FEATURE IMAGE: Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (July 2015).
Chicago’s “Picasso” in today’s downtown Daley Plaza was officially unveiled on Tuesday, August 15, 1967 at 12 noon.
Weeks before the public event excitement (and some dread) swirled among Chicagoans and others as to what Pablo Picasso’s monumental outdoor sculpture would be like.
In the photograph on the wall, Mayor Daley and others pull the cord on August 15, 1967 unveiling Chicago’s iconic Picasso.
The famous Basque artist was first approached by Chicago leaders in May 1963. This encounter led more than four years later to the Cor-Ten steel sculpture’s installation and unveiling on a beautiful Tuesday summer’s afternoon in the Chicago Civic Center Plaza. Many in the crowd of thousands who had gathered to witness the historic event gasped and jeered at the modernist art work when the fabric cover was taken off. Local newspaperman Mike Royko wrote in The Daily News that the art work looked like a “giant insect.” Photo Credit: “Picasso in Chicago” by Emily Barney is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (October 2011).
Chicago’s first major public outdoor sculpture started a long term national trend to display massive outdoor contemporary art for the public
The now-iconic Picasso unveiled in 1967 is credited with being the first public outdoor sculpture installed in Chicago that put Chicago on the map as one of America’s first major cities to display massive outdoor contemporary art for the public.
In 1958 there was an untitled art work by Richard Lippold (1915-2002) constructed in the lobby of the Inland Steel Building (1954-58) by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in downtown Chicago. It is four blocks from City Hall and the new Civic Center Plaza that the same architectural firm was helping to design and build in the early 1960’s.
Untitled (known today as The Radiant One), Richard Lippold, commissioned in 1957, Inland Steel Building, Chicago. Author’s photo (December 2017).
This was followed in 1964 by a large modernist work unveiled at the University of Chicago Law School entitled, Construction in Space and in the Third and Fourth Dimensions. It was made in 1959 by Russian Constructionist Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962).
The reputation and fame of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) in 1967 helped catapult the idea and cultural practice of the installation of modern art, often monumental, in high-profile public spaces across the country, and starting in large measure, in Chicago.
In the following years and decades installation of public art that had broadened beyond the commemorative extended to established artists, many with international reputations, as well as more recent and sometimes emerging artists. In 2021, one online list of public art on campus at the University of Chicago demonstrates its extensive practice that was largely ushered in with Chicago’s Picasso (Ira J. Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray, A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture, University of Chicago Press, 1983, p. xiii; https://arts.uchicago.edu/public-art-campus/public-art-campus#Antoine_Pevsner – retrieved June 9, 2021).
Since before the mid-20th century, public art in America has been often characterized by Modernism (i.e., MoMA’s modernist sculpture garden dated from the 1940’s). Modernism began as a cultural rebellion against prevailing classical-romantic art work. Until around Rodin’s Balzac in 1898, art work in the classical and romantic style filled parks and plazas throughout the 19th century and afterwards that memorialized people, places, and events. Modernists identified the classical-romantic style as old, trite, exhausted, and artistically bankrupt in rapidly changing times. Instead, Modernism offered artistic forms and creative responses that met and expressed an increasingly global and machine age – and not by grand depictions and tired motifs of old Romans standing (or lying) on privileged porticos in togas (i.e., Thomas Couture (1815-1879) Romans during the Decadence, 1847, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay).
Thomas Couture (1815-1879), Romans during the Decadence, 1847, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay. Starting no later than 1900, contemporary society was increasingly artistically influenced by Modernism. Characterized by the rejection of centuries-old literary and historical subjects and forms, it turned to abstraction and imaginative artistic responses as more fitting expression for a rapidly changing modern society.
Pablo Picasso had dominated the modern art scene for most of the 20th century, starting and particularly as the innovator of Cubism with French painter Georges Braque (1882-1963). Picasso was one of several artists who, as Harper’s Bazaar observed about the magazine’s engagement with modern artists, “broke new ground, challenged established thinking, and signaled seismic shifts in the culture” (Harper’s Bazaar, March 2021, p. 236).
Pablo Picasso, Three Women, 1908, oil on canvas, 200x 178 cm, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Picasso, Student with a pipe, Paris, 1913, Oil, gouache, cut-and-pasted paper, gesso, sand, and charcoal on canvas, 28 ¾ x 23 1/8 inches, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza from the side looking to the southeast. Author’s photo (July 2015).
On a representational level, a woman’s facial profile (eye, nose, lips, chin) followed by two “wings” of flowing hair, and rounded shoulders are in plain sight. Yet other interpretations for the sculpture are also reasonably feasible. For example, from the back, are the top symmetrical curves of the wings reflective of the curves of a woman’s buttocks with legs constituting the rest? Are the cut-out shapes like a head and neck in this context possibly a phallus? Picasso famously did many pieces of art that were highly sexualized. In 1932 Pablo Picasso produced an entire series of what would become iconic paintings of Marie-Thérèse Walter, his young, blonde-haired mistress, in the most lascivious and sensual positions imaginable. Picasso’s Minotaur and Wounded Horse is one example of it produced in Boisgeloup (outside Paris) on April 17, 1935 and today in the permanent collection of The Art Institute of Chicago. (See – https://johnpwalshblog.com/2013/05/15/picasso-and-chicago-the-show-may-be-over-but-its-best-parts-stay-on-display-its-called-the-art-institute-of-chicagos-permanent-collection/).
Picasso narrowed the central plane of the head toward the top, and indicated its slight tilt backward. Using Student with Pipe as a guide, what is usually interpreted as flowing hair past a woman’s head and body, these immense curved symmetrical “wings” in Chicago’s Picasso may be conceived as the shadow or shadows of a head and body. If the rods are not representative of something specific – i.e., guitar strings – but, as Picasso alluded in the LOOK interview of November 1967, an aesthetical connection, then this interpretation of a figural foreground and shadowed background that makes for a sculptural whole is also feasible.
The Chicago sculpture’s circular eyes and long flat nose are typical of Picasso heads of the 1913-1914 period which were translations of the features of African, specifically Wobé, masks. Picasso used their economy and schema to transform them into his personal and whimsical art work. (William Rubin, Picasso in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, New York, 1972, pp. 88-89).
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza, Author’s photo. (December 2017).
Mask (Kifwebe), Songye, late 19th or early 20th century. Wood, pigment, 12 x 7 1/8 x 6 1/8 in. (30.5 x 18.1 x 15.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum. The object is a female mask with projecting mouth, triangular nose, pierced eyes, overall concentric linear carving, and polychrome pigment.
The mask type that was shared by other African societies is characterized by angular and thrusting forms, and the entire face is covered in unique patterns of geometric grooves. Female masks, such as this one, are distinguished by the predominant use of white clay and, in a feature shared by Chicago’s Picasso, the rounded form of the head crest. (See – https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/169088– retrieved June 9, 2021).
Picasso was 72 years old and Jacqueline Roque was 26 years old when they met in 1953. Picasso’s first wife, Olga Khokhlova, died in 1955. Picasso romanced Jacqueline until she agreed to date him and they married in 1961. During their courtship and marriage of 20 years, Picasso created over 400 portraits of Jacqueline, more than any of his other muses.
Picasso’s widow, Jacqueline Roque Picasso (1927-1986), gave her portrait to the president of Iceland and the bust was consigned in 1988 to the National Gallery of Iceland. A more realistic figure, Picasso’s slightly earlier art work evokes features and forms found in the abstracted sculpture for Chicago done a little later, such as the wing-shaped curves of the flowing hair that comes to a point at the bottom. https://www.listasafn.is/english/exhibitions/nr/476
Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline with a Yellow Ribbon, 1962, sheet metal, cut-out, bent, and painted, 19 5/8 inches, National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavik.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Completed no later than 5 years after Jacqueline with a Yellow Ribbon in 1962 the dramatic shapes and formulations of the monumental sculpture share recognizable affinities. Author’s photo (July 2015).
Perfect Summer’s Day for Unveiling Ceremony
August 15, 1967 was a perfect summer’s day with temperatures in the low 80s and no rain to worry about in the forecast. The Woods Theater across the Plaza on Dearborn was playing Jack Nicholson’s new film, Hells Angels On Wheels. Before the unveiling, Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) spoke before the crowd. The mayor told the crowd that he was “very happy” that they had “come to share” in the dedication of what was “a great gift to our city” by Picasso. That Mayor Daley and Pablo Picasso, both Roman Catholics, unveiled Picasso’s gift on August 15 would be coincidental to the significant Catholic religious holiday of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary that also falls on the date.
A lunch-time crowd packed the new Civic Center Plaza on the day of the unveiling. The new plaza fronted a new modernist courthouse skyscraper and a modern outdoor sculpture – Chicago’s Picasso – as the major components of architectural plans virtually from its start.
In 1963, the Public Building Commission of Chicago decided to build a new modernist 31-story civic center fronted by a public plaza. The new complex would complement and contrast with the 10-story City Hall across Clark Street that opened in 1911. The new courthouse and plaza development was part of Mayor Daley’s overall downtown development that by 1963 was in high gear and would remain so past his unexpected death 5 days before Christmas in 1976 at 74 years old.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the architectural firm associated with the project, wanted the art work to be by Pablo Picasso. When the project’s coordinator, architect William E. Hartmann (1916-2003), told Mayor Daley of these plans, the mayor quickly supported the choice. The challenge now was to convince Picasso.
Chicago Civic Center, 1963. (see- https://www.artic.edu/artworks/107284/chicago-civic-center-perspective-view-of-plaza– retrieved June 9, 2021).
The Chicago Civic Center’s supervising architects was C.F. Murphy led by the Aurora, Illinois-born architect Jacques Brownson (1924-2012). Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Loebl, Schlossman, Bennett & Dart were associated architects. Al Francik was this drawing’s delineator.
The Chicago Civic Center was the first of several important new public buildings constructed in Chicago from the late 1950s to the 1980s as part of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s development of municipal government. The glass-and-steel modernist building held over 100 courtrooms, office space and a large law library. It boasted wide spans between weight bearing columns and 18-foot-tall floor to floor heights. Though the plan included a sculpture in the public plaza, Picasso’s sculpture came later after he was persuaded by William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to make an art work. Chicago’s Picasso continues to draw Chicagoans and visitors from all over the world to the plaza.
On August 15, 1967, Mayor Daley continued his remarks to the assembled crowd: “Today, with its unveiling, it becomes a permanent part of the Chicago scene. As mayor, I dedicate this gift, in the name of the people of Chicago, confident that it will have an abiding and happy place in the city’s heart.”
The Deed of Gift, dated August 21, 1966, was signed by Picasso with one of its witnesses being, Jacqueline, his wife and written in both English and French. The entirety of the Deed of Gift in English reads: “The Monumental sculpture portrayed by the maquette pictured above has been expressly created by me, Pablo Picasso, for installation on the plaza of the Civic Center in the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, United States of America. This sculpture was undertaken by me for the Public Building Commission of Chicago at the request of William E. Hartmann, acting on behalf of the Chicago Civic Center Architects. I hereby give this work and the right to reproduce it to the Public Building Commission, and I give the maquette to The Art Institute of Chicago. Desiring that these gifts shall, through them, belong to the people of Chicago” (Balton-Stratton, The Chicago Picasso, p. 33).
Picasso donated his sculpture to the people of Chicago in 1967. Skateboarder on Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (July 2015).
Children’s slide on Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (May 2021).
Picasso’s “gift” cost $300,000 to fabricate–or around $2 million today
Picasso donated his sculpture to the people of Chicago in 1967. The artist’s gift constituted the 42-inch maquette and the rights and privileges surrounding it. The monumental sculpture based on Picasso’s “gift” of the maquette cost $300,000 to fabricate–or around $2 million today – and paid for by private monies (Bach, p. 76).
The Picasso sculpture could not be completely a matter of artist largesse (though he did not accept a fee). Gertrude Stein in Picasso, her memoir of the artist written in 1938, writes of the young and then-impoverished Picasso who gave a prominent collector one of his desirable art works when he might have paid for it. Picasso told Stein about the collector: “He doesn’t understand that at that time the difference between a sale and gift was negligible” (Stein, Picasso, p. 8). Fast forward about fifty years and something similar might have applied for Picasso in 1967 in terms of acknowledging the people (and collectors) of Chicago.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (May 2021) .
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (July 2015) .
Not everyone who gathered at Daley Plaza in August 1967 during the “Summer of Love” and then-escalating Vietnam War was there to welcome Picasso’s sculpture. Though Chicago had a long and venerable history with Picasso’s art – The Art Institute of Chicago began collecting it in 1923 and the first Picasso exhibition was at The Arts Club of Chicago that same year—protesters held signs at the unveiling, some of which read: “Let’s give it back now!!!,” “The Colossal Boo Boo,” and “It’s a Monsterment.” To what degree connoisseurship influenced protesters in August 1967 would appear to lie in the outright rejection of Modernism though more nuanced criticism could include crass commercialization of Picasso’s art work.
From its unveiling in August 1967 until today, Chicagoans have been mystified by their publicly owned “Picasso.” Picasso’s untitled artwork has had its boosters and detractors. Over the years, it appears public opinion has mellowed about the 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten (self-weathering) steel sculpture, even turning mostly in favor of the enigmatic art work.
In more than 50 years of debate, Chicagoans have come to accept that they probably will never know exactly what it is that Picasso gave “to the people of Chicago.”
Though mysterious – is it a butterfly or bird? or, as Sir Roland Penrose (1900-1984) interpreted it, the abstracted head of a woman with ample flowing hair – many seek it out or find it as they cross the plaza. It adds grace, beauty, personality, proportionality and perspective to the urban space between Dearborn and Clark Streets at Washington Street.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza looking to the northeast. Author’s photo (May 2021).
The sculpture’s rods have been compared to the strings of a guitar (Bach, pp.75-76). Always in the public domain, it is a popular icon for Chicago.
The Picasso bestows international and modernist value to the “City of the (19th) Century” which in 1911 – the year City Hall was erected – poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) called “hog butcher for the world” in his poem, Chicago. Though Sandburg wrote these literary images in and of another era, the famous poet was just 3 years older than Picasso and died in July 1967, only weeks before the official unveiling of the Picasso that ushed in a new age for the city.
In May 1963, Picasso was a vigorous 81 years old and living in Mougins, France. By way of literary and artistic contacts in Chicago and Europe, William Hartmann was helped on his mission to visit Picasso as the young American architect headed to the south of France to await the outcome of his request to meet the aging Basque artist.
Picasso was 81 years old and living in the south of France when Chicago architect William Hartmann tracked the artist down to ask him to consider creating a sculpture on a monumental scale for Chicago’s new modernist Civic Center development project. Photo credit: “PABLO PICASSO” by marsupilami92 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
William Hartmann, 47 years old in 1963, was born in New Jersey and started his architectural career in Boston after attending MIT. He joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York City following World War II and was working in its Chicago office since 1947. Hartmann, elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1963, is credited for personally enticing Picasso to design a sculpture for Daley Center Plaza in Chicago. In 1968, the year after the installation of the Picasso sculpture in Chicago, Hartmann was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lake Forest College. (For Hartmann biographical information and interviews, see the Ryerson & Burnham art and architecture archive – https://digital-libraries.artic.edu/digital/collection/caohp/id/26834/rec/1– retrieved June 9, 2021).
At their meeting Hartmann looked to familiarize the artist with the downtown Chicago project: he brought photographs of Chicago, the building site, and its people. Hartmann included photographs of the many Picasso works owned by Chicagoans and its institutions to show him this city’s longstanding regard and love for him.
Picasso told Hartmann he would think about it.
Hartmann continued to visit over the next months and years bringing various Americana and Chicago-related items as gifts, such as major sports team paraphernalia. Hartmann also updated the artist on the modernist Civic Center construction project.
Picasso produced a draft.
Before starting his maquette, Picasso asked Chicago leaders to keep the art project “relatively confidential” and out of the public eye
Hartmann told him, “We want to commission you so that I end up with a study I can take back.” Maintaining his flexibility, Picasso told Hartmann, “I may not produce anything—or produce something that you don’t like. It’s best that we keep this low-key from start to finish, calm, and relatively confidential.”
Thus, out of “relative confidentiality” was born much of the mystery and intriguing quality of the “Picasso” at its unveiling in Chicago in August 1967.
Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture,1964. The Art Institute of Chicago. Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Monument, 1965. Welded steel (simulated and oxidized) 41 ¼ x 27 ½ x 19 inches, The Art Institute of Chicago. The artist; given to The Art Institute of Chicago, 1966. See – https://www.artic.edu/artworks/25809/maquette-for-richard-j-daley-center-sculpture — June 6, 2021.
In 1963 Mayor Daley looked to persuade Picasso to do a monument. In 1965, Picasso looked to persuade Mayor Daley to accept his foremost Cubist original work that would be seen and interpreted each day by thousands in the heart of Chicago’s downtown government, business and shopping district.
Chicago’s collection of public art was initiated on August 15, 1967, when Mayor Richard J. Daley dedicated an untitled sculpture commonly known as “The Picasso” in Chicago’s new Civic Center (now the Richard J. Daley Center). Four years earlier, architect William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill had approached Pablo Picasso with the commission. The artist accepted and crafted two steel maquettes: one he kept in his studio at Mougins and gave the other to the architect to use in planning the potential fabrication of the sculpture. With the Picasso sculpture’s unveiling in 1967, its presence inspired private and public investment in many more art works throughout the cityscape, including Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (“The Bean”) completed in 2006 at Millennium Park.
Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), Anish Kapoor, 2006, Millennium Park, Chicago. Chicago’s Picasso in 1967 inspired private and public investment in art works throughout the cityscape well into the future. Author’s photo (May 2021).
When Picasso produced a 42-inch maquette of the sculpture, the board of the Public Building Commission of Chicago was given a private viewing of it. Afterwards, they passed a resolution authorizing the payment of $100,000 to Picasso (about $850,000 today) with the sum to include the purchase price for the right, title and interest in and to the maquette as well as copyright and copyright renewals. When Hartmann offered the $100,000 check to Picasso, he asked the artist to sign the “Formal Acknowledgment and Receipt.”
Picasso refused to accept the money or to sign the document.
Rather it was Picasso’s wish that a “Deed of Gift” be prepared and which Picasso signed on August 21, 1966. (see- https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letter_Edged_in_Black_Press,_Inc._v._Public_Building_Commission_of_Chicago – retrieved June 4, 2021).
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza from the back looking to the south. As in every cubist art work, a visit to the sculpture provides multiple viewpoints. Author’s photo (July 2016).
Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture, 1967, White chalk on plywood, 100 x 81 cm, Signed recto, upper right, in magenta pastel: “Picasso” (underlined); The artist; given to The Art Institute of Chicago, 1967. – https://www.artic.edu/artworks/28019/richard-j-daley-center-sculpture– retrieved June 9, 2021.
In the chalk drawing (above) the importance of the sculpture’s forms, both empty of steel and fabricated thereof, carry greater significance to the outcome of the piece. In the drawing Picasso does not include the rods of which much representational conjecture has been made (i.e., guitar strings) as the artist himself admits adds value for structural stability of the modernist monument.
Based on Picasso’s design and the 42-inch maquette he made, the monumental statue was built by U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana. Anatol Rychalski was the engineer in charge of the design and construction.
Rods of the Chicago Picasso in Daley Plaza, Author’s photo (July 2015).
“My job was to make an exact but giant likeness of Picasso’s 42-inch original. Being a follower of Picasso’s works, I knew that no snap judgement of this one would suffice. But those of us who built it accepted the challenge of its interpretation with as much enthusiasm as the challenge of its construction” (Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1967). Rychalski, a Polish immigrant to the U.S. in 1950 and, in 1967, senior designer in the American Bridge Division of U.S. Steel corporation, observed, “We had to roll steel to sizes which never have been rolled which means that the whole technology had to be to some extent improvised at the time.” Nearly 50 years later, in 2016, the 91-year-old Rychalski, said about the sculpture, “It defines the city as ‘spirit in flight.’ You look at the wings and the profile of an overwhelmingly powerful lady…the value of it is enormous.” (quoted in https://www.shawlocal.com/2016/07/28/shorewood-man-expresses-the-profound-through-his-acrylic-paintings/askc2p1/-retrieved June 9, 2021.)
Pablo Picasso and William E. Hartmann with the maquette in the artist’s Mougins studio in August 1966. This image appeared in the 1967 program pamphlet. Picasso made two maquettes – one he kept in his studio and the other he gave to The Art Institute of Chicago for the behalf of the people of Chicago.
Daley pulled the cord on the multi-color fabric that hid Picasso’s gift to the people of Chicago. Chicago poet Gweldolyn Brooks (1917-2000) read remarks and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played music.
Collective gasp from the crowd followed by jeers at unveiling
With the veil removed, the crowd let out a collective gasp and began to shout negative comments about the art work. In its first public appearance, the crowd of potential Picasso admirers turned into a Picasso peanut gallery – an unintended, unwanted but not wholly unforeseen consequence by city authorities. Bemused criticisms of the Picasso were also part of what became – in the mayor’s words at the sculpture’s unveiling – “a permanent part of the Chicago scene.”
The Chicago Picasso at the dedication ceremony before the unveiling on August 15, 1967. Photo credit: case 69C353: The Letter Edged in Black Press, Inc. vs. Public Building Commission of Chicago in records of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, RG 21.
Controversial reaction better than “no reaction at all”
For William Hartmann and others responsible for bringing the Picasso to Chicago the local crowd’s visceral and negative reaction to the monumental public art work in the downtown location was better than no reaction at all.
“Picasso’s work, frequently, if not always has been the center of controversy,” Hartmann philosophically observed, “So it all fit into that pattern beautifully.”
A few days after the unveiling, Mayor Daley offers his thoughts at a press conference about the Picasso
A couple of days after the unveiling ceremony, Mayor Daley at a press conference offered what he thought about the Picasso sculpture. Though it was “wonderful,” Daley admitted like the rest of Chicago that he did not know what the sculpture really represents.
One idea the mayor floated was that it was a woman as some believed and that it was very appropriate that she stood in front of the courthouse.
“We’ve always looked at justice as a woman and it is outside a hall of justice,“ the 65-year-old Big-City Irish Democratic mayor said. He speculated further: “But it could also be a Phoenix. It would symbolize the rise of Chicago as a city of vitality out of the ashes caused by [the Great Chicago Fire]” (Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1967).
Considering the many conversations that were held over four years with city planners and the Basque artist through William Hartmann about Chicago’s Picasso it is fair to say that the mayor – the city’s biggest booster – would state his interpretation on the art work based on what he believed he saw after talking to the experts.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza, made from a 42-inch maquette in Mougins, France into a 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten steel sculpture in Gary, Indiana, is an engineering marvel. Author’s photo (July 2015).
From 42-inch maquette in Mougins, France, to 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten steel sculpture in Gary, Indiana
In those same days, Anatol Rychalski (b. 1925) was open-minded about the Picasso’s precise artistic representation. “It doesn’t really matter how you personally interpret the sculpture,“ he told the Chicago Tribune on August 20, 1967, “as long as you not ridicule for the sake of ridicule.” He then shared his interpretation: “To me it represents the winged spirit of justice, with the serenity and compassion of a woman. It is a benevolent but stern and powerful justice.”
LOOK magazine interviews Pablo and Jacqueline Picasso and they talk about Chicago’s Picasso
In November 1967, LOOK magazine interviewed Picasso and Jacqueline and the Chicago sculpture came up. They were both amused by the baffled reaction of Chicagoans to the art work. Jacqueline offered that it was obviously “a woman’s head” and shoulders but “no more.” Picasso observed that the “cage” of steel rods was more an aesthetic than a representation. In the LOOK interview Picasso observed: “I am touched that the [Chicago] public could mysteriously share my joy over the results of many years work in sculpture. In a way, my sculptures are more my children than my paintings. I am caught up in shaping my vision of the world. In sculpture, I cut through appearances to the marrow, and rebuild the essentials from there. I cannot invent a detail that has not been carefully planned and my wish is that the public, through thinking and meditation, may retrace my intentions” (LOOK, November 28, 1967). The Basque artist’s challenge to the viewer to discover an objective answer to his artistic intentions makes the sculpture’s meaning more intriguing.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. In a November 1967 LOOK magazine interview, Picasso and Jacqueline expressed amusement at Chicagoans’ reaction to the art work. Jacqueline said it was obviously “a woman’s head” and shoulders but “no more.” Author’s photo (July 2015).
“Eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean…”
Probing the artist’s intentions was met soon with succinct anecdotal insight from Chicago’s newspaperman, Mike Royko (1932-1997). Royko wrote creatively and personally about the significance of the art work for Chicago in 1967. The columnist’s cynical eye on the possible relationship of the modernist steel art work and the city he loved was published in the afternoon newspaper, the Chicago Daily News:
“That is all there is to it. Some soaring lines, yes. Interesting design, I’m sure. But the fact is, it has a long stupid face and looks like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. It has eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean.
But why not? Everybody said it had the spirit of Chicago. And from thousands of miles away, accidentally or on purpose, Picasso captured it.
Up there in that ugly face is the spirit of Al Capone, the Summerdale scandal cops, the settlers who took the Indians but good.
ITS EYES ARE LIKE the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible.
It has the look of the dope pusher and of the syndicate technician as he looks for just the right wire to splice the bomb to.
Any bigtime real estate operator will be able to look into the face of the Picasso and see the spirit that makes the city’s rebuilding possible and profitable.
It has the look of the big corporate executive who comes face to face with the reality of how much water pollution his company is responsible for – and then thinks of the profit and loss and of his salary.
IT IS ALL THERE in that Picasso thing – the I will spirit. The I will get you before you will get me spirit.
Picasso has never been here, they say. You’d think he’s been riding the L all his life.”
Soft Version of Maquette for a Monument Donated to the City of Chicago by Pablo Picasso, Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929), 1969. Canvas and rope, painted with synthetic polymer, dimensions variable (38 x 28¾ x 21 inches, full height), Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
What could be seen as an early parody of the Picasso sculpture by Claes Oldenburg is, in fact, the artist’s homage to the art work as well as conversation with it on aesthetics.
In Oldenburg’s version Picasso’s steel becomes soft cloth; straight rods become limp ropes. More malleable than the original, Oldenburg dubbed his work “Super-Cubism” in that where a Cubist work offers the viewer multiple viewpoints, Oldenburg’s piece offers viewpoints that are unlimited (Picasso and American Art, Michael FitzGerald, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2006, p. 259).
Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso, 1905–6, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Met writes about this work: “[Picasso] reduces her body to simple masses—a foreshadowing of his adoption of Cubism—and portrays her face like a mask with heavy lidded eyes, reflecting his recent encounter with Iberian sculpture.” see- https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488221 – retrieved June 4, 2021.
Reaching farther back in Picasso’s career at the start of the 20th century, American writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) knew Picasso in Paris and later wrote about him. Stein observed that Picasso was “the only one in painting who saw the twentieth century with his eyes and saw its reality and consequently his struggle was terrifying …for himself and for the others, because he had nothing to help him…he had to do it all alone and, as in spite of much strength he is often very weak…” (Stein, Picasso, p. 22).
In 1906 when Picasso was 25 years old, he painted Gertrude Stein’s portrait. According to Stein, she posed for him in Paris “eighty times” but, finally, he “painted out the head” and, following a break in Spain, painted in a new head without seeing her again beforehand (see G. Stein, Picasso, 1938, p. 8). Though Stein was “satisfied” with the portrait and remained so over 30 years later, Picasso was criticized in 1906 for the depiction. The artist responded with a remark now considered famous and certainly, as Stein and the world discovered, prescient: “Everybody says that she does not look like it but that does not make any difference, she will.” (See G. Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas).
The bold creative vision of the Cubist artist is very much in evidence in Picasso’s gift to the people of Chicago that stands in Daley Plaza. It may be that Picasso’s intentions for the iconic untitled sculpture may only be known in future days. For, at first, they said it did not look like Chicago, but it didn’t make any difference – because it will.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza from the back looking to the southwest. Author’s photo (October 2015).
Bach, Ira J. and Mary Lackritz Gray, A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture, University of Chicago Press, 1983.
FitzGerald, Michael, Picasso and American Art, Exh. Cat. Whitney Museum of American Art/Yale University press, New York, 2006.
Rubin, William, Picasso in the Collection of the Modern of Modern Art, , MoMA, New York, 1972.
Stein, Gertrude, Picasso, B.T. Batsford, Ltd. London, 1938.
Stein, Gertrude, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Illustrated (PENGUIN PRESS). 2020.
Stratton, Patricia Balton, The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure, Amp&RSAND, INC. Chicago New Orleans, 2017.
Harper’s Bazaar, March 2021.
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letter_Edged_in_Black_Press,_Inc._v._Public_Building_Commission_of_Chicago – retrieved June 4, 2021.
https://interactive.wttw.com/playlist/2017/08/02/colossal-booboo-incredible-story-chicago-picasso – retrieved June 1, 2021
Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1967.
Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1967.
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488221 – retrieved June 4, 2021.
LOOK, November 28, 1967.
FURTHER READING (see – https://www.artic.edu/artworks/25809/maquette-for-richard-j-daley-center-sculpture – retrieved June 5, 2021):
“The Chicago Picasso,” Progressive Architecture (November 1966), p. 66 (ill.).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Annual Report (1966–1967), pp. 26–27 (ill.).
Chicago Picasso Dedication program (August 15, 1967) (ill.).
Lael Wertenbaker, The World of Picasso (New York: Time-Life Books, 1967), p. 153 (ill.).
“A Picasso Statue for Chicago,” The Burlington Magazine 109:766 (January 1967), pp. 34–36, figs. 68 and 70.
Burton Wasserman, “Picasso: The Touch of Magic,” Art Education 21:4 (April 1968), p. 29 (ill.).
Clarence Page, “Giant Iron Sculpture: Picasso Leaves His Mark on the City,” Chicago Tribune (April 9, 1973), section 1, p. 6.
Roberto Otero, Forever Picasso: An Intimate Look at his Last Years (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974), pp. 46, 50, 52–55 (ill.).
Roberto Otero, “It’s more charming this way: How the master made us a gift,” Chicago Guide, vol. 23, no. 10 (October 1974), pp. 86–87.
Marilyn McCully, A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1981), pp. 266–267 (ill.).
Sally Fairweather, Picasso’s Concrete Sculptures (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1982), p. 85.
The Picasso Project, Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings, and Sculpture: A Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue 1885–1973, The Sixties II 1964–1967 (San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 2002), p. 133, no. 64–373 (ill.).
Gary Tinterow, Master Drawings by Picasso, exh. cat. (Cambridge, Mass., 1981), p. 255, no. 27.
Stephanie d’Alessandro, “Picasso and Chicago,” (Art Institute of Chicago, 2013), p.26, cat 245 (ill.)
Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile, 20 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, Illinois, Jean-Paul Viguier.
The hotel opened in May 2002 with 415 rooms and its dramatic French architecture made an immediate impression not only on the city’s denizens and visitors but much of the world. Jean-Paul Viguier (born 1946) is a leading modern Paris-based French architect. In 2003 his Sofitel Chicago Water Tower (renamed the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile) was chosen by the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects as the “best new building in Chicago in the last ten years.”
The prism-shaped, 350,000-square-foot structure was chosen by nearly 350 established Chicago-based architects as one of the city’s most outstanding achievements in architecture. The glass triangular tower ascends and thrusts over the intersection of Chestnut and Wabash Streets. Narrowing as it rises, the shape could evoke a ship’s prow—or a geometer’s trapazoid. Its expansive facades allow generous exposures of natural light as it faces east to capture sunrise over the incredible natural backdrop of Lake Michigan and southwest towards the timeless Midwestern prairie. Adding to the building’s drama and welcome grace is its exterior of horizontal cladding of visible and opaque glass in synergy with the verticality of the building’s wedge and curve. Inside, the lobby continues this building’s dramatic modernity presenting a steely structural space that is airy, sleek, and soaring.
Mr. Viguier was selected to design Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile during a design competition in 1998 judged by Accor hotels leadership and others. Mr. Viguier is a member of the INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY OF ARCHITECTURE (IAA) and was president of AFEX (French Architects Overseas) from 1999 to 2002.
Mr. Viguier’s other internationally recognized projects include the France Televisions headquarters in Paris as well as the Cœur Défense in 2001 and the Tour Majunja in 2014 both in La Défense, France. The French architect built a two story expansion at the McNay Museum of Modern Art in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Viguier is also architect for the Maroc Telecom Tower in Rabat, Morocco in 2013, and, in 2015, the SFR Campus in Saint-Denis, France. Another highly regarded project is, in 2013, the Cancer University Institute in Toulouse, France.
The Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile is also listed at no. 82 in a public poll of 150 buildings of “America’s Favorite Architecture.” The poll was conducted by The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Harris Interactive and in conjunction with the AIA’s 150th anniversary in 2007.
In 2005, Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile received the MIPIM AWARD at their international meeting of property market sector leaders gathering in Cannes, France.
The photograph was taken on June 14, 2014 at State and Chestnut Streets.
SOURCES: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4019734.html – retrieved May 24, 2021; AIA Guide To Chicago, 2nd edition, edited by Alice Sinkevitch, 2004, p. 130; https://legacy.npr.org/documents/2007/feb/buildings/150buildings.pdf – retrieved May 24, 2021; https://www.floordaily.net/floorfocus/aia-poll-of-americas-favorite-buildings-released – retrieved May 24, 2021; https://iaa-ngo.com/portfolio-posts/jean-paul-viguier/ – retrieved May 24, 2021; https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/chicago-architecture-boom – retrieved May 24, 2021; https://www.viguier.com/en – retrieved May 24, 2021; https://archello.com/project/campus-sfr-sfr-headquarters – retrieved May 24, 2021; https://archello.com/project/cancer-university-institute – retrieved May 24, 2021; https://www.viguier.com/en/projets/mcnay-museum-san-antonio-texas – retrieved May 24, 2021; https://www.viguier.com/en/projets/tour-maroc-telecom-rabat – retrieved May 24, 2021.
Helmut Jahn was famous in Chicago and around the world for his prolific postmodern architecture particularly his work in steel and glass.
Born in Germany near Nuremberg, in 1940, Jahn graduated from Technische Hochschule in Munich and moved to Chicago in 1966. Jahn arrived in Chicago just as “downtown development” during the administration of Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) was finding its greatest momentum. Jahn began to study under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and, in 1967, joined Charles (C.F.) Murphy Associates which later became Murphy/Jahn. The younger man would carry on the powerful influence and energy of these Chicago personalities for building big, creatively, and prolifically for the next fifty years into the first quarter of the 21st century. Jahn would add his own significant contribution and footprint in Chicago and around the nation and world in those same long years of his activity.
One of Jahn’s early projects in his first years in Chicago was McCormick Place. The original concrete and steel permanent exposition hall on the lakefront that opened in 1960 was destroyed in a fire in January 1967, just as Jahn was starting to work as a professional architect. Named for Col. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune, the newspaper owner and publisher had boosted the idea of a permanent exposition hall on Chicago’s lakefront for years prior to his death in 1955.
Jahn had come to Chicago at an exciting time to be building there — during Jahn’s first years in Chicago the John Hancock Building was completed in 1969 and the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the world for the next 24 years, was completed in 1974. In 1971, C.F. Murphy completed the new and massive McCormick Place, a powerful steel and glass structure with enormous cantilever eaves, on the same lakefront site as the old exposition hall. Out of that single successful building project, Helmut Jahn and the rest of the world saw the significant development in Chicago that would blossom around this important and functional modern architecture over ensuing decades — including the North building constructed across Lake Shore Drive in 1986; the South building built in 1996; a hotel built in 1998; the massive West building built in 2007; and, in 2017, the Wintrust Arena.
In the mid 1980’s one of Jahn’s most significant creations was the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. Aesthetically grandiose and controversial, the “State of Illinois Building” was put up for sale in 2021 by the administration of Governor J.B. Pritzker, citing its historically high operating and maintenance costs.
Mixed reviews for Helmut Jahn’s massive semi-circular Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph completed in 1985. The criticism begins at its entrance where Jahn saw placed “Outsider” French artist Jean Dubuffet’s fiberglass Monument with Standing Beast. During the building’s planning and construction some of the architect’s dazzling concepts met with resistance from contractors. For example, the contractors prevailed against Jahn’s idea for a completely locked-down outer skin by way of using silicone glazing. In the final construction the appearance of red, white, and blue locked-down skin belies the several places throughout the design where windows are made to be opened. Inside, though its soaring 17-story atrium is airy and impressive exposing floors that hold various state bureaucracy—and signaling the state government’s day-to-day practicality towards transparency — the practicality of the new building’s heating and cooling design proved seriously problematic during Chicago’s famous summer heat and winter cold though that major issue appeared to be eventually resolved. In 2021 Jahn’s mega-structure has been put up for sale by Gov. J.B. Pritzker citing that the building costs hundreds of millions of dollars to operate and maintain. The photograph was taken by the author on May 25, 2014.
In Chicago Jahn designed the exposed steel frame United Airlines Terminal 1 at O’Hare International Airport between 1985 and 1988. Air travelers for decades have enjoyably traversed its entertaining walkway connecting concourses that include moving sidewalks, colorful lighting and futuristic sounds.
One South Wacker Drive, 1982, Helmut Jahn. To the left is UBS Tower (1 N. Wacker) built in 2001 and to the right is Hyatt Center ( 71 S. Wacker) built in 2005. At 42 years old, Jahn spoke of his building at 1 S. Wacker as a synthesis of two major Chicago architectural styles—that of Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) and, Jahn’s mentor and fellow German, Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969). The building is a concrete stepped-back 50-story building with a curtain wall of dark glass defining the vertical bands of windows. Its vision remains fresh and stunning as it sits majestically between two postmodern buildings built in Chicago a generation later. The photograph was taken by the author on May 25, 2014.
Jahn designed the 23-story addition to the Chicago Board of Trade in 1980 and Accenture Tower at 500 W. Madison in the West Loop which opened in 1987. Across the nation and world Helmut Jahn’s fresh, grand, and innovative designs have made their way into the annals of postmodern architecture. Any complete list of Helmut Jahn’s active and completed projects extends necessarily into the many scores. A list of notable buildings could include the 1999 K St. NW, a 12-story structure, in Washington D.C. completed in 2009; the twin 37-story Veers Towers in Las Vegas, Nevada opened in 2010; and, in his native Germany, the 63-story Messeturm in Frankfurt opened in 1990 and the Sony Center, a complex of eight buildings, in Potsdamer Platz in Berlin completed in 2000. The hard-driving list goes on…and on.
Jeanne and John Rowe Village at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), 2003, Helmut Jahn. Originally called the State Street Village Dormitories, Jahn’s postmodern structure that anchors the campus to the east, consists of three five-story buildings. Jahn’s design was the first major architectural addition to the IIT campus since the early 1960’s. U.S. News & World Report called it one of the “coolest dorms in the nation.” Stretching one city block along busy State Street from 33rd to 34th Streets, Rowe Village is next to the El tracks whose Green Line zips back and forth to Chicago’s Loop. Each dorm building consists of two wings that flank an interior courtyard. The building is finished at the rear on 34th street by an insulated five-story glass wall. Entry is through the courtyard which leads into a corridor that connects the two wings. It is built of reinforced concrete with the front elevations and roof dressed in custom corrugated stainless steel panels and tinted glass framed in aluminum. The building’s sleek curvature, three compartments and chained block-long length, reflects and evokes the image of a streamlined train making for a building as Art Moderne object in the Miesian tradition. From its rooftop the Rowe Village looks north for views of Chicago’s downtown skyline while the dorm offers suite-style living in a modern setting surrounded by the mind, serious and playful, of Helmut Jahn. The photograph was taken by the author on August 21, 2015.
At the time of his death at 81 years old on May 8, 2021 in a bike road accident in the far western suburbs of Chicago, Helmut Jahn was working on a 74-story residential building in Chicago at 1000 S. Michigan. It was scheduled to be opened in 2022 but its construction was already delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic that postponed construction. Helmut Jahn taught at IIT, the University of Illinois-Chicago, Harvard University, and Yale University. In 2012 Murphy/Jahn became JAHN and, according to a recent report from Dun & Bradstreet, the firm had a total of 55 employees and generated a little over $6 million in annual sales.
https://web.iit.edu/housing/jeanne-john-rowe-village – retrieved May 9, 2021.
AIA Guide To Chicago, 2nd edition, edited by Alice Sinkevitch, 2004, pp.73 and 91.
Illinois Institute of Technology: the campus guide: an architectural tour, Franz Schulze, 2005, pp.83-4.
Chicago’s Lakefront McCormick Place, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4Vs5VZprFE – retrieved May 9, 2021.
https://www.jahn-us.com/ – retrieved May 10, 2021.
http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/UA_Terminal-O_Hare.html– retrieved May 10, 2021.
https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/lighting/1999-k-st-nw_o – retrieved May 10, 2021.
The Mentor Building, 39 S. State Street (6 E. Monroe Street), 1906, Howard Van Doren Shaw (1869-1926) from the southwest.
A Mentor building has stood on this northeast corner of State and Monroe since 1873 when there had been a 7-story building erected here.1
Howard Van Doren Shaw’s only skyscraper presents an unusual mixture of styles.
There are windows grouped in horizontal bands between a four-level base of large showroom windows. The top is classically inspired with details that are strong and idiosyncratic. The building retains the character of its classical sources though they are used as large-scale motifs.2
Shaw’s 1906 building is 17 stories high with two basements on rock caissons.3
The photograph was taken on July 5, 2015.
1 Frank A. Randall, History of Development of Building Construction in Chicago, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by John D. Randall, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1999, p, 196.
2 Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 59.
3 Randall, p.265.
The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812, Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Major facts of the life of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) are well known. Known as Napoleon I, the French Emperor who died two centuries ago was a shrewd, ambitious and skilled military leader who conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century.
Born on the island of Corsica that had recently handed authority from Italy to France, Napoleon rose rapidly in the French military during the unsettled period of the French Revolution after 1789 and until 30-year-old Napoleon seized power in a coup d’état in 1799.
In 1804 Napoleon crowned himself emperor in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in the presence of the pope. In the next decade Napoleon successfully waged war against various coalitions of European nations and expanded his empire. Following his disastrous French invasion of Russia in 1812 explored in some detail in this post, Napoleon abdicated his throne in 1814 and was exiled to the island of Elba not far from his native Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea near Italy.
In 1815, he escaped Elba and returned to France where he briefly returned to power in his Hundred Days campaign. He received a crushing defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in today’s Belgium and was exiled until his death on May 5, 1821 to the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon Bonaparte was just 51 years old at the time of his death stemming from mysterious circumstances, though likely something such as stomach cancer.1
Napoleon on St. Helena, Franz Josef Sandmann (1805-1856), c. 1820. Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau.
The bicentenary of the death of Napoleon I is commemorated in 2021. The former French emperor died on May 5, 1821 on the island of Saint Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean nearly halfway between the continents of Africa and South America. Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled there in 1815 following his defeat at Waterloo. The British government selected it for the former French emperor’s place of exile after he escaped from Elba, the initial location of his forced exile. Napoleon lived on St. Helena for about 6 years; a hunk of rocky mass reachable only by sea. He died there at Longwood House, his permanent residence that was completed for him in December 1815. Today there is an airport on St. Helena built in 2011. Napoleon was 51 years old at his death and was buried on St. Helena. In 1840 his remains were transferred, not without controversy, to France. Napoleon’s tomb is in Les Invalides, the military hospital in Paris whose construction was begun by Louis XIV (1638-1715).
Napoleon’s plaster death mask, known as the Malmaison mask, May 1821.
The death mask was made on Saint Helena about two days after the former French Emperor’s death there on May 5, 1821 at his permanent residence of Longwood House. (see – http://www.lautresaintehelene.com/autre-sainte-helene-articles-malmaison2.html – retrieved May 5, 2021).
Longwood House on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic.
In 1858, French emperor Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I, purchased the house and various other lands associated with Napoleon I on the island in the name of the French government. Though Napoleon’s remains had been returned to France in 1840 – they rest today in Paris at Les Invalides – Napoleon III’s purchase remains the property of France and is administered by a French representative under the authority of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: “Longwood House (c) St Helena Tourism” by sthelenatourism is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
(see – https://fondationnapoleon.org/en/activities-and-services/preserving-heritage/operation-st-helena/ – retrieved May 5, 2021).
DISASTROUS INVASION OF RUSSIA BY NAPOLEON IN 1812
Three years earlier, during the War of 1812, world domination by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was done within a sagging, uncooperative economy in Europe. France had 300,000 French troops and a rafter of French generals occupying Spain to keep the blockaded British from invading. Napoleon, in a near constant state of war since 1793, had created an Empire whose subjected parts didn’t fully cooperate. With competing objectives—had he finally overextended his capacities?—Napoleon had to choose between potentially losing his blockade in Spain or in Russia.
Since the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 following the Battle of Friedland where Napoleon defeated the Russian army, Russia had still been trading with England. It was this violation of the treaty that was the pretext for Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Though fifteen hundred miles away, Russia’s autonomy from the French dictator—along with a temptation to dominate some of Russia’s vast territory for future ventures—beckoned Napoleon to shut it down and take firm control. For Russia, Napoleon’s invasion required the defense of their homeland.
FRESH CONSCRIPTS FOR A NEW WAR-AND THE NEED TO SUPPLY A MILITARY HOST OF 700,000 SOLDIERS
To animate Napoleon’s newest military campaign, he needed more fresh conscripts—but nearly a third of Napoleon’s French draftees failed to appear. Many of Napoleon’s generals advised the dictator to stay home, in Paris, and enjoy his spoils. An ambitious and autocratic Napoleon refused. He explained that rest was not possible if he was to fulfill the dream to form a United States of Europe.2
Overcoming the lay-abouts, Napoleon assembled a military host of nearly 700,000 men and faced the exponentially monumental task to supply it. For years Napoleon stockpiled materials along the route to Russia. He also arranged for supplies to be delivered once into Russia. But Napoleon’s vision of universal dominion had been stretched to the breaking point—and the French Emperor, if not those who served him, realized the risk.
Napoleon left St. Cloud for Moscow in June 1812 for a high stakes gamble which involved not only the rise and fall of one man but the many inhabitants of the Empire.
Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891), Campaign of France, 1814, 1864. Oil on wood, 51.5 x 76.5 cm, Paris, Musée d’Orsay.
Ernest Meissonier’s Campaign of France, 1814, was his first painting produced in a cycle of Napoleon’s conquests. Though the episode Meissonier depicts was painted for the fiftieth anniversary of Napoleon’s invasion of France from Elba in 1814, it captures the overall desolation that surrounded the former French Emperor by the time of his invasion of Russia in 1812.
The series made by the 49-year-old artist, an admirer of Seventeenth-century Flemish and Dutch small-format painting, captures the desolate landscape the Grande Armée endured and their solitary, unusually unkempt, and virtually tenuous figure of Napoleon leading the General Staff and troops in an over-extended military campaign that spelled defeat.
For the painting, the artist’s imagination was informed by historical documentation including interviews of surviving eyewitnesses, including the detail of, in 1814, the Emperor’s grey coat. The realist style was a prevailing aspect of mid-19th century artistic taste in the Second Empire headed by Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon I, from 1852 to 1870.
(see –https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/painting/commentaire_id/campaign-of-france-1814-8947.html?tx_commentaire_pi1%5BpidLi%5D=509&tx_commentaire_pi1%5Bfrom%5D=841&cHash=41368ad16b#:~:text=Campagne%20de%20France%2C%201814%20%5BCampaign,demonstrates%20his%20nimble%2C%20polished%20style. – retrieved May 5, 2021.
From Paris to Vilna in Lithuania was a 1200-miles march. Yet the object of Napoleon’s campaign, the Russian army, had retreated. It was another 550-mile march towards Moscow. French troops found themselves unexpectedly suffering from distant or nonexistent supply lines. The reluctant new conscripts and battle-hardened veterans were sick and exhausted.
In the battle of Smolensk, the French invaders—viewed by some to be battling for strongman Napoleon’s united liberal Europe over petty church and small state autocrats—set the town on fire. Yet Napoleon’s criminal reputation preceded him: he murdered without mercy and often donned the smock of treachery. Not only royalists criticized him but articulate liberals like Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and Chateaubriand (1768-1848) who saw in the emperor an enemy of liberty. Chateaubriand wrote: “Les Français vont indistinctement au pouvoir, ils n’aiment pas la liberté, l’égalité est leur idole. Or l’égalité et le despotisme ont des liaisons secrètes” (“The French go to power indiscriminately, they don’t like liberty, equality is their idol. But equality and despotism have secret links.”) Reactionary French historian and journalist Jacques Bainville (1879-1936) assessed Napoleon’s legacy in this way: “Sauf pour la gloire, sauf pour l’art, il eut mieux valu qu’il n’eut pas existé.” (“Except for the glory, except for the art, it would have been better if he did not exist.”)
With casualties for one battle climbing to around 15,000 for both sides, the Czar appointed Mikhail Kutuzov (1745-1813) as commander of all Russian forces to coordinate efforts.
Portrait of Mikhail Kutuzov, 1829, George Dawe (1781–1829). Oil on canvas, State Hermitage Museum, Winter Palace War Gallery, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Napoleon called Kutuzov, “The sly old fox of the north“ (cited in Roger Parkinson, The Fox of the North, 1976).
At 67 years old, Kutuzov was lazy and lecherous, but knew how to fight—and, regarding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, how to retreat strategically. The grand designs of modern internationalism and unification were ancient and medieval dreams that had proved difficult to implement in geo-political reality and usually led to its own forms of disaster and oppression. In a contest of geopolitical ideas, holing up in eternal Mother Russia provided its military advantages over an invading force set upon international commonwealth by way of military domination. In an address to his troops before the Battle of Borodino in the War of 1812 General Kutuzov observed: “Napoleon is a torrent which as yet we are unable to stem. Moscow will be the sponge that will suck him dry.”3
BATTLE OF BORODINO, SEPTEMBER 7, 1812, WAS A CONTEST OF 242,000 COMBATANTS AND MORE THAN 1000 BIG GUNS
Napoleon was aware of the trap. The years-long planning for an invasion supply chain was no match for the conditions on the ground. The failures of the supply chain left the army and its dictator high and dry. Napoleon ordered the troops to keep marching, telling his generals: “Motion alone keeps this army together.”4
The march from Smolensk to Moscow took 3 weeks. Many soldiers of the Grande Armée died on the march east. Kutuzov was preparing for battle. The Russian general set up a defensive position in Borodino, about 70 miles west of Moscow. On Sept. 7, 1812, French forces engaged the Russians. Both sides were well matched: the French possessed 587 guns and 130,000 troops and the Russians deployed 640 guns and 112,000 troops with the vast expanse of Mother Russia at their back.
Battle of Moscow (or Borodino), the Capture of the Great Redoubt. Engraving by unknown artist, 1820’s. State Borodino Military Historical Museum, Russia.
Battle of Moscow (or Battle of Borodino) in 1812. Attack of the Lithuanian Life Guards Regiment, oil on canvas, 1912, Nikolay Semyonovich Samokish (1860-1944). State Borodino Military Historical Museum, Russia.
General Uvarov at Borodino, Auguste-Joseph Desarnod (1788-1840), State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
In the War of 1812 Fedor Petrovich Uvarov (1769 -1824) commanded the 1st Cavalry Corps and then the Cavalry of the 1st and 2nd Russian Armies. With the Cossacks of Matvei Platov (1753-1818), Uvarov distinguished himself in the Battle of Borodino when he turned the left flank of the French army and made a raid to its rear. The Russian attack of the main French forces delayed Napoleon’s battle plans for two crucial hours.
Napoleon near Borodino, Vasily Vereshchagin (1842–1904), 1897, oil on canvas, State Historical Museum, Moscow.
The image of a sullen dictator seated on his field chair with boots raised onto a battle drum, as his General Staff views in their spyglasses the men of the Grande Armée in harm’s way at the Battle of Borodino, can be seen as indicative of Napoleon’s exercise of arbitrary power as the first of modern history’s tyrants.
Hanging over the battlefield was the feeling that the destiny of Europe—whether united under Napoleon or giving space to a later attempt at a balance of powers– depended on these warriors. The battle’s outcome was a draw. The French remained master of the field but the Russians retreated to fight another day. It was one more day of immense military slaughter—the combined French and Russians losses was 80,000 soldiers—a full third of the total.
Battle of Borodino, 7th September 1812, 1822, Louis-Francois Lejeune (1775-1848).
In the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Lejeune was made général de brigade and chief of staff to Davout (1770-1823). During the retreat, Lejeune was frostbitten on the face and left his post where he was subsequently arrested on Napoleon’s orders.
During his military service, Lejeune produced a series of important battle-pictures based on his experiences. They were generally executed from sketches and studies made on the battlefield. Known for their lofty perspective which, according to Chase Maenius in The Art of War[s], “offer[ed] a panoramic view of the totality of the battle’s events,” the Battle of Borodino… of 1822 is considered his masterwork.
When Lejeune’s battle-pictures were shown in London, they were met by eager crowds who viewed them for their realistic and detailed depictions of significant contemporary events.
In his Memoirs of Baron Lejeune, aide-de-camp to marshals Berthier, Davout, and Oudinot (translation, 1897), Lejeune related one of the many wretched scenes that the Napoleonic Wars produced. He wrote: “As we were pushing on the next day, we came upon two poor creatures at a turn in the road whose condition tore our hearts. They were a handsome well-built man of about forty and a woman of about thirty, also with a fine figure, both stark naked. They approached us and said to us in very good French, ‘Our home has been sacked by Cossacks, who stripped us of everything and left us as you see us. For pity’s sake help us.’ We could do nothing for them but give them a little food, and we felt very wretched as we turned away. The next day at a bivouac some distance off a fresh irresistible demand was made upon our pity, and our stock of provisions was so much reduced that I don’t know what we should have done but that some German peasants brought us a few sheep, with which we replenished our larder.” (p. 158, https://archive.org/details/memoirsbaronlej01maurgoog/page/n170/mode/2up
—retrieved May 5, 2021.)
The bodies of dead soldiers of Napoleon’s Grand Armée left on the bridge over the River Kolocha after the Battle of Borodino, 1812. Christian Wilhelm von Faber du Faur (1780-1857), published 1830’s.
Gen. Kutuzov at the conference of Fili deciding to surrender Moscow to Napoleon, Aleksey Kivshenko (1851–1895), 1880, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Following the Battle of Borodino on September 7, 1812, the Russian army retreated towards Moscow and camped near Fili. A military council led by General Kutuzov assembled in a hut in Fili where, despite objections from younger generals, Kutuzov insisted on his plan to abandon Moscow.
The action not only saved the remains of the Russian army but worked to stymie and ultimately defeat Napoleon’s invasion drive. The personalities in the painting include Prince Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly (1761-1818), who was replaced by Kutuzov on order of the Czar and sits in the corner below the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus icon. Fyodor Uvarov sits near Barclay holding a paper. Nikolay Raevsky (1771-1829) sits by the window with his fingers locked together. Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov (1777-1861) stands on the far right. The much younger Yermolov resented old general Kutuzov’s plan and demanded to fight the enemy.
When Napoleon and no more 100,000 French troops reached Moscow on September 8, 1812, there were no Russian troops to fight inside the city. Instead, Napoleon found only Russia’s poor, displaced, and underprivileged. Some sex workers stayed there to ply their trade in exchange for limited food. Moscow was Russia’s largest city, its capital, its Holy City—and French troops of liberation took to looting it. As the military forces of western Enlightenment watched Moscow burn for four days, the event in the war was a watershed for the Russian resolve to not surrender.
Napoleon wrote a letter of apology and condolence to the Czar for the wanton destruction in Moscow. The Czar, Alexander I Pavlovich, the Blessed (1777-1825), did not answer. He was concerned with Kutuzov’s army. Russia’s Czar, the commanding general, the troops and people were of one mind: to fight the Western invader to the last Russian man, woman, and child. Moscow’s demise was the turning point for the autocratic world that viewed Napoleon as an atheist and butcher at the head of an international army of mercenary thugs and savages. Only the wealthy in Russia were willing to negotiate with Napoleon mainly from fear that he might try to free their serfs. In this clash of civilizations, Napoleon surmised, “I beat the Russians every time—but that does not get me anywhere.”5 Old general Kutuzov’s inaction attained his objective to defend Russia whereas his 43-year-old French counterpart’s active efforts to rally his men far from home on behalf of his Empire failed.
Posthumous Portrait of Czar Alexander I of Russia, 1826, George Dawe, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Napoleon’s interest now turned back to Paris. Having heard of an impending coup d’état led by Gen. Claude François de Malet (1754-1812), Napoleon had to raise more fresh troops to crush rebellions in Paris. There were rebellions to crush taking place in other lands of the Empire as they squirmed under his dictatorial rule and were emboldened by his latest inglorious defeat.
By late 1812, the weather in Russia turned to ice and snow. Whereas the Russians retreated prior to defeat, the French retreated in defeat. Reports of cannibalism among the retreating combatants is recorded. On Napoleon’s retreat, the French army lost another half of their men. Napoleon’s supply lines had long been sacked and looted by his anti-Empire enemies.
Famous tell-all graph by French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard (1781-1870) showing the size of Napoleon’s Grande Armée as it marched towards Moscow (top gray line, left to right) in summer of 1812 and its retreat (bottom black line, from right to left) in the late fall of 1812. Frozen temperatures during the humiliating retreat are plotted on the bottom graph.
On the retreat, surviving warriors fought among themselves over any existing supplies. Napoleon’s retreat included the humiliation of being chased out of Russia by Kutuzov’s redeployed 80,000 troops. The old man’s hot pursuit did not allow Napoleon, the once young Enlightenment military figure, to rest.
Under military surgeon Baron Dominique Jean Larrey (1766-1842), the Grand Army’s medical and sanitary measures were the finest in the world but the retreat route offered no food and no medical care. As a remedy for possible future ills, including his capture, Napoleon convinced his doctor to give him a vial of poison which the dictator could ingest if conditions deteriorated to become inescapably dire.
Portrait of Dominique-Jean Larrey, oil on canvas, 1804, Marie-Guillemine Benoist (1768-1826), Musée des Augustins, Toulouse, France.
Baron Dominique Jean Larrey was a French surgeon and military doctor who distinguished himself during the near endless wars of the French Revolution and under Napoleon. Baron Larrey served as the Grand Army’s medical and sanitation leader and was an important innovator in triage who is considered the first modern military doctor and surgeon.
Napoleon: Retreat, 1812. /Ncrossing The Beresina River In Russia During The Retreat Of The Grand Army Under Napoleon Bonaparte, December 1812; Baggage Carts And Ambulances Have Been Abandoned In The Foreground. Watercolor, c. 1812, attributed to General François Louis Fournier-Sarlovèze (1773-1827).
During the Russian Campaign, Fournier commanded a brigade of light cavalry composed of French, German, and Central European horsemen, and led a noted cavalry charge at the Battle of Smolensk.
Generals Kutuzov and Wittgenstein attacked the retreating remnants of Napoleon’s army at a critical bridge crossing in modern-day Belarus. Hundreds of Frenchmen drowned. To stop the attack, Napoleon ordered the bridges destroyed. He stranded hundreds more of his company to the enemy’s gunfire.
Napoleon now told his aide-de-camp, Armand-Augustin-Louis de Caulaincourt, what the Russian campaign taught him: “I can hold my grip on Europe only from the Tuileries.” In Warsaw, when Napoleon met Abbé de Pradt, his ambassador there, he told the French clergyman: “From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.”6
Napoleon had led almost 700,000 men into Russia with the intent of conquering the country. By the end of 1812, only about 30,000 had survived. Out of that number, less than 1,000 soldiers returned to active duty after their return to France. 7
NAPOLEON DEFEATED IN PENINSULAR WAR IN SPAIN
Simultaneous with the debacle of Napoleon’s blood-thirsty Russian invasion, French forces lost the long fight in Spain and Portugal (since 1808) to keep the British off the Continent.
Significant losses in the east and west of the Empire were followed in 1813 by the Battle of Leipzig, Napoleon’s penultimate defeat by an international coalition that included Austria, Prussia, Russia and Sweden.
FORCED ABDICATION, EXILE, WATERLOO, AND DEATH
After Napoleon withdrew into France, in March 1814 these allied forces captured Paris. By early April 1814 Napoleon was forced to abdicate as Emperor. Napoleon had to go for his pursuit of glory had become a menace to his country and the world.
With the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon was exiled to Elba, and, following his brief escape into France in 1814, he was defeated for the final time at the Battle of Waterloo and exiled to St. Helena which held him until his death at 51 years old on May 5, 1821.
Napoleon Crossing the Alps, Jacques-Louis David, 1801, oil on canvas, 102 1⁄3 × 87 in., Château du Malmaison.
–retrieved May 5, 2021.
2. The Age of Napoleon, Will and Ariel Durant, Simon & Schuster: 1975, p. 698.
3. A Dictionary of Military Quotations, edited by Trevor Royle, Routledge: 1989, Section 105, quote 13.
5. The New York Times, “The Napoleon Legend—A New Look; How can we know the man whose transformation into a myth began long before his death?; Napoleonic Legend,” April 5, 1964. https://www.nytimes.com/1964/04/05/archives/the-napoleon-legenda-new-look-how-can-we-know-the-man-whose.html#:~:text=When%20he%20failed%2C%20he%20never,in%20defense%20of%20their%20country.–retrieved May 5, 2021.
6. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 13th edition, p. 199.
— retrieved May 5, 2021.
Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893), Chicago, Illinois, 2017.
Known as the “Chicago Light,” the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an active automated lighthouse dating from 1893.
About one-half mile beyond Navy Pier, the lighthouse stands at the north of the main entrance of the Chicago Harbor in Lake Michigan. The lighthouse has had a significant role in the development of Chicago and the American Midwest and remains an active aid to nautical navigation today.
For more than a century, the U.S. Coast Guard has staffed this lighthouse at the breakwater outside the Chicago Harbor Lock. The lock separates Lake Michigan from the mouth of the Chicago River.
The lock was built in the mid-1930’s and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lock is one of the entrances into the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
The “Chicago Light” is at that waterway system’s headwaters as it stands in the outer harbor constructed in 1880. The Chicago Light’s conical tower dates from 1893. Twenty-five years later, in 1918, the tower was reconstructed and the base building which contains a fog-signal room and boathouse was added. The architects are not identified.
Through its breakwaters, the main entrance into Chicago Harbor is 580 feet wide. The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse was designated a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. It is the only surviving lighthouse in Chicago and one of two remaining examples in the state of Illinois.
Mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
About one mile ahead, the Chicago Harbor Lock, built in the 1930’s, provides the entrance/exit of the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
Chicago Light–by John P. Walsh.
The Chicago River: an illustrated history and guide to the river and its waterways, David M. Solzman, Wild Onion Books, Chicago, 1998, pp.126-128.
Chicago Landmarks Map [brochure], City of Chicago, 2006.
https://web.archive.org/web/20070410173708/http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/C/ChicagoHarborLighthouse.html – retrieved December 2, 2017.
Hiroshige is best known for his horizontal-format landscape series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō and his vertical format landscape series One Hundred Views of Edo.
His subjects are an expansion of the ukiyo-e genre, adding to its usual focus on beautiful women, popular actors, and scenes of urban pleasure districts during Japan’s Edo dynasty (1603–1868).
In 1603, the city of Edo (the earlier name for today’s Tokyo) became the urban center of the ruling Tokugawa shōgunate.
One Hundred Views of Edo is a series of ukiyo-e prints by the Japanese artist Hiroshige (1797–1858) that were published in serialized form between 1856 and 1859. Following Hiroshige’s death, the series was completed by his apprentice and posthumous son-in-law, Hiroshige II (1826-1869).
Memorial Portrait of Hiroshige, 1858, Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865), Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797 –1858), The Chiyogaike Pond at Meguro (Meguro Chiyogaike), July 1856.
Meguro was a quiet outskirts of forest and fields at Edo. Megudo was named after Fudo-Myoo, an awesome guardian diety established during the reign of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616).
Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shōgunate of Japan. His great adviser was Tenkai (1536-1643), a Tendai Buddhist monk. The Tokugawa shōguns ruled Japan from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) opened the Edo Shōgunate in 1603 and moved from a period in Japanese history of warring states to a stable society. Detail from artwork by Kanō Tan’yū (1602-1674).
Shōguns sometimes practiced falconry at this spot depicted in Hiroshige’s print. Each spring peasants gathered its bamboo shoots to sell. The old waterfall, which existed until the 1930’s, spilled into the O-Chiyo pond.
Hiroshige, in his depiction of springtime, included the shadows of trees in the pond which was an artistic device from European painting which the old artist mastered though rarely used.
Portrait of Tenkai (detail), colors on silk, 17th century.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797 –1858), In the Precincts of the Tenjin Shrine at Kameido (Kameido Tenjin keidai), July 1856.
The foreground of the color print depicts flowering wisteria (fuji)—a symbol of summer.
The shrine was dedicated in the 17th century. It is associated with Sugawara no Michizane, known as Kan Shōjō or Kanke (845-903), an excellent poet and politician in the Heian period (794-1185). He is the patron of scholars and students—and was deified as a thunder-god known as Tenman Tenjin.
Actor Nakamura Nakazō in the Role of Kan Shōjō (detail), late 18th century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Katsukawa Shunshō (1726-1792). In a popular Kabuki play, poet, scholar, and statesman Kan Shōjō is deified as Tenjin, the thunder god, so that his spirit may take proper vengeance for Kan Shōjō’s death in exile.
The shrine itself was built under Shōgun Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641-1680). It started as a small prayer house to protect against the kingdom of demons to the north-east.
Shōgun Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641-1680). Fourth shōgun of the Tokugawa shōgunate. Tokugawa Ietsuna was the eldest son of the third shōgun Iemitsu and great-grandson of the first shōgun Ieyasu. A detail from a drawing attributable to Kanō Yasunobu (1614-1685).
In time, the shrine developed into a picturesque garden with a pond that was kokoro (heart or soul)-shaped. The pond had a pair of high-arched “drum” bridges (taikobashi). One of the bridges, made of wood, is impressively depicted in the Hiroshige print above.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797 –1858), Scarlet Maple Trees at Mama by the Tekona-no yashiro shrine and the Tsugihashi Bridge, 1857.
This was a relatively level country of groves and ponds. The large maple depicted in the print and whose leaves fall in front of the viewer’s eyes was one of this area’s major attractions. The trunk was so big around that two people with their arms stretched out could not embrace the tree’s entire trunk.
Japan’s most beautiful autumn foliage– and a tragic love story.
The tree grew on the grounds of the ancient and revered Guhoji monastery. One of this place’s admired features was that it offered some of the finest autumnal foliage in Japan.
Hiroshige does not depict the monastery but the Tekona-no yashiro Shinto shrine.
The shrine is associated with Japan’s most ancient poetry of the Eighth Century.
Tekona was a beautiful village girl from Mama. She was courted by many wealthy and high ranking suitors who began to fight over her. Tekona was so upset by their fighting that she drowned herself in a nearby river to end the discord.
Her story passed on into the ancient poetry which led to building the shrine in her honor in the sixteenth century.
Woman Applying Make-up (detail), 1918, Goyō Hashiguchi (1880-1921). Tekona was a beautiful village girl who drowned herself after becoming upset by the disgraceful actions of her suitors.
The same poetry also mentions the “Linking Bridge” (Tsugihashi), a small bridge painted red which is depicted in Hiroshige’s mid-19th century print.
Mount Tsukuba, one of Japan’s most famous mountains, is depicted on the horizon. These mountains would be known to be covered by an abundance of trees and other flora as well as filled by animals. It is mentioned in the same ancient poetry as Tekona’s tale.
Alice Terry, 1922, in a photograph by Melbourne Spurr (1888-1964).
Melbourne Spurr arrived in Hollywood around 1917 at 28 years old. Spurr first worked at the studio of photographer Fred Hartsook (1876-1930) where he shot portraits of silent film stars.
GLAMOUR PHOTOGRAPHER MELBOURNE SPURR’S CAREER LAUNCHED BY SILENT SCREEN STAR MARY PICKFORD
After Spurr photographed Mary Pickford at the Hartsook studio, Pickford personally helped Spurr launch his career as a Hollywood portrait photographer. Regarding Mary Pickford, Spurr once said, “[she] always comes back to me, so I guess she thinks I’m not a bad photographer.”
By 1916 Mary Pickford (1892-1979) was a big star and had full authority over the films in which she appeared. She was earning a record-breaking $10,000 a week which was a staggering amount of money in the midteens (about $240,000 a week today).
MELBOURNE SPURR BECAME ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR CELEBRITY PHOTOGRAPHERS IN THE WORLD
Pickford’s special personal interest in Spurr’s career was matched or exceeded by the popularity of his photographs her distributed to the public. The film indutrsy and public’s insatiable interest in Spurr’s portraits following his published Mary Pickford shots made Spurr overnight one of the most popular celebrity portrait photographer in Hollywood. By the mid1920’s Melbourne Spurr was one of the most popular celebrity photographers in the world.
Spurr’s sitters through the roaring 20’s included, among many others, Mary Astor, Marion Davies, Pola Negri, Theda Bara, Norma and Constance Talmadge, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, John Barrymore, Lucille Ricksen—and, of course, Alice Terry.
PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPH OF ALICE TERRY, FILM ACTRESS AND DIRECTOR
Spurr’s portrait photograph of Alice Terry presents a very close-cropped close-up with piercing, radiant eyes, perfect lips, and rich toning.
Alice Terry (1900-1987) began her career as a film actress and director in the silent film era.
Between 1916 and 1933 Terry appeared in 39 films. She started in Not My Sister in 1916. That same year, Terry made the anti-war film, Civilization. In 1921 she starred as Marguerite Laurier, her most acclaimed role, in prominent Irish director Rex Ingram’s film, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Alice Terry and Rex Ingram married that same year.
In 1925, Rex Ingram (1892-1952), was a director on Ben-Hur, an extravaganza production that started in 1923 and became one of the biggest box-office hits of the decade. Working on this film in Italy gave Alice Terry and Rex Ingram the idea to relocate to Nice on the French Riviera and set up their own film studio. In the next years the expatriate actress-director and director made several films for M-G-M on-location in southern Europe and North Africa. Alice Terry made her final film in 1933 in an appearance in Baroud, a film she and Rex Ingram co-directed.
SPURR’S POPULARITY DECLINES AS STUDIO SYSTEM MANDATES IN-HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHERS
With studio consolidation and competition becoming more intense, major movie studios mandated that their stars be photographed only by studio photographers. So was inaugurated the age of motion picture inhouse operators heralding the legendary careers of glamour portrait photographers George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Eugene Robert Richee and others. Since Spurr chose to keep his own studio and not work for a major studio, he began to lose business. It had been for one glorious decade—the 1920’s— that Melbourne Spurr shined in Hollywood.
22-year-old Ethel Barrymore on stage at the Garrick Theatre on West 35th Street in New York City in Clyde Fitch’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines in 1901. Dramatist Clyde Fitch (1865-1909) wrote over 60 plays in his career that ranged from comedies and farces to melodramas. Fitch was the most popular writer for the Broadway stage in his time and specialized in writing important dramatic parts for women. Fitch’s new play was a romantic comedy set in the States years after the Civil War. Ethel Barrymore played Madame Trentoni, the female lead and the play’s love interest. The 1901 Broadway production made Barrymore a star. The public domain photograph is in the archive of the Museum of the City of New York.
By John P. Walsh
Stage and screen actress Ethel Barrymore (1879-1959) was the sister to older brother Lionel (1878-1954) and younger brother John (1882-1942) Barrymore. Though Ethel Barrymore was absolutely devoted to the stage from her youth, she began to appear in major silent films starting in 1914. Much later, in the 1940’s, the veteran stage actress was nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She won the golden statuette in 1944 for her role as Ma Mott in the film None but the Lonely Heart starring Cary Grant who used a Cockney accent for his part.
By the time Barrymore appeared in her first feature motion picture, The Nightingale, in 1914, she was a celebrated stage actress on both sides of the Atlantic. Coming from the famous American acting family of Drews and Barrymores, the just 16-year-old Ethel Barrymore made her Broadway stage debut in 1895 alongside her uncle, John Drew, Jr. (1853-1927).
Ethel Barrymore at 17 years old in 1896. In 1895, a 16-year-old Barrymore made her Broadway stage debut alongside her uncle, Jack Drew, Jr., a famous and well-liked actor.
John Drew, Jr. in 1896. A versatile actor, Drew was so highly esteemed by his fellow actors that they elected him the lifetime president of New York City’s Players’ Club. The private social club for actors founded in the 1840’s at 16 Gramercy Park remains active today.
Before she was 20 years old, Ethel appeared several times on the London stage. Her first role was that of Miss Kittridge in William Gillette’s new play, Secret Service (1895). After that show closed, she was offered and played other roles on the London circuit. By the turn of the 20th century, a vibrant and talented Ethel Barrymore gained the especial attentions of several male admirers that included dukes, actors, writers and politicians.
Winston Churchill in 1900. A public domain photograph in the Imperial War Museum.
One such admirer of Ethel Barrymore was eligible bachelor, enthusiastic theater hound, and nascent politician Winston Churchill (1874-1965). Though Ethel had many propositions and proposals in this period—she was even briefly engaged to a man until Ethel broke it off—any marriage proposal made to her by Churchill was refused. Churchill and Barrymore, however, became lifelong friends.
Poster for William Hooker Gillette’s 1895 play, Secret Service, on the London stage which featured young American actress Ethel Barrymore in its cast. The poster promotion depicts the play as a royal entertainment which attracts princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses. William Gillette (1853-1937) wrote melodramas and spy plays that were very popular with audiences. In 1899, Gillette first created the role of Sherlock Holmes for the stage, a role which he himself played for over 30 years.
Ethel Barrymore at 19 years old in 1898.
Young Ethel Barrymore. From a famous American acting family, she was was devoted to the stage at an early age.
At 20 years old Ethel Barrymore gained the attention of many male admirers, including dukes, actors, writers and politicians. Though briefly engaged around the turn of the century, Ethel broke it off. Ethel finally married in 1909. She met her husband, Russell Griswold Colt (1882–1960), at Sherry’s restaurant at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City while having lunch with her uncle, John Drew, Jr. The marriage produced three children, though it ended in divorce in 1923.
When Ethel returned to the United States, she began to appear in various stage productions. It was in 1901 when the 22-year-old actress was cast in the role of Mrs. Trentoni in Clyde Fitch’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines on Broadway that Ethel Barrymore became a star.
Ethel Barrymore dressed in one of the Edwardian costumes as Madame Trentoni in the 1901 Broadway play, Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines.
Clyde Fitch’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines introduces Robert Carrolton Jinks and his friends who form a club to boost the presidential campaign for General U.S. Grant in 1868. Calling themselves “Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines,” they think to try out their marching abilities by greeting the arrival of a steamer carrying Madame Trentoni, a famous opera singer. Though sight unseen, Jinks bets money that he can make Madame Trentoni fall in love with him. The boat is late and everyone leaves the dock except for a gaggle of reporters who wait to greet the opera singer. When Jinks returns, after he lays eyes on Madame Trentoni (played by Ethel Barrymore) he falls in love with her. After Captain Jinks sees she is having trouble at customs, he pulls out money which the customs official mistakes for a bribe and Jinks is promptly arrested.
When Jinks is released on bail he calls on Madame Trentoni who has stopped to visit her foster father. She is as much in love with him as he is with her and their courtship progresses rapidly. When Jinks tries to call off the bet he made with his friends, they refuse until he finally agrees to pay off the bet with an I.O.U.
Jinks’ friends are also smitten with Madame Trentoni but she is totally uninterested in them. This gets them angry and they decide to ruin it for Jinks. They tell Madame Trentoni’s foster father that jinks intends to marry Madame Trentoni solely for her money — and as proof pull out the signed I.O.U. that says “I.O.U. $1,000 for the bet regarding Madame Trentoni.” The foster father flies into a rage, tells Madame Trentoni about the I.O.U, and she decides to never see Jinks again.
Jinks has no idea why Madame Trentoni is so angry at him. When he finally discovers what his friends have falsely told her, he tries to gain admittance to her apartment to tell her the truth. When she learns the real facts of the matter, Madame Trentoni throws her arms around her Captain Jinks.
In that intimate position, a detective suddenly bursts into the room to arrest Jinks. In all the tumult surrounding the loss of his love interest, Jinks forgot to appear in court for his bribery case. It appeared Jinks had skipped bail. Madame Trentoni tells the detective that she and her sweetheart have had a misunderstanding and only now are having the chance to make up. Her plea and the promise that Captain Jinks will appear in court tomorrow for his case is approved by the detective, who departs. Captain Jinks and Madame Trentoni embrace, and the curtain goes down on the couple living happily ever after.
The public domain photographs above are in the archive of the Museum of the City of New York.
Color promotional poster for Captain Jinks and the Horse Marines starring Elizabeth Kennedy. After the Broadway show starring Ethel Barrymore closed in July 1901 after 168 performances, a new production and cast appeared in 1902. The theatrical poster highlights New York’s Garrick Theatre run. (Library of Congress collection)
Ethel Barrymore as Madame Trentoni in 1901.
Ethel Barrymore on the cover of The Theatre in August 1901 following the close of the successful Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines which ran on Broadway for 168 performances from February to July 1901 and made 22 year old Ethel Barrymore a star.
Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines was produced in 1901 at the Garrick Theatre. The 910-seat theatre was built in 1890 by Francis Hatch Kimball (1845-1919) and located at 67 W. 35th Street in New York City.
The Garrick opened as Harrigan’s Theatre and became the Garrick in 1895. It was sold to the Schubert brothers in 1916 and leased to Otto Kahn who renamed it the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in 1917.
Management reverted to the Schuberts in 1925 when the theatre featured popular burlesque until the onset of the Great Depression. The building was demolished in 1932.
Screenshot, October 2019, site of GARRICK THEATRE (1890-1932), 67 W. 35th Street, New York City. The Garrick Theatre was where Ethel Barrymore starred as Madame Trentoni in Clyde Fitch’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. A smash hit, the Broadway production made Ethel Barrymore one of the 20th century’s major theatrical and film stars. In 2006 the site had a multi-level parking garage which was later replaced by a hotel devlopment. The brownstone building in the middle distance appears to have survived from the late 19th-century period.
Both photographs above, Ethel Barrymore in 1901. As a new theatrical celebrity Barrymore’s image, style, and fashion were in demand by the public.
Ethel Barrymore in 1901.
Barrymore with a fur muf and feather hat in a hairstyle à la mode. The demand by the public for images of theatrical celebrities was insatiable.
In the 20th century’s first decade, Ethel Barrymore became a theatrical celebrity. Her image was in demand in photographs and picture post cards of the time. Throughout the first third of the twentieth century, Barrymore continually appeared in popular stage productions. Following the success of Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, Barrymore appeared in the next years in many top-rated popular Broadway productions.
A few highlights included in 1903 Barrymore appearing for 60 performances in the title role in Cousin Kate at the brand-new Hudson Theatre at 139–141 West 44th Street. In 1905 Barrymore played Norma Helmer in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House for 23 performances at The Lyceum Theatre at 149 West 45th Street. Also in 1905 Barrymore appeared in Alice Sit-by-the-Fire at the Empire Theatre. In 1908 Barrymore played the title role in Lady Frederick for 96 performances, again at the Hudson Theatre. There were a dozen more productions Barrymore was involved in before 1910.
Another side of Ethel Barrymore, at the piano in 1903. Before she took to a career on the stage, Ethel Barrymore aspired to be a concert pianist as a youth.
Ethel Barrymore, 1904, by photographer Arnold Genthe. The actress was starring in several plays that year including in the title role of Kate Curtis in My Cousin Kate at the Empire Theatre. Barrymore would reprise the role briefly in 1907.
Ethel Barrymore in a photograph by William Morrison of Chicago in 1907. In the 1900’s Ethel Barrymore was a theatrical celebrity whose image displayed the latest fashion, make-up, and hairstyles that helped express the style of the times.
Ethel Barrymore in 1908. She was starring in the title role of Lady Frederick at the Hudson Theatre that year. The Broadway play ran for 96 performances.
With her film debut in 1914 in The Nightingale, a film written especially for her by playwright Augustus Thomas (1857-1934), Ethel Barrymore began in the new silent flickering medium of cinema in the footsteps of her brothers Lionel and John, who made their film debuts a couple of years earlier.
While Ethel made at least 14 films between 1914 and 1919 (some films are lost) she continued with her stage work and appeared in a dozen more Broadway productions throughout the 1910’s. When she decided to interrupt her film work in 1920 –and did not return to the movies until 1932 in the M-G-M film Rasputin and the Empress starring with her brothers (Ethel played Czarina Alexandra) – she appeared in a dozen more plays in the 1920’s, all in prominent Broadway theatres.
In 1922 she starred as Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for 23 performances at the Longacre Theatre at 220 West 48th Street as well as her celebrated role as Constance Middleton in Somerset Maugham’s new comedy play, The Constant Wife, in 1927. It ran for 296 performances at Maxime Elliot’s Theatre at 109 West 39th Street (it was demolished in 1960). The play had previewed in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Ohio Theatre in early November 1926 with Ethel Barrymore in the title role. It opened on Broadway at the end of November 1926 and ran until August 1927. After the Broadway show closed, Ethel Barrymore toured the production. Maugham dedicated his play to Ethel Barrymore and later said her performance was by far the best of any he had seen given for any of his plays.
Barrymore’s extensive stage work in this period also included, in 1928, appearing in the role of Sister Gracia in The Kingdom of God. The play was selected by Ethel Barrymore herself as the premier production in the Schubert Theatre chain’s newly-built 1,058-seat venue at 243 W. 47th Street in New York City. The new Broadway venue was named the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Since its opening on December 20, 1928, the Ethel Barrymore Theatre has, without exception, presented legitimate Broadway productions continuously from that time to the present day.