Interview with Claude Howell, #169 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Interviewee: Howell, Claude Interviewer: Lecture Series Date of Interview: n.d. Series: Arts Length 60 minutes
[Please note: the audio quality of the source has degraded over the years, resulting in gaps in the following transcript.]
Claude Howell: People forgot what art was. We had Romanticism. They only were concerned in painting the way they felt. Who cares how somebody feels? It's much greater to paint a universal idea with a universal approach. Art became very commercial. Then, at the same time, we have what we're going to talk about tonight which is the realists which deny creative improvement. The theory behind realism was to paint only what your two eyes can see. You don't copy. You don't do anything except put down what is actually there. You don't interpret. You don't compose. You eliminate all the great principles of art throughout all ages. So we still get some pretty good artists Winslow Homer, for one, Courbet in France is one. But these were the gods of the early years of the 20th century. We also are going to see a few kinds of architecture and you'll think that you're important Victorian architecture. This is the period when we have all of the sort of romantic escape types of architecture. We mentioned that we have the gothic cathedral which is simply an escape from reality like St. James Church. We have the Roman temple which is the Methodist church. Back in 13th or 14th we have the Greek revival Roman Catholic Church which is brilliant of Greek Orthodox. The Jewish temple which is a Muslim mosque in this type of Jewish synagogue or temple. So everybody was escaping from reality for 100 years. Unfortunately, our parents lived during the end of this period and we are greatly influenced by everything that they taught us, and it's taken a long time to get over a lot of misconceptions that we were taught. Also it explains to a great extent why there was this tremendous revolution which occurred just at the turn of the century which we call modern art. This brazen modern stuff that I just don't understand is because we weren't brought up on what art was. That's the reason we don't understand it. We weren't used to seeing art. We were used to seeing pictures that told a story, were very photographic and extremely little. Now you must remember though the reason of all this. We had the industrial revolution. We had the rise of common man. There were no more powerful kings or queens or courts to guide taste. The church was no longer important. So what happened? Taste just plummets because it's dispersed over many, many people. You find that there are a great many new inventions during this period. We have the camera. And so the camera at first was looked on as competition for art. And a lot of the artists would go and emulate the camera. It took a long time for them to use the camera intelligently. In the beginning they were simply trying to paint a picture that looked like a camera had taken it. We have the beginning of film. We have the locomotive and you see the world quite differently when you're riding on a train and going fast through the country than if you were sitting down, walking, or just riding a horse. You have the beginning of electricity, the beginning of the automobile. All these things are just about to happen. And then, of course, in North Carolina short after the turn of the century, you have the Wright brothers discovering the airplane. All these things are going to change the way we feel about the world and they change the way we look at the world. So you can't expect art to remain standard, and it changes with great rapidity. When we get to the 20th century, really into it, and communication becomes so rapid and you have the telephone, you have radio and wires, you no longer have somebody starting a school of art in France, which was where most of them started, and it be months or years before he sees any of the country. Now, if somebody paints a picture in Paris, people in New York know it the next day and vice versa. Also you have something else happening. The United States by the mid 1800s had been going quite a long time, but we still had not come of age. We still believed that Europe was where it happened. We believed this was the be all and end all of everything and we had no real American culture. We denied our own artists. We denied everything that was not a copy of what was going on in Europe. And it took until 1950 for us to get over that. And in 1950, I mentioned this last week, we have abstract expressionists and [inaudible] and this was the very first time that America started a movement which swept over all of the western world. So now we are introducing new ideas which are going to Europe. So things are beginning to change. We don't know what will happen. The United States has fallen on some hard times. At this point there's not very much being created right now that is happening. And who knows what will happen soon. The whole world is kind of in a mish-mash, but the new ideas which were developed in America were always constructing and creating. For the last 30 or 40 years, all the new ideas had been destructed and not created. We had, you know, two more wars and then we had the Korean War and all those things are forces of destruction rather than creation. A man has a great deal of empathy, but he doesn't have enough empathy to go both directions at the same time. So all of our energy during the '40s [inaudible] was put into the war effort. It was a sorry time for art. Even the artists were forced into the army, and the only artist you have to speak of during that time was the war artist. The government a lot of soldiers to record the war effort. Henry McMillan who's work for Wilmington recently before his death gave all of his World War colors to the Cape Fear museum. Well, it was a very good record of what he actually saw happen, but it is not creating art. It is reporting. Tonight we're going to be talking about people who are mainly reporters. There were a few eccentrics. Fortunately, there are always eccentrics. Ryder is one. Miss Chandler [ph?] was another. These are mysteries. These are individuals who do not seem to belong to any place or any time. I think Ryder was not only a mystic, he was completely and utterly romantic. He