It’s not easy being green…

First of all, a moment of silence as we observe the 76th anniversary of Lorado Taft’s death, October 30, 1936.  I want him to know that we’re still thinking about him!

I went to Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery last week to pay my respects to Taft’s two memorials: “The Crusader,” at the grave of Victor Lawson, dated 1931, and “Eternal Silence,” at the grave of Dexter Graves, dated 1909.  “The Crusader” looks great.  The granite is clean and does not appear to have been affected by any environmental conditions.  He’s safe.

“Eternal Silence,” however, may not be doing so well.  As you can see from these photos, there are numerous patches, and there is an inexplicable horizontal stripe about mid-level.  But my main concern is the amount of advanced oxidation on the piece.

I wish I knew more about patinas and corrosion.  It is my impression that the green substance that develops on bronze is unhealthy for the bronze and actually eats into the surface, which may explain the patches on “Eternal Silence.”  I’m trying to locate a conservator in the Chicago area who would be willing to look at the memorial with me.

A recent article in the Champaign News-Gazette about the restoration of “Alma Mater” described how this figure grouping has its own corrosion problems.  The author described how Andrzej Dajnowski (Sculpture and Objects Studio Inc. of Forest Park), who is supervising Alma’s makeover, is dealing with hundreds of iron bolts on the interior of the sculpture that have corroded or disintegrated, indicating serious structural problems.  300 to 500 bolts will have to be replaced on each of the three figures, plus the chair, which was too big to be x-rayed.  The Campus Preservation Working Group had hoped that the restoration project would mostly involve surface repairs, but only time will tell the new prognosis.

 

I also talked with Robert LaFrance, a curator at the Krannert Art Museum.  He wrote: “I’m not an expert in bronzes but I do know that there are good natural patinas and bad ones.  A good, thin natural green patina can actually protect the bronze in a sculpture by providing a hard crust against the elements.  But Taft was of course unaware of acid rain and other modern problems, such as the sulfur from car exhaust reacting with sunshine and water to create sulfuric acid, which attacks marbles and bronzes.  This may be the cause of that pitting that you see.”

I had heard that there is a long-range planning committee at Graceland, looking into the condition of various pieces, so I stopped by the cemetery office and spoke with the manager.  She told me that, to her knowledge, the survey had been completed and any needed work had been done.  When I voiced my concern over the corrosion on “Eternal Silence,” she recommended I speak with the Graves family.

Add to this issue the fact that people LIKE “Eternal Silence” to be green, just as they like the green of the “Statue of Liberty.”  Imagining “Eternal Silence” in a glossy brown is near impossible – and not nearly as spooky.  When the “Young Lincoln” statue in Urbana was restored, he got a new GREEN patina that was even throughout the shadows and highlights.  Dajnowski may have to face the same challenge with “Alma Mater” – will the public insist that the green be replaced?

 

What are your thoughts?  What do you know about corrosion and oxidation?  What would YOU do about “Eternal Silence”?  And what color would you like “Alma Mater” to be?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Taft’s bust of William Sherwood on display at Columbia College Chicago

In 1915 Lorado Taft crafted a bust of pianist William H. Sherwood.   Sherwood had died in 1911, so Taft was once again faced with the challenge of recreating a person’s character without having that person sitting in front of him as a model.  (In my book I reprinted an article Taft wrote in 1899 — “Dreams and Death Masks” — in which he vented his frustration at having to sculpt busts and other depictions of deceased people.)

 

Taft didn’t have to fly completely blind on this project, however.  Sherwood had founded the Chicago Piano School on the 7th floor of the Fine Arts Building in 1897; Taft moved into a 10th floor studio there in 1898.  They must have seen each other on numerous occasions before Taft moved to Hyde Park in 1906.

Sherwood would have fit well into the Fine Arts Building’s stable of interesting personalities.  He was born in Lyons, N.Y., in 1854.  His father was an accomplished musician and teacher who founded the Lyons Musical Academy.  William studied with his father and other musicians in America, and then went to Europe where he studied for five years and was taught by Franz Liszt, among others.  After playing numerous concerts in Europe, he made many concert tours in the United States and Canada beginning in 1876 and won the enthusiastic praise of many great musicians, including Edvard Grieg.  He was one of the founding fathers of the American College of Musicians, and he belonged to a number of musical societies. After teaching in New York and Boston, he moved to Chicago.

Following the Columbian Exposition in 1893, Taft had chosen to remain in Chicago.  “I believe I am needed here,” he explained.  “I want my work to come out of the west, and if there is any glory in it, I want to share it with my own home people.”   Despite numerous challenges, Sherwood stayed in Chicago as well.  They must have had interesting conversations.

