NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us
BACK

Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Saint Louis City and County, From the Earliest Periods to the Present Day: Including Biographical Sketches of Representative Men. In Two Volumes, Illustrated. Volume II . Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts & Co., 1883. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; proceedings]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=scharf2.html


Previous section

Next section

Chapter XXXVII. Art and Artists. 279

THE art history of St. Louis has passed through two distinct phases. This has followed naturally from the peculiar characteristics of the inhabitants. The earlier settlers were mainly French. These brought with them the inborn refinement belonging to people who have grown up in the midst of a cultivated society, and who have inherited through many generations a genuine taste for and lively appreciation of works of art.

Such people, though doubtless for the most part unable to analyze and give an explicit account of their preferences, must still possess, in the form of taste, a discriminative judgment that would well-nigh unfailingly select intrinsically valuable, and as unfailingly reject valueless productions. They thus without hesitation preferred a fair copy of a really significant work to an original one that possessed no vital meaning. In this way, it is well known, there grew up in Europe at an early period a demand for copies of the better class of paintings.

Of copies thus called into existence many were brought to St. Louis and the surrounding region by the earlier French settlers. It doubtless happened also that an occasional original picture by a really great artist found its way over, though the fact that few specially wealthy families were counted among these early immigrants reduces such probability to the minimum. 280

At the present day many of these old paintings have fallen into the hands of people who, for one or another reason, do not care to retain them. It often

-- 1618 --

happens, therefore, that one of these is brought to light and offered for sale. Some of them bear the signatures of artists more or less celebrated. These, which from the nature of the case in most instances must be, and very likely in all cases are, copies, together with many more altogether without signature, are often confidently claimed to be original works of this or that great master, on no other ground, it would seem, than that there is no longer any clew whatever to their origin! At the same time, it is not to be denied that many of these works have genuine merit; some of them, indeed, a high order of merit.

It is to be observed, however, that during this entire earlier period the absorbing interests were those of a community struggling to develop the resources of a country as yet, in its primitive condition. It was impossible, therefore, that the art interests of the time should be such as to develop any productive activity in the field of art.

The second phase of the art history of St. Louis presents characteristics no less marked than those of the first. The growth of the city involved the infusion of elements other than French, so that in course of time the latter became wholly subordinated, both in numbers and in influence. The transition period, indeed, is one well-nigh destitute of art interest of any kind. The new elements entering into the population of the city brought energy, enterprise, thrift, but all this was concentrated almost wholly in the direction of accumulating property in its most abstract form, — i.e., in the form of wealth, money as wealth.

This stage, however, was not, as it could not be, a permanent one. Those who had accumulated wealth began to feel the necessity of its being realized in other forms than in that of mere money, if it was to be wealth in any true sense; and no very extended research was required to make clear to them this fact, that wealth has from time immemorial unfailingly sought realization in works of art.

Nevertheless, people without art-culture, and even wholly destitute of traditions concerning art, cannot, from the very nature of the case, safely rely upon their own judgments in the choice of works of art. It happened, therefore, that the earlier collections in this second phase of our art history were of exceedingly varying merit. The tendency was, and in some degree still is, to decry the art of the renaissance, and to insist upon the immeasurable superiority of the art of the present over the art of all former time. Pictures were purchased rather from the celebrity of the artist than from any clear conception of the significance or value of the pictures themselves.

At the same time, while the distance of an artist in time was held to be proof of his inferiority, the distance of an artist in space was but too likely to be taken as fairly conclusive evidence of his superiority. Nor does there appear to have been the slightest suspicion of the necessary incongruity existing between these two tacit assumptions, the former of which was but one with the light opinion entertained of the renaissance art, an incongruity sufficiently apparent when one considers that those most distant and therefore greatest artists are found in France and Italy, the very countries where the richest traditions of the renaissance centre, and without which the great art of the present would have been simply impossible.

It must, however, be borne in mind that this was but a preliminary stage. With increase of inquiry has come increase of knowledge, so that the purchases of works of art have been steadily more and more discriminating, while the evidences of defective judgment in the determination of earlier acquisitions are gradually disappearing from our galleries.

The influences leading to this marked improvement in the art interests of the city have been many and various. Among these influences the art exhibitions held from time to time must be counted as highly significant. The first was held in Oak Hall in 1857, and this may be regarded as the date of the revival, or, in an important sense, as the date of the origin of a genuine art interest in the city.

For a number of years past art exhibitions have constituted a special feature of the St. Louis Annual Fair and Exposition. These have generally been made up mainly of paintings, representing the best class of work of many of the foremost artists of both Europe and America.

Besides these, other occasional exhibitions have been held in the Mercantile Library rooms, in the reading-room of the Public School Library, and latterly two specially noteworthy ones in the new Museum of Fine Arts. These have all been "loan exhibitions," the pictures being supplied from the private galleries of the city. Much credit is due to H. L. Dousman and other collectors named below for their public-spirited liberality on these occasions, which has been of great value in educating the public taste.

Again, the collections that came to be formed, as a result of the newly-awakened interest, gave by reflex influence a strong stimulus to that interest. The earliest of these collections worthy of mention began to be formed in the years immediately succeeding the close of the war. A number of these have come to include not merely an extended array of pictures for which large sums of money have been paid, but pictures

-- 1619 --

which, with very few exceptions, are genuine works of art of a high order of merit. Such are the collections of H. L. Dousman, Charles Parsons, Daniel Catlin, F. O. Day, John J. O Fallon, S. A. Coale, J. G. Chapman, Benjamin W. Clark, Edwin Harrison, George E. Leighton, F. L. Ridgeley, John A. Scudder John R. Shepley, and W. S. Stuyvesant, which contain good and important examples of the work of nearly two hundred of the most celebrated of modern painters. The works in these collections have been chiefly, though not entirely, selected because representative of artists of high repute, and together afford the means of study of much of the best of modern art.