paid no attention to the way other people were working who were working all around. He was an eccentric. He never finished a painting. And even after an institution like the Metropolitan museum would buy one of his paintings, he would go to The Metropolitan and take them off the wall and start painting on them. He never was satisfied with what he did. The result is, and you will see it in some of the slides tonight when we get to slides, they are all disappearing today. Technically it was so bad. He kept putting paint on top of paint on top of paint on top of orange on top of paint on top of orange, and what happened-- it would crack. It would slide down the canvas. The colors would blend and become mud. And I would look on, Ryder and they include in black and white paintings taken 30 or 40 years ago and then the new colors would come in and there's a world of difference. Lot of details are gone, so we don't even know how good Ryder was. We have to read about how wonderful he was. But let's go back now and we can start with some slides. We have a lot of slides to look at tonight. I'm not going to talk too much about each slide because a lot of them are of the same thing, but I thought you needed to get a good picture of what were. We'll begin with England, the pre-Raphaelite artists. Now, we talked about one of the characteristics of romanticism was escape. The pre-Raphaelites were English painters who were revolting against what they thought was the deadly French academy. They went back to the painters before Raphael which is why they're called Pre-Raphaelites. Actually, they were not great painters. They're interesting painters. They're good painters, but they had no influence on the later generations. Why? We have mentioned already several painters that it's message becomes more and more than the fundamental of work that is the principles of work. It ceases to be great art. They essentially were illustrators. They told a story in their paintings. The stories went back to the pre-Raphaelite time more than the painting did. Think back to the early times we saw, those weeks and weeks when we looked at the early mid art. You know how simple they were, how flat they were in color? Look at this. This is by Dante Gabriele Rossetti who was probably the best of the Pre-Raphaelites. He had a strange habit-- you can always tell one of his paintings because, if you look at the neck of the girl, it always goes up. See it? Right there. Almost like he's [inaudible]. They've very beautiful women. He always gives them titles of early people like Guinevere. He's very interested in [inaudible]. We're going to look at three or four of his today. You can see that they really are literary paintings. Nothing happens.
Claude Howell: Now sometimes they painted religious subjects, but the importance of religious art has long since gone and we're not going to see any other great religious artists except perhaps Raoul who lived in France in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. But religious subject matter has vanished, it's a thing of the past.
Q1: The other way.
Claude Howell: Now this is a religious painting. He thought he was painting like the primitive Italians. You can see it's a far cry from a primitive Italian painting. What has intervened? Reality has intervened.
Claude Howell: Perspective, light and shadow, anatomy, all of the things we developed starting with Giotto. You remember how I said that Giotto started the trend that was in, in disaster.
Claude Howell: Right. You see in her neck? This particular type of head that he always paints. Now this is A Maiden in a Bower. Even the title is kind of silly. All of these are stories from the ancient world, not classical but medieval, early medieval, mainly early English history. They are slightly artificial, but a the same time everything is extremely recognizable. Now this is King Arthur. Do you see that there's more emphasis here on what is going on, on the story than there is in the composition?
Q1: Oh, yeah.
Claude Howell: So art becomes literary. Now we're going to see that this same thing happens again in Mexico. It happens in Washington. It happened in Germany. Propaganda takes over or other things take over rather than the formal aspect of the work. In Mexico it is the plight of the Indian, and you'll find that Diego Rivera and Picasso and all those who made such a big splash were much more interested in formulating a political revolution than an artistic revolution. These are essentially draining literary things. And perhaps they could be better expressed in literature. And you find that the English did, during the Victorian era, excel in literature. I mean, Jane Austen and all the wonderful English novelists who-- this is Saint [inaudible]. Now we have William Holman Hunt. They're very similar. There are five or six or these men. They're all painted very much alike.
Claude Howell: They all look like legends, don't they?
Q1: Do you think they're something in Elizabeth Chance's work?
Claude Howell: Yes, I think that's a great [inaudible]. You know, Miss Chance was pretty vocal, and she probably was influenced to a certain extent by the pre-Raphaelites 'cause she came from England and she [inaudible] in the early years of the century. When I was very young, these were the people who were popular. And I remember to this day a fold out page that I found in the National Geographic by John Millais, a painting of Sir Walter Raleigh. I thought it was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen in my life, and for years it was pinned up on my wall. Now, that was a pre-Raphaelite painting. This is what we were taught to like. The Highland Champion. You see the title's very important. A little busy.
Claude Howell: Ophelia. The is John Millais. All the details are very carefully drawn and painted. I'm showing you these to show you why we had to have modern art. It couldn't go any further this way. The Carpenter's Shop. Sir Edward Burne-Jones These were the fashionable painters of the late Victorian era in England. Now, this is a portrait. It looks just like all the other girls, and you know who it is. It's Ellen Terry.
Claude Howell: Ellen Terry. Mm-hmm. She must have been a very beautiful woman. It's so busy that you hardly can pick out what's going on. This is called Work.
Q2: It's a piece of work all right.
