Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center-part 131

Part 131: The Scene Painters’ Show

Thomas G. Moses began working for Sosman & Landis in 1880. During his first decade at the studio, Moses continued to drift away and migrate toward other people, projects and partnerships. He was the proverbial “soaring star” and Sosman & Landis were could not entice him enough to solely work in their studio. By 1885, Moses formed a partnership with Walter Burridge and Mr. Louderback.

Advertisement clipping from John R. Rothgeb Paper at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas – Austin. Photograph by Wendy Waszut-Barrett, 2016.

All three had participated in the October 12, 1885, Scene Painter’s Show in Chicago.

There was an article written by John Moran for the “Art Union, a Monthly Magazine of Art” (Vol. 2, No. 4, 1885, p. 85) about the Scene Painters’ Show. The magazine noted that “The American Art Union, a society of American Artists, including representations of all the different schools of art, has been organized ‘for the general advancement of the Fine Arts, and for promoting and facilitating a greater knowledge and love thereof on the part of the public.” The Board of Control for 1884-1885 included D. Hentington (Pres), T. W. Wood (Vice President), E. Wood Perry, Jr. (Secy.), Frederick Dielman (Treasurer), W. H. Beard, Albert Bierstadt, Harry Chase, Harry Farrer, Eastman Johnson, Jervis McEntee, T. Moran, and Walter Shirlaw. This was a BIG deal!

Cover of “The Art Union” from October 1885 that included the Scene Painters’ Show review. Image from online source.

“The Scene Painters’ Show. Chicago, October 12th, 1885

The first Exhibition of Water Colors by American Scenic Artists has been open free to the public for some weeks past, in this city, and the eighty-four examples hung on the walls of Messrs. Louderback & Co.’s galleries include some praiseworthy and valuable works. Such a collection proves that the broad pictorial treatment requisite for adequate stage effect does not incapacitate a man for the finer and more delicate manipulation essential to good aquarelles, and shows, moreover, a healthy progressive spirit among scenic artists. The name of Matt. Morgan has long been gratefully familiar to us, and he is represented by diverse and facile contributions. “Alone in the Forest Shade” (1), shows lumbermen with their load descending a wild ravine flanked on either side by towering pines. The feeling of solitude and gloom is forcibly conveyed and the tree forms and foliage broadly yet carefully handled. “The Lost Comrade” (27), and “Waiting for Death” (14), are strong and weird aspects of prairies life, the former representing a horseman, lasso in hand, who has come upon the skeletons of a horse and rider among the pampas grass, and the latter a bull calf standing over the moribund body of a cow, striving with futile bellow to keep advancing wolves at bay. A nude figure, “The New Slave” (71), standing expectantly against a rich low-toned drapery, is exquisite in drawing and color and charmingly beautiful in suggestion. Mr. Walter Burridge runs the gamut of landscape figure and decoration and is good in all! His “Spring” (9), “Autumn Leaves” (39), and “Old Mill” (49), are deftly washed-in landscapes, true to nature and aerial in quality, while “My Assistant” (16), a study of behind the scenes life, and a “Ninety Minute Sketch” (83), of his friend Mr. Ernest Albert, show character and a nice sense of texture. Mr. Ernest Albert’s “Winter Twilight” (12), is full of sentiment of the season and excellent in composition, and his “October Morning” (31), “moonrise” (40), “Sunset” (79), and “Autumn” (80), are severally individual as transcripts and prove his mastery over the vehicle he uses. “A Decorative Flower Piece” (84), by the same artist, groups of roses, pansies and forget-me-nots in a most artistic and harmonious manner. “Nobody’s Claim, Col.” (65) and “Near Racine, Wis.” (76) By Mr. Thomas G. Moses, are among his best examples and are freely treated and with fidelity to locale character and sky effects. Mr. Albert Operti gives us some reminiscences of his Lapland tour in 1884, which are realistic and worthy, and Mr. J. Hendricks Young, “A Busy Day on Chicago River” (38), which together with the local bits by Mr. Moses, Mr. C. E. Petford and Mr. Burridge, is of historical value as it is skillfully painted. “Rats, you Terrier” (59), by the same hand, is a “snappy” and bright treatment of a dog’s head and fully catches the spirit of the English. Mr. Henry C. Tryon’s “Source of the Au Sable” (34), powerfully conveys a sense of somberness and grandeur, and though ample in detail loses nothing of the vastness and breadth which such a landscape motion calls for. Other works deserving of notice are Messrs. George Dayton, Sr., George Dayton, Jr., the late L. Malmsha, C. Boettger, Chas. Ritter, H. Buhler and John Howell Wilson, whose “Country Road” (76” is especially fresh, verdurous and bright. It is to be hoped that this is only the forerunner of many like exhibitions and it marks a decided growth in the national art spirit.

This wasn’t just a group of artists linked by a common style or profession – this was statement made by a closely-knit community of passionate individuals. They shared their work, their lives and their passion for painting.

To be continued…

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