Others, guided in many instances by knowledge born of real study of art, and in other instances by a well-defined and cultivated taste, have made collections which may be said to exhibit more of the individuality of the owners, notably H. C. Ives, G. Baumgarten, Martin Collins, S. M. Dodd, W. W. Harris, Henry Overstolz, E. A. Hitchcock, Frank Desloge, W. J. Gilbert, Horatio M. Jones, H. T. Simon, J. B. Henderson, Thomas E. Tutt, G. O. Carpenter, A. B. Thomson, L. M. Rumsey, G. S. Walker, M. Rumsey, H. C. Wilson, B. H. Brownell, E. S. Warner, and D. F. Colville. Some of these collections are the expressions of taste or feeling in a special direction, as for engravings or etchings, and some are composed exclusively of the works of local artists.

Hercules L. Dousman, 281 who has perhaps the finest private art collection in St. Louis, is the only son of Col. Hercules L. Dousman, who, as one of the leading minds of the Northwestern Fur Company, contributed largely to the opening up to settlement and civilization the vast territories that lie west and northwest of Prairie du Chien, Wis., as far as the boundaries of the British dominions and the mouth of the Columbia River. Col. Dousman was born in 1800, in the island of Mackinac, and after receiving a thorough commercial training in New York, became, while still quite a young man, connected with the Northwestern Fur Company, of which John Jacob Astor, its founder, was then manager, and in which Pierre Chouteau, of St. Louis, was subsequently one of the controlling spirits. In 1826, Col. Dousman was stationed by his employers at Prairie du Chien, under the nominal control of Joseph Rolette, a gentleman who speedily comprehended the great abilities of his youthful friend and coadjutor, and yielded to him the administration of the affairs of his company in that region. Thus at an age when most men are deliberating on the choice of a career, Col. Dousman became the practical Governor of a territory larger in area than France and Germany combined, and the potent agent through which civilization has supplanted barbarism throughout a section which bids fair to become the richest and most populous in the republic. He was one of the most remarkable men of his day, and among the wild tribes of the Northwest his control was unhesitatingly admitted. A friend of his, Gen. Henry H. Sibley, in a paper read before the Historical Society of Minnesota, speaking from long years of personal knowledge, bore testimony to the extraordinary power he wielded among the Indians, who, while they feared and respected the determined will of Col. Dousman, revered him as a man whose justice was equaled by his kindness, and whose word could be relied on implicitly in all transactions. Indeed, he was their friend as well as their law-giver, and his rule was acknowledged with a hearty loyalty that could only spring from warm personal affection.

In 1844, Col. Dousman married the widow of Joseph Rolette, who died in 1842. This lady was born in 1804, at Prairie du Chien, where she resided, with some trifling temporary absences, until her death, which occurred Jan. 13, 1882. She survived her three children by her first marriage, and on April 3, 1848, her only surviving child, Hercules L. Dousman, was born. Throughout all her long residence in her Northern home Mrs. Dousman led a life of piety and charity, which endeared her to the people among whom her lot was cast, and caused her decease to be mourned with a genuineness and spontaneity of feeling such as made it seem that every family felt the loss as that of one of its individual members.

Col. Dousman died Sept. 12, 1868, when his son was less than twenty-one years of age. During his business career he had acquired vast possessions, including property lying at various points along the banks of the Mississippi, from Carondelet, where he owned thirty acres of city property, to Prairie du Chien, where his lands faced for three miles along the river bluffs, and stretched far inland. But for the civil war, during which he raised and equipped at his own cost large bodies of troops, these estates would have been much more valuable; but, notwithstanding, at the time of their owner's death they were valued at several millions of dollars. All these estates are now the property of his son.

Hercules L. Dousman married in November, 1873, the eldest daughter of Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis, an officer who distinguished himself on several occasions in important operations during the war, and who as colonel of the Seventh Cavalry won an enviable

-- 1620 --

record as one of the best Indian-fighters the United States army has produced. He is at this writing governor of the Soldiers' Home at Washington. Shortly after his marriage, and early in 1874, Mr. Dousman accompanied his wife to St. Louis on a visit to her father, who was then commandant at Jefferson Barracks. This visit led to his permanent settlement in St. Louis, the decision being reached in the fall of that year. In 1877 he purchased a handsome mansion, which he remodeled, adding to it a gallery for a collection of paintings. Mr. Dousman had long been a consistent and liberal patron of the arts, purchasing pictures and statuary whenever opportunity served, and gradually educating his judgment up from plane to plane, each step being taken with characteristic caution and forethought, but all tending towards the one general purpose of making a collection which should comprise specimens of the best efforts of modern genius. Long before his gallery was completed the principal dwelling-rooms of his residence were crowded with the paintings he had accumulated. Subsequently, from time to time, additions have been made, and always with a close regard to the principle on which the collection was begun, until now, although there are more extensive, there are few choicer collections in the country.

As soon as his collection had approached its present degree of excellence, Mr. Dousman notified all interested in art, whether resident in the city or visitors, that the treasures he had gathered were at their service for either enjoyment or study. Artists were especially invited to make use of the opportunity thus afforded, and the Dousman residence came to be daily thronged with visitors whose only introduction was a taste for works of art. In time this was found to be too great a tax to be permitted without restriction, and a regulation was made which proved beneficial to all. One day in the week was set apart as a general visitors' day, admission being by card, obtainable by any one of respectability on application, the gallery being reserved on the other days for the use of the family and intimate friends.

