Sunday, August 28, 2016

Protecting the Newcomers - West Point in New York by Seth Eastman 1808-1875

During the late 18C & through much of the 19C, army forts were constructed throughout the United States to defend the growing nation from a variety of threats, both perceived & real, both external & internal. Internal threats included those from the Native Americans who had been on the land for enons.

Seth Eastman (American artist, 1808-1875) West Point, New York

West Point, New York

Neither signed nor dated by the artist, this is the painting Seth Eastman was completing when he died in 1875. The painting is unique in the series because the fort is not seen except at its perimeter gun placement. Instead, the viewer stands just above this small proscenium and looks out at a scene of the Hudson River. The setting was familiar to 19th-century Americans from the large number of paintings and prints of it already existing. West Point was not an active fort at this time. In 1802, after its crucial Revolutionary War role in preventing a British advance down the river to New York City, West Point became a military academy under the patronage of President Thomas Jefferson.

Even before the Civil War, West Point had become a tourist destination because of its fame, its proximity to New York City, and its picturesque location. In the painting, a woman, escorted by a cadet, tours the grounds. This work, alone among the fort paintings, shows some military activity–-the cadets are learning to prepare a cannon for firing. An officer-instructor stands second from the left; two boys ram the charge home in the large cannon’s barrel. Two smaller pieces of ordnance are also shown. But it is the Hudson River, its high banks framing the water where pleasure boats cruise, that draws the eyes away from the busy foreground and into the serene distance.

From the office of the United States Senate curatorwe learn that in 1870, the House Committee on Military Affairs commissioned artist Seth Eastman 17 to paint images of important fortifications in the United States. He completed the works between 1870 & amp; 1875. 

Born in 1808 in Brunswick, Maine, Eastman found expression for his artistic skills in a military career. After graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point, where officers-in-training were taught basic drawing & amp; drafting techniques, Eastman was posted to forts in Wisconsin & amp; Minnesota before returning to West Point as assistant teacher of drawing. 

While at Fort Snelling, Eastman married Wakaninajinwin (Stands Sacred), the 15-year-old daughter of Cloud Man, Dakota chief. Eastman left in 1832 for another military assignment soon after the birth of Their baby girl, Winona, & declared His marriage ended When He left. Winona was also known as Mary Nancy Eastman & was the mother of Charles Alexander Eastman, author of Indian Boyhood.

From 1833 to 1840, Eastman taught drawing at West Point. In 1835, he married his 2nd wife & was reassigned to Fort Snelling as a military commander & remained there with Mary & their 5 children for the next 7 years. During this time Eastman began recording the everyday way of life of the Dakota & the Ojibwa people. Eastman established himself as an accomplished landscape painter. Between 1836 & amp; 1840, 17 of his oils were exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York City. 

Transferred to posts in Florida, & amp; Texas in the 1840s, Eastman became interesed in the Native Americans & made sketches of the people. This experience prepared him for the next 5 yeas in Washington, DC, where he was assigned to the commissioner of Indian Affairs & illustrated Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's important 6-volume Historical & amp; Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, & Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. 

In 1867 Eastman returned to the Capitol, this time to paint a series of scenes of Native American life for the House Committee on Indian Affairs. Of his 17 paintings of forts, 8 are located in the Senate, while the others are displayed on the House side of the Capitol. Eastman was working on the painting West Point when he died in 1875.

Parasols for Sun & Umbrellas for Rain - Fall is coming

Jozsef Rippl-Ronai (Hungarian 1861-1927) Sitting Child with Basket 1890

Louis-LĂ©opold Boilly (1761–1845) Passer Payez 1803

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Umbrellas, 1883

Paul Serusier (French painter, 1863-1927) L'averse, 1893

Marie Bashkirtseff (Maria Konstantinovna Bashkirtseva) (Russian, 1858-1884) The Umbrella, 1883

 Rainy day, Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American 1859-1924)

Louis Anquetin (French artist, 1861–1932) Woman with Umbrella, 1890

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist, 1853-1890), Bridge in the rain after Hiroshige 1887.

Federick Childe Hassam (American Impressionist painter, 1859-1935)  A Rainy Day in New York City

Tom Roberts (British-born Australian 1856-1931) Portrait of a Standing Woman

Gustave Caillebotte (French 1848-1894) Rue de Paris, temps de pluie; Intersection de la Rue de Turin et de la Rue de Moscou 1877

Frederick Childe Hassam (American Impressionist painter, 1859-1935) Rain

Dog Days of Summer - From The Jazz Age & The Weimar Era

Otto Dix (German Expressionist painter, 1891-1969) The Match Seller, 1920

Otto Dix (German Expressionist painter, 1891-1969) Hugo Erfurth with Dog, 1926

Otto Dix (German Expressionist painter, 1891-1969) Three Prostitutes in the Street (and one very small dog) 1925

Adolf Dietrich (Swiss artist, 1877–1957) A Gentleman, 1928

Otto Dix (German Expressionist painter, 1891-1969) To Beauty 1922 (Okay, okay, I know there is no dog here, but it is one of my favorite Dix paintings.)

Max Beckman (German artist, 1884-1950) A Dance Bar in Baden Baden (No dog here either.)

Otto Dix (German Expressionist painter, 1891-1969) Metropolis 1928 (Not a dog in sight.)

Dog Days of Summer is the name for the most sultry period of summer, from about July 3 to Aug. 11. Named in early times by observers in countries bordering the Mediterranean, the period was determined to extend from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the dog star) & the sun.  The Greek poets Hesiod (ca. 750-650 BCE) & Aratus (ca. 310–240 BCE) refer, in their writings, to "the heat of late summer that the Greeks believed was actually brought on by the appearance of Sirius," a star in the constellation, that the later Romans, & we today refer to as Canis Major, literally the "greater dog" constellation. Homer, in the Iliad, references the association of "Orion's dog" (Sirius) with oncoming heat, fevers, & evil, in describing the approach of Achilles toward Troy:
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.

The term "dog days" was used by the Greeks in Aristotle's Physics.  Astronomer Geminus, around 70 B.C., wrote: "It is generally believed that Sirius produces the heat of the 'dog days,' but this is an error, for the star merely marks a season of the year when the sun"s heat is the greatest." The lectionary of 1559 edition of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer indicates: "Naonae. Dog days begin" with the readings for July 7 & end August 18. But the readings for September 5 indicate: "Naonae. Dog days end."  This corresponds very closely to the lectionary of the 1611 edition of the King James Bible which indicates the Dog Days beginning on July 6 & ending on September 5.

Waterside in 18C America

American Fireboard, 1790 Comtemplation by the Shore Probably Massachusetts Artist Unknown

Madonnas attributed to Bonaventura Berlinghieri, Italian painter, active in mid-13th century

1230 Berlinghiero Berlinghieri (fl. 1228-1236) Madonna and Child

Bonaventura Berlinghieri (Italian painter, active in mid-13th century) Madonna and Child with Saints and Crucifixion 1260-70

1235 Berlinghiero Berlinghieri (fl. 1228-1236) Detail of Madonna and Child with Saints

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.