Sherwood’s relocation to Chicago may have had something to do with a dispute with his Boston-based ex-wife over child support.  In 1886 she filed a petition asking that he continue support of her and their two children in the amount of $166.66 per month.  “For a time Mr. Sherwood paid on time,” reported The New York Times (April 13, 1886), “but in February it is alleged he defaulted all above $80, and in March and the present month paid nothing….”

The Etude magazine published his obituary.  It was clear that Sherwood had the same passion for American art that Taft did.  Taft had to compete with European sculptors for commissions; Sherwood competed with European music teachers.  “He never disparaged the abilities of the able teachers of Europe,” the obituary wrote, “but he left no word unsaid to condemn those pupils who deserted fine teachers in America to enter the classes of mediocre and unknown teachers in European capitals.  In all this The Etude endorsed Mr. Sherwood to the fullest extent.”  One of his great legacies was the Sherwood Piano Course, the first standardized text for teaching and learning piano.

It isn’t clear why Sherwood died at the early age of 57 (we’re pretty sure his wife didn’t kill him).  His name, however, has continued on to the present.  The Sherwood Conservatory of Music was relocated to a building at 1014 South Michigan in 1941, where the bust continued to be displayed.  In 1986 the school changed its mission and began a community focus, “committed to meeting the diverse music education needs of Chicago’s urban population.”  Because Columbia College Chicago was also serving the Chicago community, Sherwood merged with Columbia in July 2007 and now is called the Sherwood Community Music School.  Taft’s bust of Sherwood sits right inside the front door at 1312 South Michigan Avenue.

I’m blazing a new Oregon Trail!

 A new Oregon Trail is about to be followed – as I soon make my way from Chicago’s northern border to Oregon, Illinois … twice in one week!

Book signing Thursday, October 4:  I’m very excited that the Oregon Public Library is hosting a reception to announce the publication of Beautiful Dreamer this coming Thursday.  There will be a book signing at 5:30, and I will give a short presentation at 6:00.  This is free and open to the public: 300 Jefferson Street.

The library is the perfect place for me to officially begin my book journey.  It was built in 1909 using a grant from Andrew Carnegie and it was designed by Chicago architects Allen and Irving Kane Pond (usually referred to as Pond and Pond). The Ponds were charter members of the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony, founded in Oregon by Taft in 1898, and it was their association with Taft and the colony that led them to design the library. The completed library included a second floor art gallery to which members of the artists’ colony donated works for a permanent collection that is still there and includes both paintings and sculptures. You can see the beautiful plaster maquette of “The Blind” that I used on the book’s cover, and you can also see TWO models of Taft’s “Aspiration” — the plaster model donated to the library by Betty Croft after I found it on eBay and contacted her AND a second model donated when its owner read about the first donation in the paper!

TWO models of “Aspiration” in the library’s collection!

The Oregon Public Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 for its architectural and educational significance; three years later it was included as a contributing property in a historic district that received the National Register designation.

And I will be selling books at a booth at Oregon’s Autumn on Parade, October 6 and 7:  When this festival began in 1970, there were seven exhibitors. Since then, Autumn on Parade has grown to include more than 150 vendors and other events such as the Harvest Time Parade, Auto Classic, Duck Dash and many more family-orientated events!  In the past I have especially enjoyed the chance to visit Chana School, located on River Road in Oregon Park East. This unique two-room school, built in 1883, is celebrating its 129th birthday this year. It will be open for tours on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.   The Ogle County Historical Society will offer tours of the Ruby Nash Museum and Carriage House on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  There’s a large book sale on the front lawn of the Oregon Public Library on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the front library lawn. And there’s an Olde English Faire at Stronghold Castle two miles north of the Ogle County Courthouse Square on Ill. 2 (admission charged).  For an additional $1.00, tours of Stronghold Castle give you a chance to explore the Great Hall, the Library with a ceiling painted by Russian artist Nicholas Kasaroff, the Rumpelstiltskin room and, of course, a secret passageway hidden in one of the rooms.  Avoid the hassle of driving and parking during the weekend.  A shuttle to Stronghold and to Chana School will operate on a regular schedule departing from the Nextage parking lot at the intersection of Ill. 2 and Ill. 64.  Here’s the link to the festival’s events: http://www.autumnonparade.org/schedule.shtml.  The weather forecast says that it will be beautiful both days, with temperatures hovering around 60.  A beautiful excuse to get out and enjoy the foliage and to experience some good ol’ Midwest fun!  Please stop by Booth #110 and say hello!