Probably one of the most remarkable of the works in Mr. Dousman's gallery is the famous "Temptation of St. Anthony," by Louis Leloir.

Gabriel Max is represented by two superb works, "Maternal-Happiness" and "The Reverie," both of them perfect specimens of the best style of this great figure-painter.

Bouguereau's work is seen in a magnificent full-length, life-size painting, "Les Jeunes Bohemiennes," sometimes called "Les Soeurs," and in a cabinet picture of extreme delicacy of sentiment, entitled "L'Ange Gardien," where a young mother is breathing a soft prayer over her sleeping infant.

Victor Bachereau has a fine historical work, showing the last hours of Francis of Lorraine, Duke of Guise, the dying hero pardoning his assassin, who has been captured and brought to his tent for condemnation.

"The Roll-Call of the Reign of Terror," by Charles Louis Müller, the original of the great canvas which stretches over one of the walls of the Palace of the Luxembourg, shows with awful skill all the horror of a morning in the conciergerie when the officer of the revolutionary tribunal is calling out the daily list of the victims of the guillotine.

Pierre Jean Clays is represented by a scene in the harbor of Ostend, painted in the best style of that great marine artist.

Benjamin Constant's work appears on two canvases, — "Cassar's Daughter," haughtily treading the steps of the Roman amphitheatre, and "The Sultan's Favorite," a strong piece of Eastern light, color, and grace.

Corot's "Morning," one of the best works of the great landscape-painter, is another feature of the collection.

Among the other artists represented are E. J. Aubert, Czachorski, De Haas and Van Marcke, who appear at their best in two magnificent cattle pieces; William Kray, of Vienna, who is represented by the famous "Lorelei," and by "The Swimming Lesson" and "The Fisherman;" Jacquet, whose work appears in exquisitely painted portraits of Mr. Dousman's two eldest daughters; A. V&eagrave;ly (Salon picture of 1880), "Le Coeur S'Eveille," a life-size, full-length work, showing a young maiden listening to her grandame's reading of some story of heroic deeds; Lecompte du Nouy, represented by his famous Salon picture, "Christian Pilgrims at the Tomb of the Virgin;" Casanova, Madrazo, Mesgrigny, Meissonier, Adrien Moreau, Pierre Outin, Palmaroli, Perrault, Pinchart, Richter, Rico, Rossi, Schenck, Schreyer, Alvarez, Amberg, Chelmonski, Chlebowski, Carolus Duran, Jules Dupré, Diaz, De Neuville, Coomans, Heilbuth, Alfred Gu&eagrave;s, Hagborg, Indoni, Ziem, Villegas, Simoni, Sjamaar, Terrassa, and a score of others.

The citizens of St. Louis fully appreciate the value of such an acquisition to their city as the Dousman family. Its head is always ready to promote public enterprises with both purse and influence, and his home, under the cultured management of Mrs. Dousman, is the centre of the most graceful and refined society the city can boast.

In addition to the works of art belonging to the St.

-- 1621 --

Louis School of Fine Arts, the St. Louis University, the Mercantile Library, and the Public School Library, the city contains a score or more collections of paintings worthy of mention in this connection, five well advanced collections of engravings, three of etchings, and one of photo-gravures and autotypes.

Co-ordinate with the influences already mentioned tending to improvement in the art interests of the city have been the organizations and institutions devoted, exclusively to the fostering of this special class of interests.

The earliest of these appears to have been the Western Academy of Art. This was established in 1860, with great promise of permanence and usefulness. Hon. Henry T. Blow was its first president and the leading spirit throughout. It had purchased an extensive collection of casts of statuary, and had made arrangements for the establishment of a School of Design. With the opening of the war, however, the existence of the academy speedily came to an end. The military authorities took possession of the building, and what the organization had collected was quickly scattered abroad. The casts from the antique works now in the reading-room of the Public School Library are all that remain of its possessions.

The Art Society was established in 1872, for the express purpose of cultivating a taste for art, and one means adopted for the attainment of this end was the formation of a collection of works of art that should be open to the public. The first president of the Art Society was Thomas Richeson, after whom, for several terms of office, came J. R. Meeher, H. H. Morgan, and Thomas Davidson. Dr. W. T. Harris also took an active interest in the organization and contributed much to its success. During the first four or five years of its existence, with such men as its supporters, the society exhibited great vigor and exerted a marked influence upon the community. Dr. Harris, Dr. C. L. Bernays, D. J. Snider, and others infused a strong element of philosophical criticism, directing attention specifically to the thought element in works of art.

It was this influence especially that led to the purchase of a large collection of autotype reproductions of celebrated works of art, and the placing these on permanent exhibition in the reading-room of the Public School Library. The result has been to familiarize the whole community in greater or less degree with the typical productions of the great epochs of art activity in the history of the world. The collection is especially rich in works of the renaissance period, the selections being made evidently with reference to the culmination of the expression of the fundamental conceptions of Christianity, and therefore the fundamental conceptions of the modern world in art-forms.

Unfortunately, however, in the year 1878 the management was changed, and the real purpose of the organization quite lost out of sight, the natural result being the speedy dissolution of the organization itself. But this fact could not invalidate the work actually accomplished by the society that has a permanent value, and to its promoters is due the gratitude of all genuine lovers of art in the community.

