THE DEVELOPMENT OF ART IN DAYTON AND ITS
CULMINATION IN THE DAYTON ART INSTITUTE
The paucity of art aims and art interests in Dayton sixty or seventy years ago need not trouble us now. Dayton has always been a commercial center and its community life a part of the great business world. We began in a small way, but we have fitly grown.
The first painter who was a real painter to come to Dayton was Charles Soule. His canvases, those of them that fortune spared from the havoc of the flood, still ornament the walls of Dayton homes. His marked ability was along the line of portrait painting, and his touch was so sure and his feeling so deep that his work was much more than locally known and he became the teacher of artists who really stood higher in art circles. His daughter, Clara Soule Medlar, was also an artist, but a teacher as well. Mr. Soule painted the generals and admirals, the judges and doctors, the beautiful young matrons and the charming girls. There was another daughter, Mrs. Octavia Soule Gottschall, who exhibited much ability in water colors, and was active in organizing art clubs and classes among the women of Dayton.
Two other portrait painters deserve to be remembered, John Insco Williams and Edmond Edmondson, the former also noted for his studies in still life – fruit pieces – and the latter for several panoramic canvases.
It was in the late ‘seventies and early ‘eighties that Dayton came to life from the point of view of picture painting and picture loving. Mary Forrer Pierce was teaching painting in the old Cooper Seminary, Miss Sophie Loury, whose work in miniature was exhibited with the Art League of New York, and Miss Laura Birge, a pupil first of Clara Soule and later a student in Munich, Paris, and London were the leaders.
In 1880 several amateur organizations devoted to art work sprang into existence. There was the Amateur Sketch Club, and the Decorative Art Society under the direction of Professor Broome, having a pottery and ovens for firing, and devoting much enthusiasm to china painting. Otto Beck, a student in Italy and Munich, was a Dayton boy, who ended by occupying a position of responsibility in Pratt Institute, and whose pictures hang in Brooklyn and Washington. His friend, Victor Shinn, was also a promising artist, who soon left Dayton for the Technical High School in Brooklyn.
All these personalities and efforts were inconspicuous, but they were genuine and provocative of interest among Dayton people. For we were, in those years, lamentably undeveloped. We had no pictures; we saw no pictures; we seldom traveled and knew little of what there was to see in the great world of art. But slowly things happened. Here and there were souls who knew what was beautiful. If they could, they purchased; some; like Professor Robert, bought photographs and gathering a group of friends talked well and interestingly. The Threashers as a family have always contributed to public education in matters of art.
The first definite movement towards art organization developed in 1902 was the Dayton Society of Arts and Crafts, with Mr. B. B. Thresher as president; Mrs. J. B. Thresher, vice-president; Mrs. Margaret Stoddard, Mrs. Chas. U. Raymond and Mr. Houston Lowe as directors. Classes were held in a business block on the site of Rike’s present store, and Mr. Mann, of Grand Rapids conducted them. Instruction was limited to wood carving, jewelry, and other craft work and perhaps for the reason that its scope was limited, interested waned and the organization died a natural death. But other promoters were not idle. If I have said that Dayton was uncultured in the beginning, I mean what is called “the man on the street” – the general public. But there has always been in Dayton a vision-seeking, stubborn minority who kept always in their hearts what Dayton might see and do if she were taught. That it was they, in time who did the teaching, goes without saying.
Among these agencies the Dayton Public Library and Museum did notable work. It collected mounted reproductions of works of art, developed a library within a library of books devoted to art and from time to time tempted the public by modest exhibits in the Museum.
This museum was the kind that modern collectors make fun of, with its dusty trilobites, tropical shells and moth-eaten stuffed specimens. But it was a beginning, and without beginnings ends cannot arrive.
In 1912 Miss Linda Clatworthy, then Dayton librarian, having returned to Dayton from an extended trip to Europe, was filled with enthusiasms for making Dayton an art center. On her daily way to the library through the park she was in the habit of meeting Mr. Houston Lowe on his way to his office, and the two devotees discussed at length their hopes and ambitions.* Miss Clatworthy’s first aim was to have Dayton join the newly organized American Federation of Arts. Having made a trip to Washington on this behalf, Miss Clatworthy returned with a comprehensive program for the stimulation of art interest in and the beautification of the city. It was a broad conception, comprising industrial art, school art, art for the community and beauty for the city. With this nucleus of effort there came into existence in 1912 the Montgomery County Art Association, whose object was to foster an interest in art, through lectures, exhibits and loans of pictures. The first president was Mrs. Henry Stoddard, whose glowing and contagious enthusiasm proved to be epidemic in the end. She loved, thought, dreamed and talked pictures. She could see beauty in everything and had discriminating taste. The second presiding officer of the Art Association was Mr. Houston Lowe under whose devoted leadership the organization made many strides forward. Another ardent supporter of the infant industry was Miss Annie Campbell, for years a teacher of art in Steele High School, and a painter in oil and water colors. Mrs. Henry Loy gave generously of her time and cultivated taste. She and Mrs. Stoddard were the moving spirits in organizing exhibitions of paintings and trying to induce a rather tepid public to attend. In 1917 the name of the organization was charged to the Dayton Art Association. From that time on its activities enlarged and increased. The Dayton papers were supplied with publicity on pictures and artists, it filed records relative to the current items of art history in Dayton; it enlisted in the fight against a proposed increase in the tariff on art objects; it secured a fine collection of oil paintings through the American Federation of Arts, which was exhibited for two weeks.