Claude Howell: These were very interesting people. They were slightly bohemian. We're getting to the period now where the artist is thought of as a strange freak. We're going to see even more of these in the next generation when we get to Vincent van Gogh and Gaugin to Crass(?) those people who's behavior was really outrageous. Now we come to something quite different. This is French. This is realism. This is a man who said, "It's better to paint railway engines, factories, something else and something else. These are the saints and gods of the 19th century." Courbet was a radical, politically he was a radical, he was always getting into trouble with the authorities. This caused quite a scandal with the painting when it was first exhibited. It's big. I think it's 20 feet long. The figures are almost life size. Now, I'll tell you something that I found very interesting. I always wondered why it was realism. It always seemed kind of stiff and posed to me. But I was driving through France and I got to Ornans. This is called Burial at Ornans and for miles before I got to Ornans, I saw that cliff and you realized the Courbet was painting something that actually took place. We didn't have any eye witness painting from the Italian Renaissance. People sat in their studio and they thought up things and painted. Now we're beginning to have, and you saw it last week in romanticism, the wrath of the Medusa which was based on a newspaper account of disaster. Now we have the village funeral. These are all portraits of people who lived in the village. He's not saying anything about them. He's simply painting them as he saw them. He is the great exponent of realism. There weren't many. This didn't suit most painters, realism didn't. we're going to see what he does and then we'll move to the United States and see what he did with them. Beautiful, heavy, thick, impasto painting. Good color.
Q3: What is realism? What is [inaudible].
Claude Howell: [inaudible] Roberta?
Claude Howell: Maybe I'll just tell you when to flip it. It must have a loose connection.
Claude Howell: [inaudible] Now then, flip it to the next. Yeah. A still life, also by Courbet. Is he saying anything about the fruit? No. He just puts the fruit on a table and painted the way it looked. And he painted very well, but if you go back to Ruskin's the definition of what art is, the greatest number of the greatest ideas-- do you see where it leads to. Beautiful paint and that's it. So he had influence in the way he handled color and the way he handled paint because he was a beautiful, masterful painter, but he didn't make a great school of paint. Very few people followed him. But this is a sort of painting that every bad amateur in Wilmington wishes that they could paint. All you have to do is go to a sidewalk art show and you'll see how terrible the influence has been. This is a beautiful painting, but they're not many Courbetists around. Now, the very fact that he painted a bowl of apples is in itself quite revolutionary. We'll find two things happening tonight that just shocked everybody. One was the subject matter. The fact that you paint a piece of fruit or a pot or a pan was unheard of. You're not painting the king. you're not painting the queen. You're not painting Christ. You're not painting anything like that. You're painting a perfectly ordinary object. So this is really the main revolution that was caused by realism. It was subject matter more than it was the type or way or technique of painting. This is not too different from some paintings we've seen, but the still life in a lot of the paintings that we've seen had been just incidental in the paint method. You know, it hadn't been the subject. Now the main subjects are gone. There's no enunciation in it. It's just a bowl of apples. Okay, this is his studio. Well, here again we have gotten into the 19th century and nudity has become terribly immodest. It never was during the early days, but now it is. What does he do? He paints the model nude surrounding by all the men and animals. This of course was shocking. It was shocking. This is his studio. Okay, and a landscape. Now, nothing is happening in the landscape. Here again he's just gone someplace and looked and seen this and painted it.
Q4: Could you tell us where these paintings are as we go through them, do you mind?
Claude Howell: I don't know where a lot of them are. They all are in great museums. I can tell you that. A lot of them are in the Louvre, the Metropolitan, the Wrights museum, and the Italian gallery in London. They're the major museums. A few of them, and we will get to more and more, will be in private collections, but I don't think we've seen them yet that have been in private collections. Nobody can afford these paintings. They're worth many, many millions of dollars for every one of them.
Q5: Well, this one has a sense of vivid colors in it and I like the composition. It has nice depth. It isn't very alive, but it's [inaudible].
Claude Howell: But it's beautiful.