 

Charles Allen Marsh panel needs to see the light!

I had a free Sunday morning today, so I drove down to Hyde Park Union Church near the University of Chicago campus to take a new photo of a low-relief panel Taft sculpted in 1921. The church is beautiful, with many stained glass windows by Tiffany, Connick, and Zettler, but the light through the windows is low. I thought if I could get to the sanctuary as services were letting out, I might be able to get a shot when the overhead and altar lights were on. Well … let’s just say I now have a better photo than the previous ones. The panel is mounted on the darkest wall, just inside the entryway, facing north. There is a vintage brass light fixture above, with a conduit running down the wall to an electrical outlet in the floor, but the plug is gone! Thanks to Photoshop, I’m able to show you this lovely, simple work of art. The surface has a consistent patina, unlike the panel of Katharine Sharp at the University of Illinois Library, where students have polished her nose to gold for good luck.

The inscription reads: 1855 … 1920. Thanking God for the generous heart and friendly hand of CHARLES ALLEN MARSH, a master builder of this fellowship.

I found a memorial message originally published in the University (of Chicago) Record, Volume VII, April 1921, on the event of Marsh’s death. Marsh grew up in Granville, Ohio, where his father taught at Denison University. He came to Chicago in 1878, immediately following his own graduation from Denison. He became very successful in the lumber trade (which was escalated by Chicago’s 1871 fire), and he lived in the Hyde Park community (also Taft’s later home) for 35 years. He served as a member of the board of the Baptist Theological Union from 1898 and as president of the board since 1905. The authors’ praise of Mr. Marsh was something I’ll never hear: “Many of us have never known a man more liberally endowed with the most lovable qualities of personality and temperament….”

In my book (page 16) I mentioned a marvelous article by Tim Garvey in which he selected eight busts Taft had sculpted of friends and detailed how Taft’s affection for these characters helped to create especially sensitive and loving likenesses (“Conferring Status: Lorado Taft’s Portraits of an Artistic Community,” Illinois Historical Journal, Vol. 78: Fall 1985, pp. 162-178). This panel was sculpted after Marsh’s death, so it would be interesting to know whether he sculpted from memory, from a photograph or painting, or from a death mask. It appears to me that Taft knew and respected this man.

Now I shall add “new electrical conduit” to my request list, just in case I run into an extremely rich Taft lover who would like to contribute to the future health of Taft pieces. Any suggestions?

The hunt for “Hygeia” concludes – statue dies with a look of anguish on her face….

Well, it looks as if we can definitely cross one piece off the “List of Taft Pieces to Locate,”

In his 1950s dissertation, Lewis Williams included an extensive list of Taft pieces he had located and also pieces he couldn’t find.  Among the unlocated pieces he listed “Hygeia.”  He called it a “symbolic figure,” 5’4”, “probably” marble, signed: unknown.  He said it was formerly located at Hygeia Springs in Waukesha, Wisc., “now lost.” He wrote: “Letters make it certain that Taft executed some sort of symbolic figure for the Hygeia Company, distributors of Waukesha Water, which was placed in a small pavilion at the springs.  The company failed in 1895, the property was sold and the building torn down.  What became of the statue is unknown.  Taft’s friend Roll Conklin was a director of the firm.  The architecture was by Van Britt and Emve.”  (page 291)

While doing my usual web surfing for Taft trivia, I came across a vintage photo on Amazon.com, showing the white figure of Hygeia – the goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation — in the Waukesha Water shelter, a beautiful white structure with columns and other classical elements.  She is a strong and healthy woman, draped in classical robes, holding a seashell.  Her design bears the meticulous attention to classical detail Taft demonstrated after returning to Illinois from the Ecole des Beaux Arts.  It’s hard to tell from the photo whether she is crafted of marble or plaster.

David P. McDaniel, a Wisconsin historian and history professor at Carroll College in Waukesha, had written an article in the Wisconsin Magazine of History (Autumn 2005).  He described how the manager of the Hygeia Mineral Springs Company, James E. McElroy, a Chicago entrepreneur, devised a scheme to transport the famous spring water via pipeline to the Columbian Exposition.  His proposal was not well received by the residents of Waukesha. As McDaniel wrote, “McElroy’s opponents feared that the great city would soon demand it ‘in immense quantities.’”  The battle escalated as McElroy tried to begin construction of the pipeline; the local crowds threatened violence.  Following many setbacks, McElroy ultimately shipped the water to the Exposition grounds in giant tankers.  As McDaniel explains, this transportation left the water “too warm and a bit unsavory to the taste.”  The “miracle waters” era ended around the turn of the century for numerous reasons.  You can read McDaniel’s article at http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/wmh/pdf/autumn05_mcdaniel.pdf.