*Just a hundred years before, Daniel C. Cooper, the first benefactor and promoter of beauty in Dayton, gave that part to be, as his will expressed it, “a pleasant walk forever.”
Under its spreading elms and oaks these plans were talked out by two worthy descendants of his same public spirit.
In 1916 a series of lectures of popular interest on art subjects were arranged by the
association to be given by members of the local group, and with this plan came a slowly
Developing understanding on the part of the public that Dayton had at last a real nucleus of art-loving and art-promoting citizens who, if they were allowed and encouraged, which they were, would lift their native city to a place in the culture of the Nation. When the audiences for these lectures reached the 500 mark it was felt that the good work was really, as the French say, “marching.”
The association in its infancy suffered principally from the lack of a center of its own. The lectures had to be given in borrowed halls, the exhibitions likewise; and although the Board of Education was generous in its granting of the Steele auditorium, something it was felt should be done towards a permanent home. All this came about through the generosity of a group of private citizens who purchased a substantial old residence on the corner of Monument and St. Clair, formerly the home of the Kemper family and, with extended additions and remodeling converted it into Dayton’s first Art Museum. The garden, under the generosity of Mrs. Harrie G. Carnell, became a replica of the lovely colonial grounds of one of the earlier governors of Ohio, Governor Worthington.
It was high time. No stronger argument for a special building was offered than the flood of 1913. That calamity was responsible for some good things, as well as many bad ones. This time it emphasized the necessity for concentration and protection for works of art. It happened that at the time of the inundation there was a collection of water colors on exhibition in Memorial Hall, another of the projects of the enthusiasm of Mrs. Stoddard, Mrs. Loy, and Miss Campbell. The premises were under water, and the pictures ruined, but as they were fully insured the artists were reimbursed. It was afterwards whispered in critical circles that in no other way could some of those brush products have been profitably disposed of. For some years afterwards no artist in water colors could speak of having sold a picture without having some sarcastic colleague remark: “Oh, yes, you did have a picture in the Dayton flood, didn’t you?”
The Art Association (under the incorporated term of the “Dayton Museum of Art”) found itself thus happily ensconced in a building with a hall giving space for pictures and lectures, where a library of art subjects could be accommodated and where classes under competent instructors studied drawling from the cast, painting in oils and water colors, commercial art, costume design, elements of composition and design. When ninety young people took immediate advantage of this privilege, and the Art School became a hive of industry and enthusiasm, the acme of the hopes of the promoters seems to have arrived.
All this was a good many years ago, and what has happened since needs many a page to record, but those who worked so hard for its accomplishment should be held in happy remembrance. Their names were: Houston Lowe, James M. Cox, B. B. Thresher, Mrs. H. G. Carnell, Orville Wright, Robert Patterson, Mrs. Robert Patterson, H. A. McMillan, Mrs. Henry Stoddard, Mrs. Henry Loy, Valentine Winters, Mrs. Lee Warren James, Electra Doren, F. J. McCormick, and Mrs. McCormick, E. A. Deeds and Mrs. Deeds, Mrs. G. Harries Gorman, Mr. Louis Lott, Miss Martha K. Schauer, John B. Hayward, Miss Virginia Blackeney. Miss Annie Campbell, Mrs. George G. Shaw, Mrs. Scott Pierce, Mrs. Walter Kidder, F. H. Rike, E. L. Shuey, A. D. Wilt, William B. Werthner, Adam Schantz, H. E. Talbott. Some of these served on committees, some were trustees, but all gave of their talents to push forward this admirable effort to bring to as high water mark as possible the rising tide of the love of art in Dayton.
It seems too good to be true, the story of how soon that first Art Museum was outgrown. It was in the beginning such an ambitious undertaking, and now, suddenly, it was found inadequate for its uses. The commercially minded, art-ignorant, apathetic people of Dayton, the street car riding, shopping, movie-going people had looked with indifference upon the enterprise. Art, they thought, if they thought of it at all, was not for the general public; it was a fad of certain rich people. Drawn by the merest curiosity in the first place, they entered the doors; had the pictures explained to them, read about it in the papers, listened to some lectures, were gripped with the universal appeal of beauty, found a glimmering of the delights it held, went again, sent their children, sometimes contributed of their own small resources and finally crowded the walls to their utmost. Young people discovered that the classes offered in poster designing and craft work pointed a practical way to make a living. The classes were crowded, the exhibits were crowded, and at last it came to be an accepted fact that there would have to be larger quarters.
