#DiGiWriMo – November 22

I decided to go with the Honda. Better safety rating, better maintenance record, higher resale value (and lower depreciation going off the lot). With the exception of that ’72 Toyota Corona Mk II that I loved (even though it had a leaky trunk that eventually rusted right into the gas tank beneath it) I have been exclusively a VW and Ford guy. Well, its time for new things!

Learned today that I have been called a conspiracy theorist. Well as my LUCE shipmate Dan Lidell would say, I have been called far worse names by much better men (and women). ‘Nuff said on that.

Did a double today. Walked through the Jefferson Building to work on my presentation, then took a stroll through the Smithsonian American Art Museum to see pieces by the same muralists, sculptors and painters whose works grace the walls of the Library of Congress. All members, participants in the 1876 – 1917 American Renaissance movement. I found an old exhibition book from the movement at my library. Read it from cover to cover.  Let me share a few memorable passages with you, dear reader:

“The need to cultivate a heroic past for Americans included not only the past of Anglo culture. Sculptors were prompted to look anew at the American Indian. Alongside the rough and ready cowboys painted by  Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, who were mostly responsible for mythologizing the West, were extraordinarily refined portrayals of American Indians by A. Phimister Proctor. His “Indian Warrior” presents the Indian in quite a different way than narrative sculptures by others. There is a sense of heroic dignity that, in its way, equals that of heroes of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.” (Murray, Richard N.  The American Renaissance. The Brooklyn Museum. 1979. p. 178)


Indian Warrior, 1898. Alexander Phimister Proctor (1862 – 1950). Bronze.

Of the hundreds of murals in public and private buildings, only one states the philosophical premise of the entire American Renaissance: Elihu Vedder’s Rome, or The Art Idea (below), which he painted in 1894 for the Walker Art Building at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. On the left Vedder painted a group of figures representing the art of Michelangelo and on the right another group representing the art of Raphael. In the center stands Nature. Vedder said: “Her right hand rests on the trunk and roots of the Tree of Life; her left holds a detached branch with its fruit – an art having reached its culmination never lives again; its fruit, however, contains the seeds of another development.” For Vedder and his many colleagues, that development was the American Renaissance.” (Murray, Richard N.  The American Renaissance. The Brooklyn Museum. 1979. p. 187)


Rome, or The Art Idea, 1894. Elihu Vedder (1836-1923). Oil on Canvas.

And from Kenyon Cox, The Classic Point of View:

The Classic Spirit is the disinterested search for perfection; it is the love of clearness and reasonableness and self-control; it is, above all, the love of permanence and of continuity. It asks of a work of art, not that it shall be novel or effective, but that it shall be fine and noble. It seeks not merely to express individuality or emotion but to express disciplined emotion and individuality restrained by law. It strives for the essential rather than the accidental, the eternal rather than the momentary. And it loves to steep itself in tradition. It would have each new work connect itself in the mind of him who sees it with all the noble and lovely works of the past, bringing them to his memory and making their beauty and charm part of the beauty and charm of the work before him. It does not deny originality and individuality – they are as welcome as inevitable. It does not consider tradition as immutable or set rigid bounds to invention. But it desires that each new presentation of truth and beauty shall show us the old truth and the old beauty, seen only from a different angle and colored by a different medium. It wishes to add link by link to the chain of tradition, but it does not wish to break the chain.(Murray, Richard N.  The American Renaissance. The Brooklyn Museum. 1979. p. 189)


Tradition, 1916. Kenyon Cox (1856 – 1919). Oil on Canvas.

OK. Does this post need a sonnet for an end? Oh, what the heck, let’s search the archives and plug one in:

Still life

my ideal still life painting would contain
a non-microwave safe cup and saucer,
a piece of ripened fruit, a wind up watch
with a leather band, and a book, hardbound,

with several bookmarks and tabs. On a desk.
And maybe reading glasses, depending
on the reader’s (and the painter’s) needs.
I’d stare at that canvas, and wonder

if he (or she) drank tea or coffee, hot
or lukewarm like I like it. I’d wonder
does the book have poetry inside it,
the bookmarks and tabs for his (her) favorite

passages. I’d hang it beside my wife’s
painting of the river ferry crossing.

RDMaxwell ©2016

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