The St. Louis Sketch Club originated with J. R. Meeher in 1877. Its aim was primarily a professional one, viz., the cultivation of the inventive and creative powers of its members, who were, of course, artists, either professional or amateur. A further purpose was to promote a professional spirit among the artists of the city. It began with but three members, and met in turn at their respective studios. For a time the jovial artists found the meetings occasions of genuine relaxation and mirthful enjoyment, no less than of free mutual criticism. With increase of numbers, however, there has been a manifest tendency towards reserve and "decorum," until, with an active membership of twenty-five, and an associate membership of seventy-five, its gatherings have become somewhat stated social occasions. The rooms of the club are well appointed, and its monthly receptions are occasions of special interest. At these receptions are exhibited sketches by the active members, illustrating some appointed theme. The influence of the club upon its members has been very great and altogether valuable, as it promises to be for the future.

The School of Design was established by Mrs. John B. Henderson in 1878. The aim of this organization was mainly to give opportunity for learning the methods and fundamental forms of decorative art, though afterwards instruction was also given in painting, both figure and landscape. For a time the school was popular, and seemed to meet a real demand. At length, however, the public-spirited lady who established it, and who from the first had supported it almost unaided, gave it over to other management. Support failed, and the school shortly came to an end.

There remains to be noticed the School of Fine Arts connected with the Washington University. In a prospectus of the school for 1881-82 it is stated that "the establishment of an art school upon a broad and permanent basis has always been part of the plan of Washington University." It is also intimated that art instruction had been embodied in the course of study for nearly twenty-five years. It would seem, however, that it was not until 1875 that anything very definite was done to put in force this part of the

-- 1622 --

general plan. In that year "students were admitted to the drawing department," and class and public lectures were given in art history. During the same year, too, an evening school was opened.

This initiatory step, properly speaking, in the realization of what had so long been included in the ideal of the university was taken by Halsey C. Ives, who, in the face of much discouragement and opposition, organized a free evening class in a room of the university and became its sole teacher. The class numbered eighteen the first evening, and increased to forty-three within two months. During the second year the umbers were such as to require an assistant, and the year following three assistants became necessary. At the same time a course of lectures was given on Architecture, Sculpture, Art History, and Music. These lectures were open to the public, as well as to students, and were largely attended.

It soon became evident that there was demand for day classes as well, and accordingly provision for such was made. Many at once availed themselves of the opportunity thus offered, and the numbers have steadily increased to the present time. During the past year two hundred and eighty-eight persons have received instruction in the school, exclusive of students from other departments of the university. About one-third of the students thus far have been ladies.

During the first years of the work the instruction given was for the most part unpaid. It was an experiment, and largely the experiment of the one man, who looked steadfastly through all discouragement to the success which he saw as well as felt to be certainly awaiting his efforts.

The success that followed his conviction was followed by the conviction of others, so that "on May 22, 1879, the directors of the university adopted an ordinance establishing a Department of Art in Washington University," to be known as "The St. Louis School of Fine Arts." The objects of the department were appropriately defined, and work was begun at length upon a thoroughly secure basis.

Of course the man who had proven the practicability and made certain the success of the school was now formally appointed its director. Nor could a more fortunate selection have been made. Professor Ives has already brought the school to a degree of maturity that gives it rank among the foremost of such institutions in the country. Altogether clear in his convictions, unswerving in his purpose, familiar with the art and art schools of both Europe and America, and enthusiastic in his devotion to art, his management promises to give to the very liberal provision now made for the school the utmost degree of efficiency in the promotion of the art interests of St. Louis and the West.

But any notice, however brief, of the St. Louis School of Fine Arts would be incomplete without some mention of the splendid gift of its most recent and most liberal patron. On the 10th of May, 1881, as elsewhere more fully stated, Mr. Wayman Crow formally delivered by gift to the authorities of Washington University the title of a large, substantial, and handsomely-furnished structure, under the name of "The St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts." This consists of five large galleries, besides a number of classrooms, three large studios, and a beautiful auditorium capable of seating nearly a thousand people. With its galleries once properly filled, we have here the predestined focus of all the genuine art interests of the city.

Here again, indeed, the energy of Professor Ives has not been wanting. Two of the galleries were immediately filled with a fine collection of casts, which he had already secured, representing the great typical works in sculpture, from the colossal Egyptian statues to the marvelous Gates of Ghiberti. A number of paintings of a high order of merit are already on the walls, together with engravings, etchings, and autotype reproductions of many great works of art. Of these, indeed, he has already secured a rare collection for the school, so that students have constantly before them both excellent original works and also faithful reproductions of many of the finest creations in the entire range of art.

There can be no question that the establishment of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts marks one of the most important epochs in the art history of St. Louis.

Finally, it ought not to entirely escape notice that some very intelligent and effective work in the direction of cultivating a taste for and developing a rational judgment of art and art history has for a number of years been going forward in the Central High School, at first under the direction of Miss Mary E. Beedy, and more recently in the hands of Miss Sue V. Beeson.

Two publications specifically devoted to art have been published in St. Louis. One of them, under the title of Art and Music, was begun in 1881. It gave illustrations of the work of local artists, and reproduced a number of works in local collections. It failed to reach a very high standard of work, met with very unsatisfactory support, and after about eight months of precarious existence its office of publication was moved to Chicago, where it is now issued as a weekly.

-- 1623 --

A smaller one is published by the students of the School of Fine Arts, under the name Palette Scrapings. It has been in progress but little more than a year, and is, of course, to be judged of from its own stand-point. As students' work it is very creditable.

Two other publications, the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, under the editorship of Dr. William T. Harris, and The Western, under the editorial management of H. H. Morgan, have devoted much space to the philosophical discussion of art, both in its general compass, and also in the special interpretation of individual works of art, both ancient and modern. These interpretations have been the outgrowth of attempts to discover and to formulate in reflective language for the reason the thought element involved in given works of art which, as such, of course appeal directly to the imagination.

