For security reasons, this was the only permanent building built on the Exposition grounds, and today it houses Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. What works of art were featured? What controversies might they have generated in 1893?
The Art Palace was modeled on an ancient Greek temple..
THE ART PALACE. This building has been regarded with great critical and popular favor, because the architect, Mr. C. B. Atwood, of Chicago, has adjusted a roof and dome to the pure form of the ancient Greek temple. But for the presence of the Illinois Building, with its more conspicuous dome, the Art Palace would have dominated the northern vista of the Fair. This vast Ionic structure, seen here from the south, is joined with an eastern and western annex, and is built with a view to permanence, of brick and steel, at a cost of $670,000. The dimensions are three hundred and twenty by five hundred feet, with two annexes each one hundred and twenty by two hundred feet. Total floor area; over five acres; total wall area for picture-hanging, over one hundred and forty-five thousand square feet. A nave and transept intersect the building, and are one hundred feet wide and seventy feet high. Height of dome, one hundred and twenty-five feet; diameter, sixty feet. A figure of Victory surmounted the dome, but was removed. The great success of Martiny in decorating the Agricultural Building led to his further engagement at the Art Palace, and the stairway on the exterior is by him. The lions guarding the doorways are by Theodore Bauer and A. P. Proctor. Here were gathered the treasures of twenty nations, with statues by Aube, Bartholdi, Gelert, Donoghue, Rogers, St. Gaudens, Kretschmar and hundreds of other sculptors; and paintings by Meissonnier, Lenbach, Kellar, Makart, Corrodi, Tadema, Millet, Whistler, Bonnat, Dubufe, Perrault, and thousands of other artists of universal fame. There were over one hundred and forty rooms in the Art Palace, and the displays by France, Germany, Austria, England, and the United States were exceedingly fine.
SOUTH PORCH OF THE ART PALACE. This was the centre of the great Ionic picture that awoke so much enthusiasm among architects of the world. It was approached by water, and the object of its creator, in uniting mass with simplicity and still preserving Ionian conventions, was here best apprehended. Mr. C. B. Atwood, the architect of the Peristyle and South Colonnade, erected this huge temple, and, following the measurements of the ancient builders, he added roof and dome in accordance with the development of modern architectural ideas. We may note the moderated dome simulating the early treatment of that form of superstructure, and the small tympanum of the pediment into which the sculptor has put only the word "Art"; but such was the noble influence of its surroundings that this was perhaps the only highly impressive inscription in the Exposition. The caryatides, wherever seen, are by Martiny, for after the rapidity and success with which he had covered the Agricultural Building with statues, he was solicited to give his aid to the Art Palace. Here he did not catch the spirit of the sylvan dell, or did not have time or headway, since his winged Victory, surmounting the dome, was soon removed as supererogatory. The statue on the stairway, by Olin L. Warner, was one of eight somewhat similar figures. The lions were made by Edward Kemeys and A. Phimester Proctor. The Art Palace remains as the home of the Field Columbian Museum.
GALLERY 57, ART PALACE. We here look toward the south and east walls of gallery 57, in the French section, east annex, of the Art Palace at Jackson Park, and the picture, perhaps, offers a novel demonstration of the actual truth of modern photographic art. By this means we may recall the pictures and locate them on the walls. As we enter the portal and turn to our left, we have the large painting of Ernest Bordes, of Paris, called "Le Laminoir," a vivid scene in a steel mill, which many will remember. Beneath are three pictures,-- on the left, "The Last Rays," by Emile Dardois; in the center, "Prunes," by Madame Madeline Lemaire; on the right, "The Valley of the Loire at Chateaudun," by Prosper Galerne-- all Parisian works. The great picture on the next, or right wall, is "Flowery Spring," by P. Frank Lamy, of Paris. On the left, in the upper row of smaller pieces, is first the "Sea Birds and Waves" of Delacroix, and next, to the right, Fonvielle’s "Eclipse of the Moon;" beneath, on the left, is Ren Gilbert’s "Fisherman," and Paul Grolleron’s "Capture in 1793." We now turn our eyes on that portion of the east wall to the left, or north of the portal, and see another large picture of "Spring," offering a notable comparison with the scene on the south wall. This is by Albert Fouri. The three pictures beneath, beginning at the left, are Allegre’s "Old Port at Marseilles," Gueldry’s " City Laboratory, Paris," and Courant’s " Coming Storm." All the painters are Parisians.
PORTAL OF THE NORTH TRANSEPT OF THE CATHEDRAL OF BORDEAUX. This cast, from the Trocadero collection at Paris, stood in alcove 83, east court, of the Art Palace at Jackson Park. The principal decoration divides the portal, where Bertrand de Got, Archbishop of Bordeaux, elected Pope in 1305 as Clement V., stands arrayed in chasuble, with gloved hands and tiara on his head, imposing the Apostolic benediction on the flocks which he has honored in the church. But there is more of Clement V. than this beautiful picture of local fame. It was he who aided Philip le Bel, the king, in his burning of De Molay, the Templar, and the persecution of the crusaders’ order by treacherous means, and the innovation by which Clement V. removed the chair of St. Peter from Rome to Avignon was one of the most serious difficulties of the Roman hierarchy. At the sides of the portal are six bishops in their robes, and the archivaults are filled with statuettes of angels, the Twelve Apostles, and various prophets and patriarchs. The tympanum conforms to a manner of sculptors, and holds three stages. It is probable that the sculptor was guided by the utilitarian idea of offering to the people (who could not read) as much instruction as possible. In the lower row is the Last Supper; next above, the Apostles behold the ascension of the Saviour; above, the Saviour is seated in heaven.