Claude Howell: And I don't have many slides. I don't think I have any really of the Barbizon painters. They were a growth of realism, but they got all mixed up with romanticism too so they're called romantic realists. So you see how confusing things get at this point. But they were revolutionary in that they were poor, very, very, poor. Because by this time nobody wanted to buy any art, any new art. They didn't want it. Also they looked down on the artists, so the artists left Paris and moved out to the forest at Fontainebleau which is not to far away and they became known as the Barbizon painters. And what they did that was so revolutionary, they all lived out there in utter poverty. They didn't live in one house. There were a whole bunch of them in a little village. They went outside and sat down and painted and everybody was horrified by somebody different. The artist had always worked in his studio and he would go out maybe and then a sketch or something like that or just a little annotation, but they went out and actually sat down and painted out of doors. When you do that, you begin to look at nature a little differently. You'll paint and one day it's a sunny day. The next day it's a rainy day or it may be mist. So you begin to observe the vagaries of nature. So nature becomes frantic. It begins to change, therefore you begin to paint the particular moment. Monet, the impressionist, the next generation, carries this art as far as you can go when he paints the haystack. He proves that they haystack doesn't exist. It's only the light and the atmosphere in the haystack that exists. This is as we said. I keep repeating this because it's so important as to what is going to happen. This is why Picasso and Braque and the cubists did away with object all together. They said the object is not important, it's only what you do that's important. And this is sort of the beginning. It's a sunny day isn't it? It's sunny You know right much if you begin to analyze this. You know, the first time we saw leaves on a tree and it was summer? It was in Giotto in the Italian renaissance. He was one of the first people who painted a season, but then. This is a particular day. Okay, now we come to a man that all of us grew up with and we liked his late frenzied paintings like this one so much better than his early paintings which were done in Italy. Do you know who he is? It's Corot. He was perhaps the most popular painter when we were growing up. There were reproductions of Corot in just about everybody's house. He loved to paint the silvery-gray, misty-white of France. If you've ever looked at France, it really is a silvery grey. It's not a harsh landscape at all like Italy is. Italy is bright colors and sharp edges. France is soft and gentle, and this certainly gives you a feeling of France. In his earlier paintings he showed great promise. He was very much influenced by the Italians and was concerned mainly with fawn and fauna, and the stability of objects. When he painted a woman, she looked like she was made of lots of lumps of wood or stone. She was so solid you couldn't possibly pick her up. Angostura is one of his greatest ones which is in the National Gallery in Washington. And it, you see, the change, look at that painting, it's not sensational, it's just plain great, just plain great. It is so beautiful painted, and then you look at this and you see that the poor man kind of goes to pieces. What was he doing here? He was competing with the camera. He is the first well known painter that we have who was in competition with the camera. Okay, now we have Boudin who was a Barbizon painter, but he was different. He didn't live in the forest at [inaudible]. He lived on [inaudible]. He was sort of a loner. He had very small, very sparkling canvases. Most of his paintings are probably-- I guess 10x20 would be a large canvas for Boudin. Most of them are 8x10 inches. But because of that, he's able to use little pinpoints of light, of color, and they're dazzling in their effect. He's the forerunner of impressionism. Okay, another Corot, and they used to always tell me, when I was in the second grade and took art lessons, that Corot always put a spot of red in his canvas and he knows it's nearly always there. And I'm sure that he did it to make all his greens look brilliant. Look at the wonderful silvery grey there. Actually these are quite beautiful when you look at the canvases. They're beautiful paintings.
Q6: The [inaudible] of about ten that they keep in a circular room with a skylight and they really do show.
Claude Howell: I'll bet that's impressive.
Q6: Now where is that- The Copeland in Washington?
Claude Howell: The Copeland used to be the headquarters I guess of all the diehards, but in the 1930s it was thought of as a terrible place. But now people go to study these paintings because a lot of them have come back into fashion. Our tastes have changed certainly in the last 20 years. Okay, now we come to another realist. You know who this is? Daumier. Daumier is perhaps best known for his black and white line drawing, his [inaudible]. He did thousands of them for a newspaper called Le Charivari in Paris. They printed maybe two or three hundred of each one on good paper. I have two of them at home. I started light so you could see the little things instead of just [inaudible]. They're just absolutely marvelous. He too was a rebel, a radical, but he had a wonderful sense of humor and he made fun of the foils of the French middle class. He tackled every strata of society. He went through the stage. He went through all the lawyers. He went through the housewives, the people buying fish in the market. I have one or two paintings by him. The deadest, puniest little fish you've ever seen and I have another one of a man with a hawk nose whose very unpleasant looking and he's called Pere Scie, S-C-I-E, which in French means "father wolf." He was a lawyer and you knew exactly the sort of person he was. He had the ability to see through people and, even in something like this, they're wonderful delineations of character in the faces. Notice they have no details. It's amazing how much form he gets and how much he says with such an economy of paintings. He's not a great colorist. He was influenced by Rembrandt. He was influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, people like that. Light and dark rather than color. Okay, this is Crispin and Scapin. This is in the Molière play Le Fourberies de Scapin, and I saw Soonaby Bacharet [ph?] in this play. It's one of his characters. I recognized the exact instant in the play because they had dressed and posed in the same position as this painting. It really is nice. He did a wonderful series on the theatre. We are just looking at the colorist now. He probably is known as well for his look-a-likes as for his paintings. These are not large paintings. Most of them are about 25x30 or 30x40. a lot of them are in private hands in Switzerland. Switzerland is where all monied people in Europe live. And if you want to see some good paintings, if you go to Switzerland [inaudible]. Now days it's plane, but for years and years it's been in Switzerland. Okay, The Chess Players. You know these people don't you? This is why he's called a realist. Not a naturalist, a realist. He's real when he takes the character of person. Okay, The Painter. You see the tackle. Look how violent the execution is. These are great psych with paintings. All the slashes. He wasn't a very good technician. Okay, the print collector, now he's got a whole series of these. There must be 20 of the paintings of the print collector. I think he gives you a good picture of Paris as any painter who ever lived. This is the time when Paris becomes the Paris that we like to think of it being today. It's the period of the sidewalk café right on the road line. People with plenty of leash and time, sophisticated, elegant, cultivated people. It's a wonderful society that's been erased. It's a time of prush. It's a time of Monart, the Moulin Rouge, the can-can, all these things. Okay, another one. A [inaudible]. Notice the beautiful composition. Always a wonderful placing of white areas and dark areas. Think back to the pre-Raphaelites and how much stronger these are. Okay, I put in a whole bunch of these so you can see how he takes a theme and use it over and over and over again. Okay, and the stage again. This is called the show. This is different. This is not a coloring. This is a watercolor. Look how he relies on line all through it. This is because he's such a wonderful glassman and I think saw things in line.