We come, finally, to give some brief indication of the actual productive work accomplished in the field of art in St. Louis, and of those by whose hands this work has in the main been done. And it is worth remarking that the very fact of so large a number of artists finding support here is itself the best evidence of the rapid growth in the appreciation of art in the community.

Of architecture there is little to be said from the point of view of art. Of church architecture there are comparatively few specimens of really fine design. One of these is the Episcopal (Christ) Church at Thirteenth and Locust Streets. Though still unfinished, the structure is altogether imposing. The plan, as a whole, is marked by a pleasing degree of harmony, which is greatly heightened by the sense of repose given by the appearance of massive solidity. It is a good example of the early English Gothic style.

The Presbyterian Church, Fourteenth and Lucas Place, bears a specially fine spire, illustrating the best phase of the true pointed style.

SS. Peter and Paul's (Catholic) Church, South St. Louis, is a fine large edifice in stone of the Gothic style, the external appearance of which, however, is seriously marred by the unfinished state of the spires. The Church of St. Alphonsus, on Grand Avenue, is also a fine structure externally, though the interior is not sufficiently high to prevent a certain sense of oppression.

St. Joseph's (Catholic) Church, Eleventh and O'Fallon Streets, is specially noticeable on account of its interior decoration, as is also the much smaller Church of the Annunciation, Seventh and Labadie Streets, which is nearly on the plan of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

The Church of the Messiah, recently erected on the corner of Garrison Avenue and Locust Street, is a beautiful example of the early English style of architecture. It has a number of memorial windows, which are considered the best specimens of stained-glass work in the city. The perfect adaptation of means to ends of use, without in any degree sacrificing any part of the artistic motive of the whole, is realized in this structure to a degree seldom attained.

On the other hand, examples are but too numerous of large sums of money expended only to render bad taste the more conspicuous. This is especially true of a number of churches but recently completed at great cost, the interior decorations of which are altogether unfortunate, both in design and in combination of colors.

The Public Buildings of the city present few artistic features to detain us. The old court-house, Fourth and Market Streets, has a really good dome. The Four Courts, Twelfth Street and Clark Avenue, is a huge pile, gaudy, French, and flimsy.

The new custom-house, again, occupying an entire square between Eighth and Ninth Streets and Olive and Locust, is a building of immense cost, and not altogether destitute of pleasing points. Viewed as a whole, however, it is impossible to deny that it lacks unity. On the contrary, it is cut up into details so as to lose fatally in mass and solidity.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Eighteenth and Lucas Place, mentioned elsewhere, may be classed among public buildings in the more general sense. The main portion is of stone, the auditorium in the rear being of brick. The effect of the whole is unique and pleasing, while the interior finish is rich and faultlessly elegant.

One other building also may be included here, and also serve as transition to the class of commercial buildings. It is the new Chamber of Commerce, Third and Chestnut Streets. It is massive, symmetrical, beautiful. Unfortunately, however, its location renders a good view of it well-nigh impossible.

The number of commercial buildings noticeable for their architectural design is rapidly increasing. One of the earlier and one of the finest of these is the Equitable building, Sixth and Locust Streets, with its admirable provision for light. Among others are the Gas building, Third and Pine, brick finish, and the Bridge building, Eighth and Washington Avenue, with its handsome front in stone, each representing a special style.

Among hotels, the Lindell, Sixth and Washington Avenue, is doubtless the finest from the artistic point of view, while of the theatres the new Olympic is regarded as by far the handsomest.

-- 1624 --

The number of really handsome residences is also rapidly increasing. Among many others may be mentioned that of J. L. D. Morrison, Twenty-eighth and Locust Streets, entirely of stone, large, finely proportioned, and in refined taste; and those of John Whittaker, Garrison and Franklin Avenues, P. L. Foy, Grand and Lindell Avenues, and J. D. Perry and others on Vandeventer Place. It would indeed be impossible, as it would be undesirable, to catalogue all the residences whose owners have shown their appreciation of the value of the art element in a dwelling. Many, indeed, present little that is noticeable externally, but are specially elegant within, following the fashion of the ancient Greeks.

In short, there can be no doubt of the genuine and rapid increase of interest in architecture as an art in all its branches on the part of the citizens of St. Louis.

Among local architects, F. D. Lee, by whom, aided by Thomas B. Annan, the Chamber of Commerce was planned, and George I. Barnett, have done much thoroughly artistic work.

Charles E. Illsley has also done good work in the line of domestic architecture.

In sculpture there is still less that calls for notice. In some sense Miss Harriet Hosmer may be claimed as belonging to the art history of St. Louis, seeing that in 1850 (at nineteen years of age) she became a student in a medical college of this city, where she acquired a knowledge of anatomy that has been of special service to her in her later artistic labors. Two beautiful specimens of her work, OEnone and Beatrice Cenci, are now in the city, one owned by the Mercantile Library, and the other by the Art Museum.

Howard Kretschmar, a native of St. Louis, became conscious of his vocation as a sculptor through carving a set of chessmen in wood. He afterwards modeled in clay a bust of Mayor Joseph Brown, which attracted attention, the result being that he went to Europe and remained there four years, first in the Academy of Munich, and afterwards as an independent student at Rome. Since his return he has been actively engaged in his profession. Among his recent works is a marble bust of Hon. Thomas Allen. He is at present a teacher in the School of Fine Arts, Washington University.

Pietro Perrin also worked as a sculptor in St. Louis from 1860 to 1870.