THE FAVORED SWAIN. This oil painting by Frederick Morgan, of London, was hung in Gallery 18, British Section, at the south side of the entrance to Gallery 17, in the Art Palace at Jackson Park. It represents a field of oats, near the borders of a pond, out of which two mating ducks have climbed. The great oat-stack grows as the men on its crest lay their increasing circles of sheaves, and tramp them down into water-proof form. The wagon-load of sheaves looks small beside the growing stack. The man on the highest point pauses in an attitude of surprise. The lad beside the parents sees something that announces his defeat. The ducks take a sly look themselves, and the old folks express their feelings to the young fellow, who points dismally at the spectacle in the distance. This spectacle is Love, probably in its earliest chapter, yet all unconscious of the surrounding interest and excitement which it causes even during the critical hours of harvest. The face of the girl is painted with a master’s hand, and the solemnity of a maiden’s trust is depicted on her features. He is, indeed, the favored swain, but he will marry a wife of resolute mould. It is a pleasant scene, and unremitting toil has left only the maiden fair among them.
THE FIVE SENSES, BY HANS MAKART. While Bouguereau has founded his school and still lives, the earliest great admirer and collaborator in that field of art has come and gone these many years. The five-paneled oil painting which is portrayed above was, on account of the notoriety of its author, one of the chief attractions of the Austrian galleries in the Art Palace. It was a study in the nude, showing five different views of an ideal female human form. The senses of Smelling, Seeing, Hearing, Feeling and Tasting are represented as in action, and in Tasting, Eve plucks the fruit from that forbidden tree "whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe with loss of Eden." The sense of Feeling, on the other hand, flatters woman with a recognition of her principal attraction, the love of the young and the joy that comes with its touch. Hans Makart, the sensational Austrian painter, was born in 1840 and died in Venice in 1884; but when his painting, "The Entry of Charles V into Antwerp," fell under the proscription of Anthony Comstock, the bold painter’s fame was secured in America, for twenty years at least. The people desired at once to see what Mr. Comstock was persecuting, so they could tell whether he was acting correctly or in error. It is perhaps always the case that a painter who can limn the body cannot catch the true beauty in the face, yet the art and charm of these figures is freely acknowledged by the intellectual world.
INVASION OF CUPID’S REALM. This oil painting, sometimes known as the Wasp’s Nest, hung on the north wall of Gallery 56, East Pavilion, off the rotunda, in the French Section of the Art Palace. It is the work of brilliant Adolphe Bouguereau, of Paris, and is owned by Mr. Charles T. Yerkes, of Chicago. The painting was loaned by its possessor to the French Commission. Mr. Yerkes is a lover of great paintings, and has gathered a collection which is already celebrated in the world of modern art. It is possible that no other painter has ever acquired the skill of Bouguereau in limning the nude female form, and the controversy over "the nude in art " finds an attorney on the side of the nude in the sincere admiration which his works have elicited all over the world. Bouguereau was the pupil of Picot, and was born at La Rochelle, France, November, 1825 and now at the age of sixty-nine, has been famous for thirty years. He was made a member of the Legion of Honor in 1859 for his magnificent paintings, and advanced through all the degrees to that of commander in 1885. He was also a member of the Institute of France in 1876, and a Knight of the Order of Leopold in 1881.
THE COSSACK’S ANSWER. This grand picture by Elias Evimovicht Rpine is the property of the Emperor of Russia and was purchased by him at a cost of $20,000. The story told is, that the King of Poland sent word to the estimable gentlemen, whose characters are so legibly drawn on the canvas, to the effect that unless they sent their tribute by a certain time, with hostages as security for future good faith, and a contingent to aid in fighting the King’s battles, he would forthwith wipe his correspondents from the face of the earth. The degree of terror which this war-like missive did not inspire in their hearts is the subject of the artist’s brush. To frame a reply sufficiently insulting in return, is the literary task to which these given spirits have now devoted themselves. As ideas more and more hostile take form, and taunts at first unthought of are found to be in harmony with the labors of the clerk and literary man, the savage merriment increases. These nomads are the best riders in the world. The Baron de Tott, in his celebrated memoirs, out of which the derisive Munchausen papers partly grew, describes the peculiar character of the Cossack villages. There is but one street, which may however be two miles long. The riding of the Cossacks, in the arena outside Jackson Park on Sixty-first street, at Chicago, was viewed with astonishment by the people of all nations. There are about five million people in Russia who are nomads-- Scythians, sons of the Magog of Tenth Genesis.
CUPID AND PSYCHE. This painting, exhibited in the French section of the Art Palace, was from the studio of Lionel Royer, a later aspirant for fame in Paris. The work well exemplifies the predominant characteristics of the French exhibit of paintings at Chicago. There was usually great size of figures, exceeding "courage" in design-- that is, defiance of customary prudence as to moral effect, united with high brilliancy of color, and absolute regard for reality in drawing. When one entered the Last Annex of the Art Palace, he came on rooms which were considered full with a dozen of these large and most often nude figures. But after a study of their novel and able treatment the miscellaneous collections in many other rooms palled upon the eye. At the same time, there must be much to condemn in these great works from Paris. For instance, if realism be the key, why the tiny wings of Cupid which certainly are inadequate to the needs of an aerial creature of his size. Again, Cupid is either too large or too small. The pose of Psyche is infelicitous. In fact, the reader is to judge that all the faults come forth in the black and white of the engraving, while only the great drawing of untasteful figures, and none of the astonishing tinting and rotundity produced by the artist, are caught by the camera. The story of Cupid and Psyche is told elsewhere.
© 2010 Rebecca Edwards, author of New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905 by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press
Part I: Excerpts from the Education Art Series, N. D. Thompson Publishing Company, St. Louis, Missouri, 1893, in a weekly series of 20 portfolios
Part II: Poems and Architecture in the State Buildings, by David Greenstein Vassar '05
Dream City Resources