In my web searching, I also came across John Schoenknecht (thbolt@milwpc.com), who also was extremely knowledgeable about the mineral springs era in Wisconsin.  I sent him a copy of the vintage photo, and he replied with an excerpt from his book, The Great Waukesha Springs Era.  Here’s his description of the springhouse:

“… the Greek temple had two entrances, one facing West Avenue and the other Wisconsin Avenue.  The drawing showed an elaborate central cupola which was not built, but the word ‘elaborate’ could certainly be used in connection with the structure.  The spring was located in the center of the building, in a circular basin.  A statue of the water goddess Hygeia looked down at the customers.  Marble was used everywhere, and wonderfully ornate staircases led down to the spring.  The ceiling was beadboard.  There was room for people to stand or sit in the upper pavilion.”

But best of all, Mr. Schoenknecht included a description from the July 2, 1914 Freeman, describing the demolition of the shelter.

Will Demolish Grecian Temple
Workmen Tearing Down Old Hygeia Pavilion At Foot of Wisconsin Avenue
Action Just Averts Collapse
Purchaser of Property Finds Human Expression of Pain on face of Broken Necked Goddess

“P. J. Buckley, superintending a crew of workmen, commenced the destruction of the old pavilion at Hygeia Spring, Wisconsin and West avenues, on Saturday. The structure erected some 20 years ago by the then Hygeia Springs Company has for the last 12 or 15 years been in a state of decay, and during the past winter started to disintegrate rapidly.

“When we removed all the timbers from the head of the statue,” said Buckley, “there was on the face an expression of anguish so plainly written that one would almost think that the inanimate block suffered human tortures when her head was slowly broken off.”

The statue will probably be smashed up and the stucco of which it was made dumped into the river. Mr. Buckley expects to have the structure well down by the end of the week. He will reclaim as salvage a large amount of ceiling and pillar lumber, moldings, and roofing timbers, besides railings, gables and a large amount of box trimming. Whether any other improvement will be placed on the property cannot be learned at the present. It is likely that the sidewalk will be placed on the north front of the property, however, within a short time.”

I hope you enjoy the photos!

An empty shelter shows Hygeia at right, the basin below her, and the beadboard on the ceiling. 

A full springhouse

Welcome to Following Lorado Taft!

Hello, fellow Lorado Taft fans! This is a brand new blog in which I share news of new Taft discoveries and restoration progress plus recent photos. If you have information or photos to add, they would be most welcomed! Please share your email address so I can put you on a blog mailing list.

So at long last my book, BEAUTIFUL DREAMER: The Completed Works and Unfulfilled Plans of Lorado Taft, is ready to distribute! You can find me this Sunday, September 9, at the Grand Detour Arts Festival. This is a beautiful fair located on the grounds of the John Deere Historic Site about an hour west of DeKalb between Dixon and Oregon, Illinois. Then I will be at the Autumn on Parade festival in Oregon, Illinois, on Saturday and Sunday, October 6 and 7. The book is available through Amazon.com. You can find a link to that site in my website, www.taftbeautifuldreamer.com.

In the meantime, I have some photos to share from a recent trip through Yonkers, N.Y. In 1891 Taft designed some or all of the figures on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument located directly east of the Philipse Manor Hall at 29 Warburton Avenue (a state historic site). There are five figures on the monument: a granite standard bearer on top, plus four bronze figures around the base named “Courage” (sailor standing on a rope coil), “Valor” (soldier wearing boots and holding a rifle), “Patriotism” (soldier leaning on his rifle), and “Endurance” (soldier holding a musket loader). In Lewis Williams’ dissertation, he says Taft did not design the flag bearer, but it closely resembles others on other monument designs that Taft created. An article prepared by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (New York, N.Y., 1912) (now held in the Cornell University Library, http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924028782187/cu31924028782187_djvu.txt), says: “The monument was planned by George H. Mitchell, of Chicago. The four bronze statues were modeled by Lorado Taft, after the designs for the first three by J. E. Kelly, of New York, and after a design for the fourth by Lieutenant Washington Irving Chambers, U. S. N. The monument cost $10,500; the granite enclosure $1,000; and the dedicatory exercises, contingent expenses, and the publication of a memorial volume, $3,500, making a total of $15,000 raised by the association. This sum was contributed by about 550 individuals and by fifty organizations and entertainments.”

I hope to hear from you soon.

–Lynn Allyn Young