Q1: Is that a boat?
Claude Howell: I can't figure out what that is.
Q1: It looks like an alligator.
Claude Howell: It looks like an alligator to me. It's a piece of scenery, that's what it is.
Claude Howell: Now are these caricatures? You've never seen anyone who looked like that. A lot of them are caricatures, but a caricature can be a great work of art. If it's not, what does it become? A cartoon, a comic strip. You see that's something. Our comic strips are great works of art, only they are so, they're art. But he does anything with the human features and it works, but he does it for psychological reasons. He's trying to show the character of the person, not so much the appearance of the person as the inner person. Okay, we saw the show. This is the audience. It's really a color drawing. Look how he's analyzed these faces and there's nothing there. It's just a face. Okay, now we're getting to the court, the royals. (laughter) All right. Okay, and the children leaving school. It's really just so many brown circle, oval. He influenced contemporary art a great deal because of his composition. And, he painted a few religious paintings. This is Mary Magdalene. Always he signs his name H.D. [inaudible]. Okay, and the clown. Look there at the great smashing shreds of paint. But they work. Okay, and sometimes he played with sculpture. These are a whole series of caricature heads that he made. They're not so long. They're ten inches high.
Q1: Are they wood?
Claude Howell: No, they're metal. They're metal. All types of people. A whole gallery of terrible people. Now, we're going to look at something in this gallery. We talked at some point about the absence and the escape from reality and the revival of [inaudible]. This is the capital of Louisiana. Built like a gothic building. Do you see the importance in roots, Louisiana roots, here? If you do, I don't know what they are. I don't know if Louisiana had many gothic ways. You see its faults. So much of the art of the 19th century did not grow out of the needs of the people or any roots whatsoever. It was a sham. It was a false veneer that was put on architecture.
Q7: It's interesting that Hughie Long turned his back on that and built a modern building.
Claude Howell: Yes. Okay, this is just as false because [inaudible] in New York [inaudible]. What does this have to do with New York City? Nothing. It doesn't express anything. What it does, the one great contribution, the skyscraper. The skyscraper is the United States great contribution to architecture in the history of the world. Okay, this is just the opposite of the one we just saw. This is in the country, a tiny little chapel. It is nothing. We have one very similar to that here in Wilmington. The Chestnut Street Presbyterian church, the black church, which is a beautiful little structure. We are getting now into photographs that had been built in Wilmington. It's the same old thing that we see everyday of our lives. You know, when they first started efforts to restore Wilmington, they didn't get anyone because everybody felt that there wasn't anything here to restore because it didn't look like Wilmington. The only Georgian building in the city is right next door, St. Charles. That's the only real Georgian building that we have left. All the others have been destroyed. Now, after about ten years, they finally decided to restore Wilmington to it's rightful place in architecture, which is the Victoria era. Wilmington was built manually between the 1840s and 1880s which is the height of Victorian architecture. And most of the merchants in Wilmington were rich and Victorian and built wonderful Victorian houses. That was why the historic district--now is such a tourist attraction and why it's so crazy because it's one of the largest collections of Victorianism architecture anywhere in the country that is without filling stations and supermarkets interspersed between the structures. You see, this is a huge area and that's why it's considered so precious. But I'll get these [inaudible]. Okay, Dr. White's room here. But this is an attempt of the French in New Orleans to escape to an earlier period. The brooding, of course, comes from France and it's a French tradition. It is a nice structure in that it is tuned to hot weather, a hot, muggy, climate. The rooms are high. There are a lot of windows. There's a piazza which you can get on to get cool. So it's a much more authentic [inaudible] building that's [inaudible]. Okay, do you think this house could be on almost any corner in Wilmington and you wouldn't even notice it. Do you know where it is? Well, do you know who lived in it? No. The Wright brothers. This is the Wright Brothers' home. It was built in Dayton, Ohio, but Henry Ford had a very fantastic dream which was to reconstitute America's history of the 19th century in a village. And he did it. It's called Dearborn Village and you should take time to try it. My aunt used to live in Detroit. I went to see it and I was just fascinated. Thomas Edison's studio is there. This has been put on one of the main streets in Dearborn. In fact, every building that's there is a noteworthy example of ordinary architecture. But this is Victorian in the sense that you get all. Being in America and being built by ordinary craftsman, it does not have the bad excesses that we find in a lot of the European structures. A little bit more honest in it's structure. Okay, San Francisco. A gothic Victorian palace. We haven't had houses like this in a long time. Most of them have been destroyed, but we have had them just this past. Look at the freight changing ponds typical of Greek cathedrals to keep the snow from falling on a flat roof. I don't think the snow was that deep in San Francisco. There really is no reason for it. Great architecture always comes from reasons for it's being. If you want to find great architecture in any country, go look at the village that ordinary natives built. These are the ones that have done it. They've influenced architecture more than any other type of architecture. In Greece it's that little cube, that little box with the flat roof that everybody builds. This has had a great influence on architecture. Have you ever been inside the Bellamy Mansion? This could be the column. It's the way it used to look. I don't know what's been done to it now. There is an excess of decoration here.
