Showing posts with label art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art. Show all posts

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cincinnati's Kilgour house and Mount Adams - This Time in Winter!

Ohio River Landscape / The Steamboat Washington
Ohio River Landscape / The Steamboat Washington. An oil painting (circa 1820). Used courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Schwartz, Paterson, NJ. Reproduced from Folk Painters of America (1979) by Robert Bishop.

As part of my research, I've been reading Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographyical Dictionary, (2000) edited by Mary Sayre Haverstock, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, and Brian L. Meggitt. This 1066 page tome includes perhaps 10,000 artists active in Ohio in or before 1900. I've been reading it, seeking out all of the artists active in or before 1865.

Two weeks ago, I identified the painting shown here as a Cincinnati scene. At center is the Kilgour house, built about 1820. To the right, the city's first water works. At the left, Deer Creek empties into the Ohio River.

The Forest Queen in Winter
The Forest Queen in Winter. A painting (1857) by Martin Andreas Reisner. Used courtesy of Richard and Jane Manoogian. Image used courtesy of The Athenaeum.

This morning, while reading Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900, I came across a citation for this 1857 painting, The Forest Queen in Winter by Martin Andreas Reisner. The authors noted that, in 1857, Reisner "visited Cincinnati (Hamilton), a portrino of whose riverfont features prominently in The Forest Queen in Winter (Manoogian Collection)."

To my surprise, I was able to locate a high quality image of the painting. It appears to be based, in part, on the same landscape! Mount Adams is present in the background. The Kilgour house is present, just to the right of center. The Little Miami Railroad runs along the river.

Detail, Cincinnati Panorama
Detail, Cincinnati Panorama. A daguerreotype (1848) by Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter. Used courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

When compared with this photograph, made nine years earlier, it's obvious that Martin Andreas Reisner took considerable liberties. The commercial buildings are all gone - either he envisioned the landscape without them, or, perhaps, he was working based on an earlier view of the area. On the other hand, he retains what appears to be a bit of commercial activity based around the (considerably smaller) Deer Creek. Yet if we are to see this as something based on an earlier work, why the inclusion of the railroad?

This view clearly involves a bit of imagination and artistic license. This doesn't diminish its value as a look at Cincinnati in the 1850s. Further, given the rarity of winter views, it seems perfect for a day like today.

What do you see in it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mystery Painting: I.T. Frary

Mill by a River
[Mill by a River]. An oil painting (1899). Used courtesy of a private Cleveland area collector.

Ages ago, when I began assembling material for the exhibition I curated for the Cleveland Artists Foundation on the life and work of I.T. Frary, I asked if you, my readers, might have some of his paintings in your collections.

The exhibition, Designing History: I.T. Frary; Interior Design and the Beginnings of Historic Preservation in Ohio traced Frary's career, from his beginnings in art school, through the work that he did as an artist and interior designer, to his landmark book, Early Homes of Ohio, published in 1936, which remains the best general work on historic architecture in this state. Smith House, Adams Mills, Ohio
Smith House, Adams Mills, Ohio A watercolor painting (1904). From the collection of Jim Oswald.

A couple great watercolor paintings had remained in the Frary family.
H.A. Smith House, Adams Mills
H.A. Smith House, Adams Mills A watercolor painting (1905). From the collection of Jim Oswald.

They depict the landscape in Adams Mills, in Muskingum County, Ohio, where Frary's wife's family lived. Zoar
Zoar A watercolor painting (1898). Collection of the Cleveland Artists Foundation..

Another watercolor, the only one in private hands outside the Frary family, depicts a scene in Zoar, Ohio. It is now in the collections of the Cleveland Artists Foundation. Frary made the painting while a student of F.C. Gottwald.

Still, I knew that there had to be more of his paintings out there. Frary had exhibited dozens, at the least - and they were good paintings. They couldn't have all disappeared, could they? Mill by a River
[Mill by a River]. An oil painting (1899). Used courtesy of a private Cleveland area collector.

Then, a few months ago, I received and email from a private collector, who had purchased this oil painting at an estate sale years ago. It's the first oil painting that I've found by Frary - and I can't figure out where the scene is! We know that I.T. Frary painted in the vicinity of Zoar, Chagrin Falls, and Adams Mills, Ohio. Could it be one of these, or possibly something in the vicinity of Cleveland? What do you see?

Mill by a River Mill by a River
[Mill by a River]. An oil painting (1899). Used courtesy of a private Cleveland area collector.

Here are a couple details, with the hope that they may help in the identification of the piece.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Envisioning a Village, 150 Years Ago

Village of Wellington
Village of Wellington, a painting by Archibald Willard, 1857. Image used courtesy of the Herrick Memorial Library and Ohio Memory.

One of the hard parts of illustrating the history of this area prior to the advent of color photography is obtaining compelling images to help tell the story. While black and white photographs can provide an excellent record, works in color are, to my eyes, much more attention-grabbing. They make me feel like I'm actually there.

I came across this painting ages ago - I'm not sure how I managed to forget about it. The canvas, painted by Archibald Willard in 1857, depicts the village of Wellington, in Lorain County.

The Spirit of '76
The Spirit of '76, a painting by Archibald Willard, 1916.
Image used courtesy of the Herrick Memorial Library and Ohio Memory.

Archibald Willard, a native of northeast Ohio, is best known for the patriotic painting, The Spirit of '76, which he painted several versions of - the first being for the 1876 Columbian Exposition.

Willard's painting of Wellington illustrates a view of a city that still resembled a New England village, with rows of houses and a couple churches facing a central green. His vantage point was from the corner of Magyar Street, looking north on Main Street.

Wellington retains the village green, and some of the structures shown in the painting. Large trees now growing on the green prevent one from attempting to capture the same angle today.

Archibald Willard's rendering provides a way to visualize the historic appearance other town centers throughout the region.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Vanishing Forties - No Longer Quite So Vanished

Rudolph Stanley-Brown (American, 1889-1944). The Vanishing Forties, Cleveland, Ohio. Etching. The Cleveland Museum of Art. In memory of Rudolph Stanley-Brown 1950.185

In my quest for compelling historic imagery, I come across plenty of things that I can't use, simply because I can't figure out where the scene portrayed was physically located. This print, The Vanishing Forties, Cleveland, Ohio, by Rudolph Stanley-Brown, is one such case - one that's been bugging me since I first saw it, more than a year ago.

It's likely that Stanley-Brown made the print in 1924 or 1925 - he entered The Thirties and The Fifties into the Cleveland Museum of Art's May Show that year (May Show Database).

Photograph by Carl Waite for the Historic American Buildings Survey, November 2, 1936. Detail of the original, used courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The style of the house is very similar to two Cleveland structures, both now lost - the H. Mould house, at 2637 Cedar Avenue, and the Leonard Case homestead - documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), one of the many make-work projects that came under the auspices of WPA in the 1930s.

Leonard Case Homestead, 1295 East Twentieth Street, Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH
Photograph by Carl Waite for the Historic American Buildings Survey, November 2, 1936. Detail of the original, used courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I covered the Leonard Case house, which was built c. 1820, in detail, back in 2009. The H. Mould house is said to have been built later - 1860 - but the large central chimney makes me suspect an earlier date. I would guess, based on the title of the work, The Vanishing Forties, that the house was built in the 1840s - or at least that's when the artist thought it was built.

Detail, T.P. May residence
Detail, T.P. May residence. Rendered in 1935 by Isadore Wasserstrom for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Yesterday, I was browsing through the HABS drawings for this region, when I came across the T.P. May residence, at 1458 East 12th Street, Cleveland, Ohio.

Detail, T.P. May residence
Detail, T.P. May residence. Rendered in 1935 by Isadore Wasserstrom for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

It looked similar to the house in Stanley-Brown's print - but only similar - there were several significant differences. The bases of the columns were different, as were the windows. The roof lacks the vertical lines, too, but that could be the artist's choice.

I was going to dismiss the possibility of the HABS drawings being of the same structure that Stanley-Brown depicted, but, out of stubbornness - I really wanted it to be the same one - I persisted, trying to identify details that were the same.

The tops of the columns and the trim above them are the same. So are the proportions of the porch. The same can be said for the spacing of the windows and the pitch of the roof. Both have brick foundations, at a time when stone would have been more common.

Detail, T.P. May residence
Detail, T.P. May residence. Rendered in 1935 by Isadore Wasserstrom for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

The front steps cemented my opinion that The Vanishing Forties does, in fact, depict this house. This detail, of the floorplan, illustrates them clearly. It can also be seen, in less detail, in the renderings above. Note that the steps aren't entirely in front of the porch, as would usually be the case, but partially set into it. Perhaps this was done when the sidewalk was widened, or perhaps the house was originally this way, allowing the builder to make the house a little bigger than he might have otherwise. Whatever the cause, it's an uncommon detail, one that confirms the identity.

I've seen other houses where the HABS architects reconstructed the original appearance of structures that have been changed considerably. One example is the H. M. Gillette residence, near Wellington, Ohio. In that case, a porch had been added around most of the house, concealing much of the detail. They were able to make measured drawings to show it as it was, and used an earlier photograph, by I.T. Frary, to aid in the illustration.

The HABS documentation includes some background information about the house:
The East Twelfth Street House was built previous to 1865 on the easterly end of T.P. May's sub-division. T.P. May was an influential early settler of Cleveland and a member of the first Board of Health. His sub-division extended from Erie Street (E. 9th) to Muirson Street (E. 12th) along the northerly side of what in 1865 became the extension of Superior Street...

The house while still having evidence of good design and sturdy construction has been used in recent years as a ware house and consequently many of the better details have been destroyed.

T.P. May residence, sheet 1 T.P. May residence, sheet 2
T.P. May residence, sheet 3 T.P. May residence, sheet 4
T.P. May residence. Rendered in 1935 by Isadore Wasserstrom for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

The four pages of renderings provide an incredible amount of detail - the hardware is included, as is the exact dimensions of the seam on the metal roof. With the information present here, one could build a house virtually identical to the original. The biggest obstacle would likely replicating the method of construction - modern tools simply don't leave the same tool marks as tools used in the 1840s.

One final note: the building in the background is the Hotel Statler, at the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 12th Street.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Church, Again

Dominance of the City
The Dominance of the City. Ora Coltman, 1933-34. Image used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

When I came across this painting, The Dominance of the City, by Ora Coltman, I was impressed. The canvas, painted in 1933-1934, was the first New Deal mural in Cleveland. The description on the Cleveland Public Library website notes:
The large center panel shows a view of bridges over the Cuyahoga River in the Cleveland flats. The artist's intent was "to glorify the genius of Cleveland which contemptuous of the obstacles of the river and its valley, had thrown across it these broad level highways making one community out of two, the mercantile east side…linked up with the south-side foreign residents. " The right panel of the mural shows the St. Theodosius Cathedral and its surrounding Tremont neighborhood. The left panel is the Ohio Bell building representing Cleveland as a center of commerce.

Detail, Dominance of the City
Detail, The Dominance of the City. Ora Coltman, 1933-34. Image used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

My attention was drawn to the right hand panel, illustrating St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Church. It reminded me of another painting of the church and the Flats, painted in 1912 by Frank Nelson Wilcox, which I discussed in Caboose and Russian Church.

The historic church remains today, while many of the houses around it are gone. But that's not the most significant change in the appearance of the church.

In these paintings, the church is portrayed as sitting at the very highest point in the landscape, while the viewer is placed in the Flats. In such an elevated position, it is impressive, and suggests grander things.

Today, most of those who view the church see it from Interstates 90 and 490. They're (physically) closer to the position of the church, and as a result it loses something of what makes it impressive.

Little Russia, Cleveland View of Tremont from the Clark Ave. Bridge
Little Russia, Cleveland. Ora Coltman, 1926. Image used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

This can be seen in a lesser degree in Coltman's Little Russia, Cleveland, painted for the Jefferson Branch of Cleveland Public Library.

Am I saying that we should remove the interstate highways for a more appropriate historical landscape? No. I bring this all up to suggest that we can better view the landscape as a whole (and the significance of this church within the community) by visualizing the landscape around it at the time it was built.

Imagine yourself in the Flats in the 1910s and try to see what the visual impact of this church must have been.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cleveland Nightlife in the 1930s?

The Fruit Stand
Image used courtesy of Rachel Davis Fine Arts.

When I came across this watercolor by Edward Dobrotka in Rachel Davis Fine Arts' current auction, I knew it was special. It looked, to my eyes, like an excellent illustration of the bustling nightlife on a commercial block in Cleveland in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Dobrotka, a Clevelander, is best known as an illustrator in some of the early depictions of Superman, created by Clevelanders Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

As a student, in the late 1930s, he was employed in a National Youth Administration (the NYA was a division of the Works Progress Administration - the WPA) program, making paintings, primarily watercolors, of historic buildings in the greater Cleveland area. These paintings provide an excellent way to see these historic buildings in color - subjects that, for the most part, have been lost, and for which the only other documentation is in black and white. About 60 of these paintings, by Dobrotka, are in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society - one can obtain a full list by searching for his last name in the .

This painting provides a vibrant view of city nightlife in the late 1930s, in the way a photograph never could. People stand around, perhaps waiting for a streetcar, in front of a store whose name I can't read. To the right, there's a fruit and vegetable market, still open at this late hour. To the right of that, with a tiny doorway, Sing Long Low Chop Suey. On the far right, a store sign lists butter, eggs, and cheese.

The question that's been bugging me is as to the location being depicted. While it's an attractive painting, and valuable as a historical record of the work of an artist, its value as a record of a place is minimal until we can determine just what that place is.

The obvious clue would be to look for Sing Long Low Chop Suey. I don't see any advertisements for an establishement with this name in the pages of the Plain Dealer. I've come across a reference to a "Sing Long Low Chinese Restuarant" in New York City", but the name doesn't seem sufficiently uncommon to rule out Cleveland as a possible location for this painting.

There's enough information in this painting that we should be able to place it on a map, if it is in Cleveland. Streetcar tracks are visible in the road, which narrows down the location. The combination of a 3 story plus brick building, a tiny one story one, and a two story one to the right has to be rare when combined with the streetcar tracks. With enough combing of the
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Ohio, one should be able to locate the site.

To further narrow this down, I looked at the areas that Edward Dobrotka covered in his paintings for the NYA. They're primarily in the Ohio City neighborhood, the Flats, and on the near east side (west of, say, East 40th Street). If this is, in fact, Cleveland, it would seem likely he painted this in one of the aforementioned areas.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas as to where this might be? New York readers, do you have any clues?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Caboose and Russian Church

Caboose and Russian Church (1912)
Courtesy of Rachel Davis Fine Arts.

I came across Caboose and Russian Church, in Rachel Davis Fine Arts' current auction.

The painting, a watercolor, was made in 1912 by Frank Nelson Wilcox, a well-known Cleveland artist. The subject is the Cleveland rail yards and a building that will be familar to many - St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Church. The familar onion domes of the church have towered over Tremont for one hundred years. The church had just been built at the time Wilcox painted it.

I looked at a current map of the address of this historic church - 733 Starkweather Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio - with the hope of placing the artist's view on the map.

I couldn't determine the location. The construction of Interstate 490 changed the landscape enough that many of the houses shown in front of the church are now gone. With that in mind, I looked at an earlier map - the 1912 Plat-book of the City of Cleveland, Ohio.

Plat-book of the City of Cleveland, Ohio, Volume 2: northwest and southwest Hopkins, 1912, plate 16
Courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.

A detail of the map, shown here, helps illuminate the artist's perspective. The red lines show the approximate area covered in his perspective. The church is the structure in red near the top of the image, just to the left of center. We can see several streets that are now gone: Clyde; Severn; Lynn; Cathedral; and Clarence, as well as two that are almost completely gone: St. Tichon and St. Olga.

Wilcox's painting illustrates a time in Cleveland that is now gone. Residential areas were closer to industry than they are now, and there appears to have been more pollution in the skies.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interior Design and the Illuminating Company: A Group of Paintings by I.T. Frary

A Living Room in the Style of the Modern English School
Living Room in the Style of the Modern English School, a painting by I.T. Frary, reproduced in The Illuminator, June, 1909. Collection of Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.

I'm curating an exhibit for the Cleveland Artists Foundation, Designing History: I.T. Frary; Interior Design and the Beginnings of Historic Preservation in Ohio. Frary is best known as the author of Early Homes of Ohio, the first book to address this state's architectural heritage. His first career was as a designer of furniture and interiors for the Brooks Household Art Co. Brooks became one half of the famed Rorimer-Brooks.

As I mentioned before, one of the challenges is finding strong imagery other than his photographs - especially color imagery. (I'm still looking, by the way, if the signature seems familar.)

[Living Room]
[Living Room] a painting by I.T. Frary, reproduced in The Illuminator, June, 1909. Collection of Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.

I was pleasantly surprised to find, in the I.T. Frary Papers at the Western Reserve Historical Society, a copy of The Illuminator, dated June, 1909. The magazine was published for the employees of the illuminating company, and used several of Frary's paintings for the Brooks Household Art Co. to illustrate a piece on various interior design ideas.

[Colonial Style Hallway] [Hallway]
[Colonial Style Hallway] and [Hallway], paintings by I.T. Frary, reproduced in The Illuminator, June, 1909. Collection of Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.

This pair illustrate two very different ways that one might treat an entrance hall. The Colonial Style one, on the left, is far more formal, while the one on the right is more casual.

A Living Room in the Style of the Greek Revival
Living Room in the Style of the Greek Revival, a painting by I.T. Frary, reproduced in The Illuminator, June, 1909. Collection of Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.

This view, Living Room in the Style of the Greek Revival, like the lead image, Living Room in the Style of the Modern English School, illustrates the level of detail that Frary, as a designer, might put into a room. Some of the furniture would have been his designs, while other elements would be carefully selected antiques.

It's not clear where the houses in these renderings were located, or even if they were built. Given the number, I would guess that at least one had been executed. However, the firm's commissions in Cleveland were almost entirely on Euclid Avenue, and so are likely lost. I'll delve further into the Brooks Household Art Co.'s commissions in a future post.

Edwin Tillotson residence

The Edwin Tillotson residence is a Tudor Revival structure at 1867 East 82nd Street, in Cleveland, Ohio. It was built in 1902-3. Meade and Garfield were the architects.

The Tillotson residence is one of the few remaining local structures for which the Brooks Household Art Co. did work. Perhaps Living Room in the Style of the Modern English School was for this house - or perhaps it was for one in Chicago or St. Louis. I haven't had a chance to look inside yet - but I suspect that it has been significantly modified over the years. Still, it's worth further investigation.

Do any of these look familar to you?

The exhibition Designing History: I.T. Frary; Interior Design and the Beginnings of Historic Preservation in Ohio runs through July 16. I encourage you to take a look. The Cleveland Artists Foundation is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue, in Lakewood, Ohio.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cleveland in the 1870s

Our city through the eyes of Otto Bacher

Otto Henry Bacher was born in 1856 in a house on River Street (now Old River Road) near St. Clair Avenue. He would go on to become one of the first artists to leave Cleveland and attain national prominence. Bacher began studying art in 1874. Most of the images that I will share here are from 1877 and 1878, just before he left Cleveland for Europe to further his studies.

This group, from the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, provide some insight into the mind of a young artist. More than that, they show how one individual perceived the city around him. We have plenty of historic photographs, illustrating the things that people found important. These drawings and etchings are different. (An etching, to clarify, is a type of print where acid is used to cut the design into a metal printing plate.) In addition to focusing on scenes that would be of interest to the viewer, Bacher also depicted scenes purely for the aesthetic merit of their compositions. As a result, we have images of things that would have been thought too minor or too insignificant to photograph.

Can these be taken as factual accounts of exactly how things were on this or that day in 1878? No, no more than a journal can be. But like a journal, they illustrate one individual's perception of the situation. The valuable analysis that Bacher provides can surely help us better understand what life was like in Cleveland in the 1870s.

This map will help illustrate the locations that Bacher's drawings and etchings depict.

Spring Street, Cleveland

Many of Otto Bacher's Cleveland works focus on the area where he was born and grew up, close to the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. This drawing, Spring Street, Cleveland, (now West 10th between Front Street and St. Clair Avenue) was probably less than a block from where he grew up. It appears that Bacher was looking north on Spring Street when he made this drawing.

We can see small houses and sheds, which were probably residences, suggesting the level of poverty in the area. Clothes hang from lines on the slope to the right. There is a railing on the hillside, probably for a set of stairs going up it. Children play in the street and pedestrians walk down it, on the left. At night, the street was illuminated by the lamps, also on the left.

Bacher also made an etching of this composition, Spring Street, September 1878. The print focuses more on the general composition, with fewer specific details.

West Pier 1878

West Pier, or Government Pier, was located on the east side of the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. In the fore and midground, we can see several buildings likely associated with the activities of a port. A rowboat is also visible. In the background, the rigging and masts of a ship are present, as is a lighthouse. It's unclear as to whether the ship could have been docked in that location or if it was transiting from or to the lake. Bacher made this into a more romantic view in West Pier, Cleveland

Ship and Elevator (1878)

Ship and Elevator was probably a depiction of the Union Elevator (the only one that I've been able to locate on period maps) on Merwin Avenue near British Street. A ship is docked, probably while it waits to unload. In the midground, an man and a dog are seated. The buildings, probably commercial structures, were probably brick, judging by the stone lintels over the window frames. The second story entrances were either because the first floors were used for storage of goods or because of issues with flooding.

Old Passenger Depot

The Old Passenger Depot was located due north of Spring Street, on the edge of Lake Erie. By this time, it had been replaced by the Union Passenger Depot, just to the east. This, the old depot, had clearly been allowed to deteriorate, as seen by the condition of the boardwalk in front of it.

Cottages, Cleveland (1878)

In Cottages, Cleveland, we catch a glimpse of several tiny houses, probably along the Cuyahoga. In an effort to expand these tiny spaces, additions were built, hanging over the river. The historical record is full of photographs and prints of the houses of the upper classes, lining the avenues and boulevards, and even contains a good sampling of those populated by the middle classes. We see very little, if any, documentation of residences like these.

Street Scene, Cleveland

I'm guessing that Street Scene, Cleveland may have been drawn based on the northern corner of what is now Old River Road and West 10th Street. The layout of the streets is consistent, and it's the neighborhood that Otto Bacher grew up in. We can clearly see the deterioration in both the sidewalk and the street.

Downtown, Cleveland

The drawing, Downtown, Cleveland appears, based on the shape of the layout of the streets, to depict Superior Avenue, looking west from Public Square. We can see a trolly or streetcar and the tracks that it travels. The bustle of commerce is obvious, though the exact activities are unclear.

The Square (1878)
The Square, an etching, illustrates the southwest corner of Public Square. Pedestrians walk along the sidewalk, and a horse and carriage may be seen on the roadway. A streetlight has suffered some sort of damage and leans at an angle. If my interpretation of the angle is correct, the building with the light colored side shuold be city hall.

Cleveland, Woodland Avenue and Eagle Street (1878)

The etching Cleveland, Woodland Avenue and Eagle Street reveals, in the distance, one architectural element still present today - the tower of Old Stone Church. Though it may be dwarfed by skyscrapers today, it's important to realize the way the church towers must have been visible over much of the area. This view, looking approximately north northwest, shows an area that is now Jacobs Field. One business, with the awning opened, may be a pawn shop, based on the three balls hanging from the front of the building.

Tower of the Chimes, Old Trinity, Cleveland

Tower of the Chimes, Old Trinity, Cleveland depicts the tower of the Episcopal church, on the south side of Superior Avenue, just east of where the Arcade now stands - just west of East 6th Street. The most interesting part, to my eyes, is the unevenness of the land, which has now been completely flattened.

An Old House, Cleveland

We don't have enough information to identify the source for the composition, An Old House, Cleveland. One might guess, based on the slight slope revealed by the fence on the right, that it might have been somewhere on along the edge of the Cuyahoga valley, probably in the neighborood that Bacher was so familar with. As for the age, we have few clues. The number and size of panes in the double hung windows, 8 over 8 on the upper window on the side, and either 9 over 9 or 12 over 12 on the front, suggest an earlier structure - perhaps the first third of the 19th century. The pitch of the roof, the only other significant element that we have to work with, would be consistent with this, though it could also reasonably have been as late as 1840 or 1850 - but I doubt a house would have been considered "old" thirty years after its construction. The chimney shows deterioration, as does the fence.

These are but some of the images that Otto Bacher created as a young man of his hometown - more do exist. His perspective reveals many details of this time that we simply don't see elsewhere. What do you see in his drawings and prints?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book review: Yet Still We Rise

One of the most important publications of the Cleveland Artists Foundation is Yet Still We Rise: African American Art in Cleveland 1920-1970. The 1996 exhibition opened at the Cleveland State University Art Gallery and then traveled to the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown and the Riffe Gallery in Columbus.

The exhibition catalogue discusses African American art in Cleveland and provides national context. It also includes brief (usually about a page) biographies of most of the artists included in the show. The artists covered include Edith Brown, Elmer W. Brown, James T. Brown, Malcolm W. Brown, George Bryant, Fred Carlo, Lewis and Andrew Chesnutt, Allen E. Cole, William W. Crawford, Matthew Dunlop, James "Jimmy" Gayle, Harold Louis Golden, Charles Elmer Harris (a.k.a. Beni E. Kosh), Josephus Hicks, Charles Ingram, Zell (Rozelle) Ingram, Hughie Lee-Smith, Virgie Paton-Ezelle, Clarence Perkins, Douglas Phillips, Charles Jackson Pinkney, Charles Louis Sallée, William E. Smith, Ernest William Trotter, Henry Williamson, and W. Hall Workman.

The book, quite simply, is the best source on African American art in Cleveland.

WorldCat lists 59 library systems as owning copies of the book - more than twice as many as the next most popular Cleveland Artists Foundation publication. The 1996 catalog has long been out of print. The asking price for Yet Still We Rise has climbed such - now usually $50-150 - that I've considered selling my own copy. The copy listed on right now at $11 is an outlier and a great deal.

Why do I make a point of the rarity of the title? As part of the 2009 exhibition Each in Their Own Voice: African-American Artists in Cleveland, 1970-2005, the catalogue for Yet Still We Rise: African American Art in Cleveland 1920-1970 was scanned and made available. The 165mb PDF may be downloaded from the Cleveland State University Art Gallery website. The Cleveland Memory Project features interviews of some of the artists involved in Each in Their Own Voice as well as photographs of some of the artworks.