Around the court there was to run an ornamental balcony, covered with a great canopy in red and gold, making an effect of Oriental magnificence. The people were to watch the spectacles from the balcony and from between the arches. In addition to the main tower, very like the present tower, but to contain a great pipe organ, there were to be two others, in the corner at right angles, to be called echo towers. The music of the organ was to be transmitted to the echo towers by wires and the echoes were to serve as a sort of accompaniment. The effect, if it had been managed right, would have been stunning."

"Mullgardt has kept the spirit of the pageant in his court," I said. "Just as it is it would make an ideal setting, particularly for pageant with music, opera, for example."

"Of course," said the architect. "But the music ought not to come as it does now, from a band. It ought to come from the orchestra. Violins belong there. Put brass never!"

"Well, what happened to the pageant scheme?"

"Oh, when Mullgardt showed the preliminary sketches it was ruled out as too expensive. Then he removed the balcony and the staircase and, in place of the staircase, he introduced a cascade, keeping the rest of the court as it had been before. His idea was to use the water in the cascade only in a suggestive way. It was to be almost completely hidden by vines, after the manner of Shasta Falls, and to symbolize the mysterious appearance and disappearance of water that came from - one didn't know where. But that scheme was rejected, too, as too expensive. However, Mullgardt accepted the situation. He was so interested that he worked out himself many of the details that most architects would have left to subordinates. He really cared enough to make the whole effect as close to perfection as he could. Everything he did he had a reason for doing. Not one thing here did he use gratuitously. He evidently doesn't agree with the idea that, in architecture, beauty is its own excuse for being; he wants to make it useful, too."

Then I was initiated into the details of the workmanship. "Observe how the ideas in the structure of the walls of the court are carried on in the ornamental details and in the tower." The primitive man and primitive woman repeated in a row along the upper edge had been finely conceived and executed by Albert Weinert. And the nobility of outline in the tower was sustained by the three pieces of sculpture in front made by Chester Beach. That top figure some people believed to be Buddhistic in feeling. But it belonged to no particular religion. It stood for the Spirit of Intelligence. The ornamentation on the head was not an aureole, as bad been reported, but a wreath of laurel, symbolic of success. The group beneath was mediaeval, depicting mankind struggling for the light, expressed in the torches, through those conflicts that so pitifully came out of the aspirations of the soul, expressed in religion. The lowest group showed humanity in its elemental condition, related to the animal, close to the beasts. So, to be followed in sequence, the groups ought to be studied from the lowest to the highest, and then the eyes should be able to catch the meaning of the lovely ornamentation, crowning the tower, the petals of the lily, emblem of spirituality, the arrow-like spires above expressing the aspirations of the soul.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse