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St. Dominic’s life is on display in Stephen’s living room. Grand in its expression, it appears in a small painting on paper, only slightly larger than 2′ x 2′ unframed. It is in fact the colorful sketch for a much larger work — a mural on the wall of St. Dominic’s Priory in Washington, D.C.

Each section of the painting, and of the final mural, has meaning. The image is divided into seven parts, depicting seven scenes from Dominic’s life, from the center upper part where “God’s Hand puts halo around St. Dominic and drops into beggar’s bowl a star …” to the center lower part where “Two Angels lift the saintly pilgrim by his bleeding feet toward the stars in heaven.

The painting was in the possession of Ludwig Joutz (1910-1998), an architect with the D.C. based firm, Thomas H. Locraft and Associates, noted for what today is often described as sacred architecture. In 1960, his company designed a new priory for St. Dominic’s Church. Construction was completed in 1962.  On a lined office pad Joutz sketched the initial concept for the mural. That yellowing piece of paper remains with the painting, a painting that is signed and dated by artist Pierre Bourdelle (1901-1966).

Loutz must have treasured Bourdelle’s work.  After he retired, he and his wife moved to Florida and with him he carried Bourdelle’s painting. Loutz, himself an artist, would sketch the interior of his home in Florida. In one drawing there on the wall is the same painting that Loutz’s son would eventually give to Stephen after his father’s death.

artwork by ludwig joutz

artwork by ludwig joutz

Ludwig’s son remembered his father meeting with Bourdelle as he worked on the mural but little else could he tell me and so my research began. Thankfully, there was quite a bit of information to be found online and in newspaper archives.

Born in Paris, France, Pierre Bourdelle was the son of famed sculptor Antoine Bourdelle.  He studied under Auguste Rodin in whose studio his father worked from 1893-1908. During his time as Rodin’s chief assistant, his father taught the likes of Henry Matisse and Alberto Giacometti. One biographer notes that with Rodin, a young Bourdelle visited Europe’s great Cathedrals.

rodin by edward steichen, 1911

rodin by edward steichen, 1911

Eventually Pierre would move to the United States and set up a studio in New York. In effect, he stepped out of his father’s shadow.

antoine bourdelle, 1925

antoine bourdelle, 1925

In a 1934 interview, he expressed: “In France, a man is judged by what his father did or by his family tree. In the United States a man is judged by himself, his personality, his own work. In France, they offered me mural jobs because my father was a well-known artist. They did not even look at my work.

pierre bourdelle, 1934

pierre bourdelle, 1934

A man of diverse interests and talents, he’d traveled the world studying the art of different cultures, observing the nature of different places.  Over time, based on some of the things he’d seen, he developed a new technique that set him apart as a muralist.

excerpt from 1934 article

Search online and you’ll find a wealth of information about his Art Deco paintings and sculptures from the 1930s and 1940s. His bold and vibrant work adorned the interiors of ocean liners, railway lines like the California Zephyr, and the walls of institutions like Union Terminal in Cincinnati.

jungle mural by bourdelle for cincinnati terminal

He was a versatile artist capable of working with many media.  For Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, he not only created exotic jungle murals carved in linoleum, he also painted the ceilings of several rooms using an electric spray gun on canvas.

For the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair, he created murals for Food Building North No. 2.  As described by a journalist covering the fair for Collier’s Magazine in 1939, There was Pierre Bourdelle, stripped to the waist in the hot sun and covered with red plaster dust. Gobs of wet plaster, a good blank wall, tools in his hands. That’s all Bourdelle, pupil of Rodin, asks to make him happy.”

His design motif for the fair was described as low bas-relief representing Bacchantes reveling at a wine-harvest festival, mythological animals, and scenes of beverage-making in various cultures.

sunshine and rain by bourdelle 1939

larger detail of vineyard mural on food building, 1939

Vineyard by Bourdelle 1939

While not everyone appreciated his style, e.g. so many sinuous forms wrapped around each other, few could deny the provocative and captivating nature of his work.

When World War II broke out, Bourdelle felt compelled to join the war effort.  He’d served in France during World War I. He’d been too young, only 15, but he’d lied about his age and was able to join an aviation unit.  When his plane went down, he suffered traumatic ear injuries.  A number of the biographies I found suggest that the horrors of that first war, the so-called Great War, influenced his art as no doubt did his participation in World War II. While unable to enlist because he was considered too old, he did serve in his own way, as a volunteer ambulance driver with the American Field Service at the North African and Italian fronts.

In 1945, upon his return to the U.S., Bourdelle would produce a book of images, simply titled, War. For the foreward, Stephen Galatti , the Director General of the AFS, would write, “Overseas Pierre Bourdelle saw suffering. He did his best to alleviate suffering, driving the wounded soldiers of many Allied armies. Helping staunch and bind their wounds in the field dressing stations. He knows the agony of war. He has no fear of showing war at its useless worst. He is not only a personally brave man who volunteered to go, and went, wherever the wounded were. He is an intellectually brave man, who makes no pretense at hiding the bare hideousness of warfare. … They are not pretty pictures. They show nothing but reality …”

Et Quare Tristis Incedo

They may not be pretty but they are horribly beautiful.  And as I perused all 50+ images, viewable online here, I could not help but be fascinated by Bourdelle’s evolution as an artist …

Land Mine

… seeing these works done in the 1940s and then …

Calvalry

… being able to look at the drawing he did in the early 1960s for the St. Dominic mural.

I suspect I will never see in-person the actual St. Dominic mural.  First of all, it is in a monastery chapel. Second of all, it has been covered in an attempt, I believe, to preserve it from the deterioration of time.

During the latter years of his life, Pierre Bourdelle continued to work as an artist and as a teacher.  He taught at C. W. Post, part of Long Island University, as an artist-in-residence. He died in 1966 while traveling with his family in Switzerland.

 

Sources and Additional Reading

Bourdelle Family History – http://www.mountharmonyfarm.com/GH-P-BourdelleItems.html

SS America Unique Story of a Great Ocean Liner/Bourdelle Page – http://www.ssamerica.bplaced.net/art2-en.html

Artwork for the California Zephyr – http://calzephyr.railfan.net/artists/bourdelle.html

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Art – Murals – Food Buildings – The Vineyard (Pierre Bourdelle)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1935 – 1945. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5e66b3e8-7352-d471-e040-e00a180654d7

Collier’s, Volume 103, p. 16

Bourdelle Art for Dallas Fair Park – http://frenchsculpture.org/dallas-fair-park-1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cincinnati_Museum_Center_at_Union_Terminal

The Glass Storybook and the Great Menagerie The Art of Winold Reiss and Pierre Bourdelle – http://www.cincymuseum.org/union-terminal/art

History of Cincinnati Union Terminal – http://library.cincymuseum.org/75th-anniversary/main.swf

Bourdelle’s War – http://www.ourstory.info/library/4-ww2/Bourdelle/pbTC.html

Bourdelle Papers at Syracuse Libraries  – http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/b/bourdelle_p.htm

 

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details from life of st. paul's life, by henry holiday of london, 1878

details from st. paul’s life, by henry holiday of london, 1878

During my time visiting Trinity Church in the City of Boston, I have focused my camera on the details of the stained glass windows and the stories behind their creation. Within the church itself there are over 30 windows visible to the public and, less accessible to the public, there are additional windows in the parish house that I refer to as “hidden gems.”

detail from ephphatha by burlison and grylls

detail from ephphatha by burlison and grylls

Significant changes have occurred to the church over time, which you can learn about on the excellent guided tours. It’s the changes that took place in the parish house during the 1940s and 1950s that recently intrigued me. As the parish house was being reconfigured, three stained glass windows were removed.  My curiosity was sparked. What was the story of those “lost” windows? Here’s what I found on my search, not much that wasn’t already known but for me it was a wonderful journey.

An 1888 history of the church describes in detail The Harmon Window.  Designed by Frederick Crowninshield, the window was created in memory of Cordelia Harmon.  Harmon was “Almoner of Trinity Church for many years, and through her good deeds was well known by all the poor connected in any way with the Parish.”  The window depicted Charity composed of “a woman and two half-clothed children in the centre, and a figure with bowed head at the left. Behind is the figure of Christ, with his hand extended over them. Above is the text — Inasmuch As Ye Have Done It Unto One Of The Least Of These, My Brethren, Ye Have Done It Unto Me.” You can read more about Miss Harmon in this previous post Enduring Legacies.

1920s photo of Charity, courtesy of Trinity Archives

In a 1910 history of the church there is a description of The Tuckerman Window.  Designed by artist Francis Lathrop, most well known for his work with John La Farge on the murals of Trinity Church, the window depicted a woman surrounded by her four sons and instructing them from the bible.  According to the history, the woman and the boy at her right are the ones commemorated by the window.  They were Florence Tuckerman and her son Brooks Fenno Tuckerman. The design includes the words, Seek Ye Out The Book Of The Lord And Read. The window was given by Mr. and Mrs. John Brooks Fenno who also gave the window, The Storm on the Lake, located inside the church.

And finally there is The Suter Window. Designed by Charles E. Mills, it was executed by Edwin Ford and Frederick Brooks. It was a gift by Hales W. Suter in memory of his daughter, Gertrude Bingham Suter. “In the lower part of the window is the figure of a young girl, holding a sheaf of wheat.  On the ground before her, there lies a cross, while the path is strewn with roses. Her face is turned upward toward a vision – an angel who points out the New Jerusalem above.  The New Jerusalem is further represented in the smaller window above by the figures of two angels holding between them a crown.”

from Exhibition Catalog for the Boston Architectural Exhibition, 1891

The cartoon above I was able to find in the Catalog for the Boston Architectural Exhibition, 1891.  Such catalogs and similar art and architectural publications from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are increasingly being digitized and made available online. I love online research but it has been a pleasure interacting with archivists and stained glass experts too to learn as much as I did about these windows, the artists and their studios. While my search for now has come to an end, I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse of something beautiful that once was but is now no more except in stories. 😉

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Spring will come! Meanwhile, here are a few projects that I’m working on.

1. New postcards coming to the Trinity Church Bookshop.  Most of my previous images have focused on details of the stained glass windows.  These new images highlight the wall paintings, murals and the interesting play of winter light across the unique architectural features of the building.

2. Moving forward with the InterludesInterludes is a collection of historical vignettes composed of words and images relating in someway to the life journey of Joseph A. Horne (1911-1987).  My research into his life began, in part, out of curiosity sparked by stories that he’d told his son and his son would later share with me.

Researching his life became a walk through history as I learned about orphan trains, immigration, the Depression, the Farm Security Administration, photography used at home and in war, and then there was the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives program.  What a delight to share with his son, “Hey, did you know your dad was one of the Monuments Men?”

In addition to my main chapters, there are “interlude extras.”  Please check out previous posts here:  interludes TOC.  Coming soon Mr. Horne’s correspondence in the 1940s and 1950s with photographic historian and collector, Dr. Erich Stenger, and the complexities of operating the Offenbach Archival Depot.

3. Collecting and Sharing “Lost” Stories. It’s not so much that most of the stories are lost.  I just think that some portions of these stories could be more widely known.

For instance, it’s not so much sharing the technical story of this stained glass window designed by Frederic Crowninshield in the 1880s (which was sadly dismantled in the 1950s).  What I’m looking forward to sharing is the story of the remarkable Bostonian for whom the window was created and whose legacy is still being felt today.

I’m also looking forward to sharing even a small portion of the story of an African American architect who started out designing stained glass in the late 1800s before moving on to design buildings, and even starting an architecture department, before his death in the late 1920s.  Researching this man’s life has opened my eyes to the role of African Americans in architecture.  It has also given me a new perspective on the complexities of life, within and across ethnicities, as America forever dances (and fences) with the idea of becoming a “melting pot.” Stay tuned.

4. More Food Photography.  Well, when you’re stuck in a “snow globe” after many successive snowstorms, and your favorite place to work at home is the warm kitchen, you can start to have a lot of fun photographing food.  We’ll see what the rest of this wintry culinary season has to hold for me and my camera.

chive sprouts

chive sprouts

Moro

Moro

That’s the scoop. Stay warm!

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paintings by carl hofer

paintings by carl hofer

I enjoyed photographing the apricot and other fruits earlier this week.  In part, I was inspired by Carl Hofer‘s Bowl of Peaches and his other fruit still life paintings.  I did not know he was an artist when I began researching his life, nor could I imagine how much I would love his work.

paintings by carl hofer

paintings by carl hofer

My research began with only a name engraved on custom stationery and a signature at the bottom of a handwritten letter, dated 1948, addressed to Joseph A. Horne, the Director of the Offenbach Archival Depot.  The script was beautiful but illegible for me since it was in German.  Horne’s son remembered his father referring to the man but no other details about who he was or how his father and this Hofer might have met.

carl hofer painting

carl hofer painting

As part of my ongoing walk through history with Mr. Horne, I wanted to know more about this man in his life.  Translation of the letter would come later, but I began by researching the only words in the letter I could immediately understand, his name.

carl hofer self-portraits, spanning1920-1945

carl hofer self-portraits, spanning1920-1945

I quickly learned that Carl Hofer (1878-1955) was a noted German expressionist painter, printer and illustrator whose work  had been appearing in exhibits around the world since the early 1900s. At the end of this post are some of the links I found describing this important artist and teacher whose name may not be that familiar today outside of art circles. If not for Horne’s letter, I would not have learned of his work.

carl hofer paintings

carl hofer paintings

Of the many documents lost over time, that letter was one of the few that Horne retained.  For those of you familiar with my Interludes series, you know that Horne was involved with the recovery and restitution of stolen artwork, books and other cultural items in post-war Germany.  And he was also involved with those activities to foster and reinvigorate the artist communities in a war-ravaged Germany.  It is undoubtedly through these activities that Horne and Hofer met in the late 1940s.

carl hofer in later years, late 1940s

carl hofer in later years, late 1940s

Earlier, in the 1920s Hofer had been teaching art at a respected German institution and his work celebrated world-wide.  But, by the 1930s, he’d made Hitler’s list of degenerate artists.  He was removed from his teaching post.  Over 300 of his works were confiscated from museums and several included in a traveling exhibit of degenerate art alongside the works of Beckmann, Chagall, Kadinsky, Klee, Nolde and other artists.  By the war’s end, in Allied Occupied Germany, he would be reappointed as teacher and director of a new arts academy. As for the years in between and soon after …

carl hofer paintings, period 1947-1948

carl hofer paintings, period 1947-1948

In his memoir, From the Ashes of Disgrace, sociologist Hans Speier describes what happened to Hofer under the Nazis and Speier’s impressions of the man after they met in late 1945:

…The failure to find a safe place to work and live pushed [Hofer] to the brink of despair.  In 1943, a fire destroyed his studio along with all his paintings from the past ten years. He resumed work at once in a room in his apartment, only to be completely bombed out and lose everything in November 1944.  Thereafter he finally found refuge in a sanatorium in Babelsberg near Berlin, where the Nazis were hiding the French politician Herriot … Now [in November 1945] he owns no furniture, and he is hungry.  Nor has he suitable quarters for doing his work.  However, as president of the academy, which has been reconstituted … he is quite busy.  I was almost awed merely by seeing the expression on his face, and by his reserve and his dignity.” (page 25)

I was especially excited to find Speier’s 1945 account because his words corroborated and complemented what Hofer would write to Horne three years later in March 1948.  Once translated, the poignancy of the content came across although the specific meaning of words and references were not immediately clear.  Hofer writes of being touched by Horne’s inquiry into his well-being.  Then, he writes, after having been in the insane asylum for years, “now we are back in an asylum again.” He alludes to the monetary reforms of  postwar Germany that result in the “black market blossoms as never before, only this time prices are higher.”  Finally, he writes of “the American planes drone above our heads, reassuring us day and night that we won’t starve, unless the red Hitler gobbles us up.  It has been a crazy time, so different from what we pictured in our naive hope three years ago.

Berliners watch a C-54 Skymaster land at Tempelhof Airport, 1948

Berliners watch a C-54 Skymaster land at Tempelhof Airport, 1948

It wasn’t until I spoke with a woman who grew up in the Soviet Union that I understood that the reference to red Hitler was Stalin.  And when I looked more closely at the letter’s date, then did I understand the reference to crazy times, the security of American planes overhead and the possibilities of starvation.  Hofer wrote the letter only a short time before the Berlin Blockade.  As the Soviet blockade took place (June 1948-May 1949), Western Allies dropped food and other supplies into Western Berlin by air.  While the blockade would eventually end, the Cold War was only just beginning.  Hofer survived the blockade, and would continue to teach and to create art for several more years.

Life Magazine article, 1954

Life Magazine article, 1954

Today his work is found in museums, galleries and private collections around the world.  While there are a few more bits of correspondence between Hofer and Horne that I’ve found, their translation is a future project.  For now, it has been my pleasure to learn just a little bit about this influential artist, his perseverance, and the beauty he created until the end of his days in 1955.

 

Sources/Additional Reading

Degenerate Art Overview Wikipedia

Spaightwood Galleries Hofer Bio

Hofer Drawings at the Museum of Modern Art

Art Institute of Chicago Collection

Van Ham Art Estate and Hofer Archive

Life Magazine, May 10, 1954 Article

From the Ashes of Disgrace: A Journal from Germany, 1945-1955 by Hans Speier (page 25)

Berlin Blockade

 

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For the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in a part-time research project.  Though in the beginning I thought I was documenting the story of one person, it quickly became an opportunity to learn the stories of many peoples, some famous and others not so famous, across many lands.  I’ve been struggling with how to share just a few vignettes.  With the advice of friends, I’ve decided to think of the vignettes as a journey, a walk through history.  Since the stories from that time have relevance today I think it is okay to share some of my findings here on this blog. These “interludes: a walk through history,” present different chapters in one’s man life, but really provide a glimpse into the history that continues to shape this world.  It’s been a wonderful, sometimes surprising, experience for me. I hope you enjoy the tales to be posted over time.  Not too frequently — I still need to share my pictures of the present day, like these branches covered in fresh fallen snow.

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