J. Wilson McDonald commenced practicing his profession as a sculptor about 1860, and executed models for the statue of Thomas H. Benton which was to be placed in Lafayette Park. But he was not successful in the competition, as the award was made to Harriet Hosmer. He afterwards executed marble busts of Benton and Mr. Harrison, the iron merchant both of which now adorn the large room of the Mercantile Library. He removed to New York after the close of the war, and has resided there ever since, executing various commissions for Eastern and Western patrons. A work which brought him fame in the East was the colossal bust of Washington Irving, which was placed in one of the parks of Brooklyn. He was commissioned to execute a colossal statue in bronze of Attorney-General Bates, which was erected in Forest Park, St. Louis, and afterwards competed for the statues of Gen. Custer and Gen. Francis P. Blair.

W. H. Gardner adopted the profession of sculptor in St. Louis, and commenced working in the studio of Howard Kretschmar about 1880, assisting that artist in the execution of the colossal busts now in position on the front of the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1881 he exhibited a bust of President Garfield at the Fine Arts Hall in the St. Louis Fair-Grounds, which was much admired, and for which he very justly received a first prize. In 1882 he competed for the Blair monument, for which prizes had been offered by the Blair Monument Association. In this competition he carried off the first prize, and was commissioned to execute a colossal statue in bronze of Gen. Francis P. Blair, which he is now working upon.

Robert Bringhurst, a young sculptor of decided ability, was one of the students at Washington University, and a pupil of Kretschmar. He went to Europe to pursue his studies, but was only able to stay one year. Since his return he has executed medallions and statuettes which have attracted attention and placed him in the position of one who has talents of a high order. He received the first and second prizes at the fair in 1882, and has since exhibited some ideal modeling at the St. Louis Sketch Club which displayed considerable imagination and excellent anatomical knowledge.

Painting has been much more widely appreciated than either of the other forms of art. And as there is nothing in which man has so direct and deep an interest as in himself, it is but natural that the portrait-painter should have been the first to receive cordial greeting and profitable employment.

Among the earliest of the portrait-painters connected with the history of art in St. Louis was Chester Harding, father of Gen. Chester Harding and of the wife of Hon. J. M. Krum, of this city. He was born in 1792, and made his first visit to St. Louis about the year 1820. With rare energy he had struggled through the most adverse circumstances into an acknowledged position as an artist. In one of his Western

-- 1625 --

journeys he painted the portrait of Gen. Clark (of Lewis and Clark's expedition to the Rocky Mountains), and also that of Daniel Boone. The latter is understood to be now in the possession of James Bissell, of this city. In Boston, as early as 1823, he was overrun with commissions, and finally broke off his stay there abruptly, with nearly a hundred applications still awaiting him, in order to make the visit to Europe which he had been long and eagerly looking forward to. In England his power was very soon recognized, so that he was shortly occupied in painting the portraits of a number of more or less celebrated personages, among them the Duke of Sussex and Allison, the historian. There are also several portraits by him of Daniel Webster, and these are regarded as being of high merit.

During his last visit to St. Louis, in 1866, he painted the portrait of Gen. W. T. Sherman. This is one of his latest, as it is also one of his best works. He died in Boston within the same year. A brief account of his life is given in the Atlantic Monthly for April, 1867. He himself also left a volume with the quaint title "Egotistography," in which he gave an account of his own life and works.

About 1840, Emanuel de Franca came to St. Louis from Philadelphia. He soon acquired great popularity as a painter of portraits, and for a time did good work.

Ferdinand T. L. Boyle, another portrait-painter, came to St. Louis about the year 1858. He was distinguished for his intelligence and fine social qualities. Among the portraits he painted were those of Governor Gamble and Gen. Francis P. Blair, the former of which is in the collection of the Mercantile Library.

Wilkins was active in the same field about the same period. He was an exponent of the English school, in which ladies were habitually represented as shepherdesses.

It was not far from the year 1858 that St. Louis was visited by a portrait-painter who is regarded by good judges familiar with the whole course of the development of art in St. Louis as the best of all this class of artists who can claim a place in the present history. This was W. Coggswell, who, though he remained here but two or three years, did much valuable work, including the portraits of such citizens as Joseph Charless and Peter Lindell. On quitting St. Louis he went first to Chicago, and afterwards to California, where he now resides.

A. J. Conant, born in 1821, took up his residence in St. Louis in 1857, and is still in our midst. He has long been highly esteemed both as a man and as an artist. He is specially successful in his portraits of mature men. His strength lies in the decidedly realistic character of the likenesses he produces.

Madame Subit has followed the profession of portrait-painting in St. Louis for many years, and has received many commissions, which have been filled quite to the satisfaction of those giving them. She works very minutely, paying great attention to the elaboration of laces and drapery.

A number of other portrait-painters are deserving of mention, though it will be impossible here to give them extended notice. Col. Waugh, of early date, was not only a painter, but also made portrait busts in marble. John Reid, Brewer, G. Mueller, and Powers also did good work of this class.

Latterly, Miss Georgie Campbell, who was for a time a pupil of J. R. Meeker in landscape, has been specially successful in portrait-painting. In this field she has gained much from the instruction of Healy. She is now in Chicago.

It should be mentioned, too, that Miss Sarah M. Peale was a popular painter of portraits in St. Louis from 1847 to 1878. Portraits by her of Daniel Webster and Thomas H. Benton are in the collection of the Mercantile Library. 282

-- 1626 --

A number of figure-painters of much merit have also found a congenial field for their labors in St. Louis. Among these, Deas lived and worked here during the years 1840-45. Besides figure-pieces he painted animals and landscapes. He exhibited a number of works in the American Art Union. Among these was one representing frontier life, the scene being a struggle between a white hunter and an Indian. An "Irish Stag-Hound" by him is owned by Gen. Sibley, of St. Paul.

Thomas S. Noble came to St. Louis about 1860. He studied in Paris under Couture. On his return he painted a large composition entitled "The Last Slave-Sale in St. Louis." During the war he joined the Southern army. Afterwards he went to New York, where he was elected an associate of the National Academy. Among works executed in that city were a number the themes of which were drawn from slave-life in the South. Later he went to Cincinnati, where he was given charge of the McMicken School of Design. There he painted "The Price of Blood" and "John Brown led to Execution." He is a good draughtsman, and some of his work shows superior strength in color.

Charles F. Wimar, born in 1829, in Germany, gave evidence even in childhood of absorbing artistic instincts. At the age of fifteen he emigrated with his parents to America and settled in St. Louis. Shortly afterward he attracted the attention of the artist Pomarede, who inquired the name of the boy, sought out his parents, and secured him as a pupil. In 1849, Pomarede undertook the task of painting a panorama of the Mississippi River. Wimar accompanied him on the journeys necessary to sketch these scenes. Here he became intensely interested in the characteristics of Indian life. His portrayals of these were so faithful and full of vigor that Pomarede at once advised him to devote himself exclusively to such work. This he did, though not till he had spent five years in diligent preparation for the task in Dusseldorf, under the instruction of Leutze. Nor did he fail to make trial of his powers upon his favorite theme during these years of preparation. The result was the execution of a number of important works, among which was one representing an emigrant train attacked by Indians. The design was boldly conceived and finely wrought out, the completed picture creating great interest in Europe, and being bought on its arrival in this country by the late Governor Gamble. Wimar also painted, while still at Dusseldorf, a series of pictures representing the abduction by the Indians of Daniel Boone's daughter. One of these is now in the collection of the Mercantile Library of this city. On his return to St. Louis, Wimar at once set about his central task, and traveled among the Indians, making sketches, taking photographic views, studying in minutest detail their characteristics, and afterward portraying on canvas in finished form the completed conceptions he had thus worked out with so much enthusiasm and labor. He also painted many pictures representing buffaloes. His last work was the painting of the historical scenes in the dome of the court-house of St. Louis. Consumption had developed, and in 1863, at the age of thirty-four years, his work and his life ended together, as he himself had predicted. Wimar's gifts were of a high order, as his works testify, and yet during his lifetime he failed to receive the appreciation that was his due.

Now that he is dead all do him honor, and we cannot without the deepest regret think of a life like his, out short while yet so much remained for him to do, and just when he seemed on the point of realizing the outward as well as the inward fruits of the success he had so manfully achieved in art. The greater part of his works are owned in St. Louis.

Conrad Diehl, a pupil of Kaulbach and Folty at Munich, and afterward of Gerome in Paris, became actively related to the art interests of St. Louis directly after the great fire in Chicago. He was very soon enabled, through the timely aid of James E. Yeatman, to offer to his pupils the advantages of day life-study, an advantage which drew a number of his former Chicago pupils to St. Louis. Upon the merits of the work of this school the Boston Globe, of July 4, 1878, commented as follows: "These are perfectly marvelous in the beauty of their execution, the firmness of touch, the perfect drawing, the wonderful relief, and the superb breadth and masterly vigor that characterize them all. We are the more surprised at these drawings as there are but few masters who can produce such thoughtful, brilliant, and faultless work. The drawings of the New York Art School, lately exhibited at the same rooms, are childish and almost ridiculous by the side of these productions of a young school of which we have never before heard." This school, which he conducted with such signal success, was but the carrying out of the determination with which he returned from his European studies. That purpose was nothing less than to hasten the time when the art student of America should no longer find it necessary to seek in a foreign land the education he desired. We will not here be able to trace his efforts in Chicago, cut short by the great fire, nor to specify the untoward circumstances by which the fruits of his labors here were turned into other channels, nor to recount his prolonged and

-- 1627 --

intense labors in the direction of securing a rational method of instruction in drawing in the public schools of St. Louis and ultimately in the whole country. In all these efforts indeed he met with partial defeat; and yet in the best sense he was truly successful, for the principles he at first seized only in a general way were, through this intense and prolonged activity, worked nut in detail and formulated into what may with justice be styled the first reasoned system of elementary instruction in drawing thus far presented. This system the author himself significantly styles "form study." Just when this system was fairly matured the opposing forces succeeded in depriving our schools of further benefit from it. At the same time (1880) the authorities of the State University at Columbia, Mo., recognizing the high value of the system, as well as the superior gifts of its author, called him to a chair in that institution, where he has since been devoting his energies to the perfecting in detail and to the practical application of his method, which he has admirably summarized under the title of "Grammar of Form-Language" in a work still in manuscript.

Meanwhile he has not allowed his work as artist in the more precise sense to stand still. Besides designs for arabesque decorations, he has produced, among other works, a design for a monument representing Christ at the Resurrection, which was pronounced to be the best of a number of competing designs, most of which were by professional sculptors. At present he is engaged in the preparation of cartoon studies for what he styles his "two first pictures," as he regards all his former large paintings in the light of studies merely.

George C. Eichbaum, portrait and genre painter, came to St. Louis from Pittsburgh in 1859. He is especially successful in portraits of women and children. Latterly he has painted a number of pictures of the genre type that have been well received, among them especially "Pickwick and Sam Weller," and another entitled "Whistle and I'll come to you, my lad;" this was exhibited in New York at the Academy, and sold for a high price on the opening day of the exhibition.

W. M. Chase, now well known throughout the country, began work in St. Louis in 1870 as a fruit-painter. In 1872 he went to Europe, where he was under the instruction of Pilotz, at Munich. On his return to America he chose New York as his field of labor, and has there gained an enviable reputation.

J. W. Pattison took up landscape-painting about 1867. He was for a time in Mr. Conant's studio, after which he became a teacher in the Mary Institute, and later took charge of the art department in Washington University. In 1872 he went to Europe, studied in the schools of Dusseldorf and Paris, changed his style to genre, and has produced a number of very pleasing pictures. He returned from Europe in 1882.

Paul Harney commenced his artistic career in St. Louis. He spent two years in Munich, and is now a teacher in the School of Fine Arts, Washington University. His duties allow him little time for original work, though what he has done indicates the possession of genuine talent.

Carl Guthertz has also for several years been connected with the School of Fine Arts, where his services have been invaluable. Besides acceptable portraits, he has exhibited a marked talent for ideal compositions, such as the "Awakening of Spring" and "Midsummer Night's Dream." He spent four years as a student in Paris, Antwerp, and Rome.

John Fry, a young man, has recently developed in this school unusual powers as an artist, and has been added to the corps of teachers. He has shown rare ability as a colorist, and with the seriousness of purpose and definiteness of conception characterizing his work there is reason to hope for much that is excellent from him in the future.

George W. Chambers, a former student of the School of Fine Arts, has spent two years in Paris adopting the genre style. He has already done creditable work, but has recently returned to Paris to pursue his studies there further.

Charles E. Moss came to St. Louis from Nebraska in 1877, entering Meeker's studio at the age of sixteen. He made rapid progress there, and at the end of two years went to Paris, where he became a pupil of Bonnat. His progress there has been altogether remarkable. At the age of twenty-one he painted his first large canvas, which was accepted at the Salon, and has since been on exhibition in St. Louis. The subject is the "Prodigal Son," which is treated with perfect seriousness and with great strength. His second large canvas was accepted at the next year's Salon, and found a purchaser before the close of the exhibition. He is counted as one of the most vigorous and promising of the American colony of artists in Paris.

J. R. Meeker, beyond question the leading landscape-painter of the West, came to St. Louis in 1859. Here he has worked continuously up to the present time, with the exception of three years spent during the war in the capacity of paymaster in the United States navy. These three years, however, proved to be peculiarly fruitful to him as an artist. During his leisure voyages on the lower Mississippi and other streams of that region he discovered the art possibilities

-- 1628 --

of the semi-tropical swamps; and how great the discovery was none can rightly estimate save those who have had opportunity of enjoying the exquisitely beautiful dreams of the primeval world which he creates betimes out of the material thus discovered. Other and charming work he has produced indeed, representing scenes in the Rocky Mountains, in the Green Mountains, in Minnesota, in Wisconsin, in New York, and in Missouri. But the work of his that will live longest is the work that is peculiarly and solely his own.

Louis Schultze began work as an artist about 1855. He assissted De Franca for several years. His work includes figure-painting as well as landscape, in which he uses sometimes oil paints, sometimes water colors.

Ritter was the first teacher in the Art Department of the Washington University. He was a skillful draughtsman, though his work was somewhat labored and over-minute. He had made many elaborate studies of mountain scenery in Germany and Switzerland, and painted several large pictures now owned in St. Louis.

Thomas Allen, Jr., commenced the study of landsscape-painting with Pattison about 1872. Afterwards he went to Dusseldorf and studied there two or three years. On his return he made special studies of the characteristic scenery of New Mexico, resulting in a number of works. He is now a resident of Paris.

Since 1879, W. L. Marple has spent the greater part of his time in St. Louis. A number of his best pictures show evident traces of the influence of French landscapes exhibited here. He has recently gone to Chicago.

Henry Chase was born in St. Louis, and early evinced a fondness for art. He went to Europe in 1872, while still very young, and returned thither in 1877. He was a pupil of Mesdag, at the Hague. His specialty is marine views, and latterly ships. Among his earlier works is a specially fine large one entitled "Taking the Wreck in Tow," which is in the possession of Hon. Henry Overstolz, of this city. He is at present in New York.

Mrs, Augusta S. Bryant, for five years a pupil of J. R. Meeker, has adopted landscape-painting as a profession. Her work has received much favorable notice. Among her works, "Pilot Knob" is a strong piece of realistic painting, while the "Road to the Meadows" and a "View on the Meramec" show a fine sense of the great beauty of summer days, with their shimmering atmosphere and tender foliage and grass. Quite recently from a well-observed reflected sunset she has developed an ideal scene of marked character, whose mysterious light awakens a thought of the Norse legends concerning Valhalla and the twilight of the gods. These indications give clear promise of valuable work yet to be done by this artist.

James M. Barnsley, a young man of excellent ability, received his art education mainly in the School of Fine Arts, and gives promise of marked success as a landscape-painter. He is an earnest student of nature, and has a keen insight into its beauties. He is now studying in Paris.

J. M. Tracy was for a number of years a pupil in the schools of Paris. In 1878 he established himself in St. Louis as a portrait-painter. He, however painted landscapes and pictures of the genre type as well. Several small cattle pieces by him attracted special attention, the result being that he presently devoted himself to animal painting as a specialty. In this field he has been increasingly successful, his pictures of dogs and hunting scenes commanding good prices. His work exhibits marked improvement since his adoption of this special field. He removed to New York in 1881.

W. H. Howe, while clerk in a dry-goods house, began to occupy his leisure hours in painting, with no other teacher than pictures and occasionally observing artists at their work. In 1880 he went to Dusseldorf, where he remained about one year. He is now in Paris, where he is a pupil of Otto Van Thoren. 283

Previous section

Next section


Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Saint Louis City and County, From the Earliest Periods to the Present Day: Including Biographical Sketches of Representative Men. In Two Volumes, Illustrated. Volume II . Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts & Co., 1883. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; proceedings]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=scharf2.html
Powered by PhiloLogic