Q1: Yes. [inaudible]
Claude Howell: Usually, and the Bellamy had it too, [inaudible] very ornate breakthroughs enormous cornices over the windows, chandeliers. They just wont' stop, they're so complicated. A patterned world; everything to make it difficult to dust. For that reason, when I was young and we used to go used to go play in [inaudible] I always had claustrophobia and I always wanted to open a window because it always smelled dusty. And I'm sure that they couldn't keep it clean. There was too much in there. There was just as much in the darn hall as there is here. If not more. They have more pictures on the wall, all different sizes. Okay, now we're getting into slightly more modern architecture. Not much. This is one of the cottages at Newport. By Makin [ph?] and White. Shingle, they loved shingle. They loved enormous structures. Usually there was a pretty big establishment of family and servants. We have a building on Third Street that's not too distant. It's the parish house of St. James which wasn't a great house. Okay, all right. There's one more picture.
Claude Howell: One more architectural picture. Well, that's okay. But I want you to see where we have been and where we're coming from and why we had a change in the way we look at things. It took a long time for it actually to develop. It probably was in the '40s or '50s before it really got on the scene, but that's the reason for a lot of modern architecture. At that time, we had the Bauhaus in Germany and a lot of the young architects were influenced by the architects at Bauhaus. And so they came back to this country and we have what was called the international style which is to do away with all excess ornaments. And it was so bound that it became almost deadly. Now we are beginning to get into post modern which is putting all the excesses back. So we're getting into another vicious circle here. Don't know where we will go. Okay, this is Ryder, the American romantic realist. Strange man. He'd always paint everybody. No, no. He paintings are very small. There are a lot of them in the national collection of paintings in Washington, D.C. Now, they're very beautiful if you have ever been in there. I went there one time and I was astonished at what they had. They've got paintings by everybody in there. it's not a big museum or anything like that, but they, we bought it all. All these paintings that's old. The painting itself was [inaudible]. He used a lot of oils so it gets that horrible gummy look to him, but the composition is so beautiful. The great patterns of light and dark shapes. He too has been a great influence on a lot of the cubist painters. Okay, we'll see a lot of these paintings. Look at Crass. You see how this is just that way? It's probably about ten by twelve inches, something like that, very small. Okay, this is John at_________. It's practically gone.
Q1: That's supposed to be God up at the top, right?
Claude Howell: Yeah, mm-hmm. Looking down.
Claude Howell: He's a strange one. He was a mystic. He painted a lot of visions. Okay, I think his sailboats are so wonderful against a moonlight sea. You see how the moon is behind that pine? You can feel the light coming from behind it even in its bad shape. Okay, I've forgotten what this is. It's some strange vision that he was trying to illustrate, but it's not an illustration which is literally like the pre-Raphaelites. It's not that. Okay. In the early photographs you can tell that this is a woman. Can't you see the glow?
Q1: Where was he when he did these paintings?
Claude Howell: He did lived in New York and New Jersey.
Q1: The whole time? He lived up there the whole time, his whole life?
Claude Howell: Uh-huh. He was not an ex-patriot. One of the things that we're soon going to come to is the fact that the United States paid so little attention to art, there have not been movements here. So what happened? We had to get people like Whistler and John Tinker and Mary Cassatt. Where did they go? They go to Europe. So we get the period of the ex-patriots and some of the most talented of the people from this country were the ones who lived in Europe. Now, we will talk about Mary Cassatt. Now, of course, St. John's is one of the only two places in the world that has her whole collection of prints, and that's why people come here from all over Europe and Asia to see our collection. Okay.
Q3: What do you? How? What influenced him? I mean, cause Europe was so different.
Claude Howell: There have always been people in history who are erratic. Every picture is one. He was a printist. Russian was one league of printists. They are simply personalities who--
Claude Howell: No, I don't think, he's not. They seem to just appear at any period in history. They're almost timeless painters. This is the dead bird. A dead bird, a dead canary. It's [inaudible]. Okay, can't you see how he has influenced some of the abstract impressionists in its use of areas of color and shade? Okay.
Q3: Is this Ryder?
Claude Howell: Mm-hmm. This is all of it.
Claude Howell: It quite looks like a baby here. I think that's [inaudible].
Claude Howell: She's so physical and he's so ethereal. Okay. All right. And this is one of the most famous ones, it's in the National Gallery. It's called The Vision of Mind. These are three [inaudible]. Here is [inaudible] and this funny landscape and this beautiful [inaudible]. Nothing seems to go together. It's something that he thought, he imagined.
Q3: Was he recognized during his life?
Claude Howell: Yes.
Q3: That's a nice sky.
Claude Howell: Okay.
Q7: A forest and a pond.
Claude Howell: It's an imaginary world he created. Even his trees don't look like they exist in the real world. Okay, secret in the picture [inaudible]. Notice that the tree is brown just like the people. Okay, I think our one last. No, we had this one. This is another one that people have written books about one trying to explain it. It's Death of [inaudible] Horse.
Q4: That's a big snake.
Claude Howell: And the racetrack. Fascinating painting. Okay, I think this gives you a little more feeling of how the way color works. See that beautiful wood 'cause these are almost in color. Okay, now we come to another man who paints moonlight in a much more realistic way. He's not a mystic and it's Ralph Blakelock. I've never seen a painting of his that wasn't painted by moonlight. He's one of the better painters of the last three fourths, I guess, of the 19th century. Okay, now we have a breath of fresh air. Winslow Homer. Winslow Homer was very much influenced by a lot of the early genre painters. Remember we saw George Kebenning [ph?]. And he started painting, the Civil War came up and he was a recorder, an illustrator, for Harper's Weekly and he did hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of drawings of the Civil War. But he began to change and at first he was influenced by Courbet, the realism of Courbet. I think you can see it in this picture. Okay, let's look at the next ones. Now, these are the ladies of the seashore. This is just before the turn of the century. He lived to be very old and he got better and better and better. It's very encouraging to (laughter) so many people we have seen who start and go down, but he doesn't. He gets better. The reason he gets better is he's a realist. He's not a romantic. He doesn't copy but it's what you call selective realism. He doesn't put in everything in play. He picks the important things. And you will find in the 20th century after 1950, a world of painters who paint very much the same way, who pick a few telling to paint in an extremely logical way. Okay, he painted in two mediums. One, oil; see this is oil and then in his later years he took up watercolor and he became the greatest watercolorist anywhere in the world of the 19th century. He was better than any of the Europeans when it came to painting with watercolors. Okay, he [inaudible] Charleston is more common. It's almost recorded. It's probably the influence from his days as an illustrator for the magazine. He's wonderful at that, but he never seems to interfere. He transcends the literary quality of age. All right. This is called Autumn. It's really a portrait of a young woman. He's got another one called Spring Vegetation quite different. It's really a symphony in yellows and oranges. He's able to control his coloring. Okay, he goes through a period where he paints, I think, a lot of cute things and yet he goes beyond this. Okay, this is one of his beautiful ones. This is in the National Gallery. So simple, but powerful. Okay, crack the whip. In North Carolina a museum has a very good one from this period. It's genre, but it's carried a step beyond. Okay, then he begins to get to the sea and when he does he really finds his true reason for being. We don't see how he changes. Okay, he paints the Maine coast. He lives in almost complete isolation for years and years and years in Maine, and he painted a lot of coasts and then he also painted the woods; the hunts in the Maine woods. Then in the winter he would go down to the Caribbean and paint watercolors. But he becomes one of the greatest marine painters that we have. He actually ruined New England. New England is filled with art colonies where they teach you how to paint bad marine paintings. I went to two of those art colonies myself and I would almost throw up the colors everywhere, so terrible. And it can be done so well. That's the thing. Okay, this is called Kissing the Boone. Okay, these are out of order. Bet you've probably never seen the ocean painted in all its majesty any better than this and it's because he knew it. We come back to that same old statement, the importance of roots. You've got to know what it means. Okay, and this one, all of you have seen this one. Okay, that's Dancing in the Moonlight. Do you know that this one is one of the few American paintings in that great museum It's in the Louve. This is another, and this one. [inaudible] They still don't think we exist. All right. I'm going rather rapidly through these because we have a lot of them, but I couldn't resist showing you so many because, even though they are similar, they are all quite different. Okay, and this one Pleasing Up [ph?].
