Monday, August 4, 2014

Fruits & Vegetables - Historic American Seed & Plant Catalogs from Smithsonian Institution Libraries




Biography - The tragic, dedicated life of Chinese missionary Katherine Chase Pratt 1875-1942


John Singer Sargent (American expatriate artist, 1856-1925) Katherine Chase Pratt 1890 at the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts

I have long wondered about the thoughtful young woman portrayed in these two John Singer Sargent portraits, both painted in 1890. She certainly does not seem like the typical socialite painted by Sargent. Her papers at the Yale University Divinity School Library answer many questions.

Raised as a traditional Episcopalian, Katherine Chase Pratt married Alfred Shapleigh, a graduate of Harvard Medical School; and they served in Tientsin, China under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions from 1896 to 1897.

Apparently experiencing a transformation in their religious beliefs, the Shapleighs divested themselves of many of the wedding gifts and possessions given to them by their affluent families and returned to the U.S., where Alfred attended Bible schools. They engaged in home mission work until able to return to China under the more conservative China Inland Mission board.

They returned to China as missionaries in 1904, but Alfred and their 2 children tragically died of smallpox shortly after their arrival.

Katherine Shapleigh decided to remain in China under the CIM for several assignments (1904-1908, 1915-1920, 1926-1927). She served at the training school for future mission workers run by the China Inland Mission in Yangchow and in later years worked with Russian refugees at the Foreign Women's Home in Shanghai.

After her return to the United States, Shapleigh served as Dean of Women at Wheaton College in Illinois.

John Singer Sargent (American expatriate artist, 1856-1925) Katherine Chase Pratt 1890 at the Peters Corporation, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Here is a brief chronology of her fairly tragic life:

1875 Dec 29 Born in Worcester, MA
1890 Portrait painted by John Singer Sargent
1892-3 Attended St. Agnes School, Albany, NY
1895 Met Alfred Shapleigh in Princeton, MA where their families had summer homes
1896 Jun 2 Married Alfred Shapleigh; they had three children: Samuel Brooks (1897-1905), Gordon (1899-1900), Stephen (1903-1905).
1896-7 Served in Tientsin, China under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
1897 Family returned to Worcester, MA, where Alfred took over practice of physician who was on leave
1898-9 Moved to Boston, where Alfred was assistant to his father, who was president of the Shapleigh Coffee Co., and engaged in Bible study
1900 Alfred took Bible training courses at Nyack College in New York and Moody Bible Institute in Chicago
1901 Engaged in evangelistic home missionary work in California
1901-02 Returned to Boston; worked with Salvation Army
1902-03 Home missionary work in Colorado and California
1904 Returned to China under China Inland Mission;
1905 Alfred and two surviving sons died of smallpox shortly after the family's arrival in China. Alfred and the sons had not been vaccinated against smallpox, so did not survive the disease; Katherine suffered a mild case of smallpox but recovered.
1905-08 Katherine remained in China, engaging in language study and serving at missionary training school in Yangchow
1908 KS returned to U.S. where she cared for her father and spoke in churches
1915-16 In Yangchow, followed by return to U.S.
1918-20 Working with women Russian refugees at Foreign Women's Home, Shanghai, followed by return to U.S.
1926-27 Working at Foreign Women's Home, Shanghai, China.
1934 Appointed Dean of Women at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
1935 Received B.A.
1937 Following a severe heart attack, KS retired from Wheaton position and moved to North Carolina
1942 Died in NC

Click here for the Katherine Shapleigh Papers, Record Group No. 176, Special Collections, Yale Divinity School Library.


Van Gogh's olive groves & Christ in the Garden of Olives 1889


In May 1889, a troubled van Gogh voluntarily entered the asylum of St. Paul near Saint-Rémy in Provence. There he painted the wheat fields, olive groves, & cypress trees in the surrounding countryside.  The olive groves reminded him of the tragedy & triumph of the love of Christ.


Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background

Van Gogh wrote that he painted "in the groves, morning and evening during these clear, cold days, but in beautiful, bright sunshine."  He told his brother, Theo that he was drawn to paintings of Christ in the Garden of Olives, but found none adequate. "What I have done is a rather hard and coarse reality beside their abstractions, but it will have a rustic quality and will smell of the earth." He believed that "one can express anguish without making reference to the actual Gethsemane, and... there is no need to portray figures from the Sermon on the Mount in order to express a gentle and comforting feeling." He also commented: "I shall not paint a Christ in the Garden of Olives, but shall paint the olive harvest as one might see it today, and by giving the human figure its proper place in it, one might perhaps be reminded of it."


Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Couple Walking among Olive Trees in a Mountainous Landscape with Crescent Moon

Van Gogh wrote of the olive groves.  "The effect of daylight and the sky means there are endless subjects to be found in olive trees. For myself I look for the contrasting effects in the foliage, which changes with the tones of the sky. At times, when the tree bares its pale blossoms and big blue flies, emerald fruit beetles and cicadas in great numbers fly about, everything is immersed in pure blue. Then, as the bronzer foliage takes on more mature tones, the sky is radiant and streaked with green and orange, and then again, further into autumn, the leaves take on violet tones something of the color of a ripe fig, and this violet effect manifests itself most fully with the contrast of the large, whitening sun within its pale halo of light lemon. Sometimes, too, after a shower I've seen the whole sky pink and orange, which gave an exquisite value and coloring to the silvery gray-greens. And among all this were women, also pink, who were gathering the fruit."


Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Grove Pale Blue Sky

He wrote to his brother Theo that he was "struggling to catch (the olive trees). They are old silver, sometimes with more blue in them, sometimes greenish, bronzed, fading white above a soil which is yellow, pink, violet tinted orange... very difficult." He found that the "rustle of the olive grove has something very secret in it, and immensely old. It is too beautiful for us to dare to paint it or to be able to imagine it.


Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Grove



Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Grove Bright Blue Sky



Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Grove Bright Blue Sky



Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Grove Orange Sky



Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Grove



Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Trees Against the Slope of a Hill



Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Trees with Yellow Light and Sun



Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) The Alpilles with Olive Trees in the Foreground



Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890) Olive Trees