Claude Howell: Okay. Okay. Absolutely authentic and telling, but if you look at it very carefully you'll see that he's only picked foreign things in each one of his paintings. He [inaudible] meticulous detail of putting in every little thing. Okay, and this one. This is sad. Okay, now up in the Maine mountains. Okay, these are two [inaudible]. All right. And The Hunter. This is realism, I think, at its best. There's nothing wrong with realism. It can be great art except when it's been abused so much. All right. this is a watercolor; the [inaudible]. Most of the watercolors are 14 x 21 or 23 inches. That's the size of them, the standard size of a watercolor. Okay, you can easily see why he was called the greatest watercolorist of the 19th century. He had technique, but he never relied on tricks. He never depended on all the little things that you can do. A watercolor is a very hard painting because it's so easy to get into tricks and a lot of the people that I see painting, you know, they have masking tape and all sorts of little gadgets and [inaudible] and it's terrible. They used a [inaudible] and a toothbrush. It looks dreadful. And if I ever judge a show, they go immediately because art is not made up of tricks. It's made up of knowledge. He has knowledge. Okay, look at the wonderful running water. All right. It doesn't matter what he paints, he paints anything. All right. now, we'll see three or four of his Caribbean paintings. Okay, these are all watercolors. Look at the difference in the light here, the colorful brilliant light. Okay, wonderful running water. You know, I got thinking about this. You couldn't make a sketch of this. You couldn't even see it if you were on a boat. How did he do it? I can't figure it out. He must have seen an awful lot of sailing boats. No, I [inaudible]. Good artists don't do that, and he was a good artist. Besides, if you paint from a photograph, it will look flat. The reason good artists don't use photographs is because, if you paint from a photograph, you are transferring one flat surface to another flat surface so you don't get any depth. If you are painting from the real thing, it is three dimensional and you are transferring it to a 2-deminsional, that's the reason. Okay, The Gulf Stream. This is [inaudible]. And all the sharks. All right. I've always felt that this had the wrong title. It's called After the Tornado. I think it should be After the Hurricane, don't you? I'm sure somebody, he probably didn't know the difference. Okay, I love this one because it's so simple.
Q1: Almost oriental.
Claude Howell: You can fee that rain coming. All right. Now we have one more realist and he is so scientific and deadly according to a lot of people. He happens to be perhaps the greatest American painter we that ever had. His name was Thomas Adalence [ph?] He was from Philadelphia. He taught at Pennsylvania Academy. He insisted on knowing anatomy. He posed the models nude. He immediately got fired. He was so outraged when they called him down, that he went into the school. He couldn't get a model, so he went into the classroom and took all of his clothes off and posed nude himself. These students have got to know how the human figure looks, how it goes. He's a wonderful technician. He almost paints like a lot of the old masters, you know, very careful strokes. You don't see a bowl of painting. This is a portrait he did of Walt Whitman [inaudible]. Okay, he was one of the greatest portrait painter that we have had in this country. He makes Gilbert Stewart look like a little boy because he analyzes the character of his subject which is why he was never a successful portrait painter. People didn't want to be painted the way they looked and the way they were. It was his eye which would go right straight through and hit them right. And this is what he did, he probably is the nearest thing to realism that you'll ever see. Okay, and a rather exciting look at the Spanish woman. Okay.
Claude Howell: No, no. No, it's Miss-- oh, I can't think of what her name is. It's not her, but she is from Philadelphia. It's a very sensitive [inaudible]. Okay, and another of his very famous paintings. This is Max Somebody, Max Somebody in a single school.
Claude Howell: No, there's another one. There's another one with two men going that way.
Q7: That color is really-that color.
Claude Howell: It's too red. Okay, he was not a great colorist. This is his masterpiece. And I was reading just yesterday that this ranks with the great masterpieces from any country and from any period. It caused a big scandal. It's the [inaudible]. This was not considered a fit subject for college. Art was supposed to be grandiose and uplifting and superficial. This is nothing. It happens to be a wonderful portrait of Dr. Roache [ph?] By the way, his family used to live here in Wilmington. It's not gory. The corpse is not objectionable. He, you ever feel somebody is watching you? I think that's the last one isn't it Roberta?
Roberta: I think so.
Claude Howell: Yes. Okay, you have seen a lot of realism. You've seen some good realism and some bad realism. Mainly I wanted you to see the bad so you could know why what is going to happen happens, because it happens next week which is impressionism. And this is a complete change of pace. That impressionism, which perhaps is the most realistic way of painting that man has ever devised, is more what we actually see than say [inaudible]. This is not what we see. You do not see that much detail. As I look at all of you, certain of you are in sharp focus. All around here is sort of lost. That is real. This is what the impressionists do. They paint the way the world really is, the way you see it and they put the broken brush strokes so that you can get the sparkle of color that we actually see. And that was so real that the next generation, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Sasack [ph?] all those painters said, "This is ruining art," and so you have the beginnings of the big revolt. And those people, they all starved to death, but now are into the age of the bohemians which was a dirty word. It was almost as dirty as the word artist. You get the artist who is completely rejected by society so he moves into a certain area and he lives with other artists and you get the Latin Quarters which is where they all lived. And they do sometimes misbehave with everybody else. But you have a complete divorce then between the artists on one side and the public on the other. The public doesn't like the artists. The public doesn't like what the artist does. The artist looks down on the bourgeois. He thinks they have no sense whatsoever and this gap gets wider and wider and wider until the 1980s when it begins to once more close in. We're starting to close the gap. But at least we have some government support now and we have more people, banks particularly, supporting the arts and the artists. So this is what we're going to go over-- have to go through. Ya'll have a wonderful [inaudible]. I wanted to ask you one thing. I believe next week is our last one isn't it? I think [inaudible]. Do you want to continue the following Tuesday or do you want to take a break? We wanted to continue next Tuesday, so we'll get through before it gets colder.