Here it is that Mrs. Harrie G. Carnell comes definitely into the story. As a girl Julia Shaw had traveled extensively in Europe and brought back many impressions. Few young travelers of that day saw as much and retained as deep enthusiasms. Of all she saw, Italy impressed her the most; she loved its cool galleries of ancient canvases; she thrilled at the convents, chapels, churches and palaces, with their murals and windows and statuary; she began to sense the characteristics of the different schools of painting. At that time she guessed no more than any one else that her love for the beautiful and her local patriotism for the city of her birth would unite into one ambition which had its final efflorescence in the lovely warm-hued structure which now curves so gracefully around the edge of the hill above the river.
Mrs. Carnell had been the moving spirit and the chief contributor to the old art museum on St. Clair Street. She had enlarged rooms, laid brick walks, built sparkling fountains and planted beds of flowers. If the museum was outgrown as a school and an exhibit it was certainly outgrown as a field for Mrs. Carnell’s generosity. She wanted more room to be generous in, and therefore announced that rather than help expand the old quarters further she would offer a new art building to Dayton.
It was just at that juncture that an ideal site for such a structure came on the market – the high lift of ground at the junction of Forest and Riverdale avenues, formerly owned by the Hawes family and always a dominating point from wherever a spectator stood on the bank of the Miami River. “Just the place for an art museum,” explained many a lover of art and lover of Dayton. But a contractor for an apartment house had the inner side of the bargain and it was considered a hopeless proposition.
To minds like Mrs. Carnell, however, nothing is hopeless. She wanted that site and, to make a long story short, she got it; or rather Dayton did, and now no apartment house with banal balconies and loud awnings, but a fifteenth century Italian Renaissance palace, with graceful curving stairways and arcaded inner courts rises proudly above the city. Its inception is an interesting story. Forty miles north of Rome is the little town of Viterbo. In it is a five-sided villa built on a rise of ground and approached by graceful steps. Cardinal Alexander Farnese was the owner, and sometimes resident there during the Renaissance period. It was this villa which suggested the present building, although whereas the original had five sides this has or will have eight. The octagonal front of the façade lends itself with charming appropriateness to the curve of the brow of the hill. The yellow sandstone of the walls was brought from quarries near Cleveland, and Mr. Edward B. Green, of Buffalo, New York, was the architect.
A peculiarly happy thought it was to build with the possibility in mind of future expansion. If the art spirit and the art culture in Dayton grows in the future in the same proportions as it has in the past, the original plans of an octagonal building will afford ample space.
On mounting the steps from the street level one arrives in the triple arched loggia, its eastern vista including the river and the arches of the Main Street bridge reflected in it. Both this loggia and the entrance lobby are typically Italian style; indeed the whole building takes one so convincingly into the Italy of the past that is difficult, at least for older people, to believe themselves in the Dayton of their youth.
Three pairs of bronze doors open into the foyer with its flooring of red Italian tiling and its information desk adapted from old Gothic storage bins. To the left on this floor are administration rooms, the children’s room, kitchen and storage; to the right are rooms for the educational activities and the circulating library. Facing the main entrance the eye is impressed by a staircase of Indiana limestone leading to the sculpture court and passing, on the way, a landing, which gives place to a replica of the Virgin and St. Elizabeth by Andrea della Robbia. Here, too, at the mezzanine level is an ample lecture hall whose coffered ceiling by Joseph F. Stridy, of Chicago, shows four corner panels representing the arts of Sculpture, Painting, Music and Literature. This noble hall with its rosy lighted ceiling is the happy gathering place of music lovers at the concerts held every week throughout the season. The second floor of the front of the building houses the sculpture court with its four marble columns terminating in a vaulted ceiling and three windows looking toward the east. New as it is, this exhibit offers treasures to the eye. A reproduction of the Nuremberg Madonna of the sixteenth century occupies a niche in the gothic chapel, while two exquisite Florentine doorways of carved marble lead from each end of the court to adjoining galleries. The eight-sided plan makes many unexpected and charming features. One little room of irregular shape on the ground floor fits into an obtuse angle and makes a convenient committee room.
The enclosure made by the octagonal structure is divided by the music room into two cloisters which were Mrs. Carnell’s own idea. Once to the architect she remarked jocosely, “No cloisters, no building.” So cloisters there are, a north cloister and a south, each with vine-draped arches, groups of sculpture, twisted columns, with acanthus-leaved capitals and brick pavement.
The Art institute cannot be seen casually or in a hurry. Many a stroll must be taken through the halls and courts before the whole of its beauty is revealed. The architect kept one thing constantly in mind, that of ease and relaxation on the part of the visitor. On one side the building gives on the river and the city; on the other on to the greensward of the cloisters, each only a few steps from the other. Comfortable chairs offer themselves on every side. The result is that the much dreaded modern distemper classed pathologically as “museum fatigue” has no place in the Dayton Institute.
The two Italian rooms which flank the loggia illustrate the charm of domestic life in the Italy of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The ceilings are replicas of one during the Renaissance period, whose precious originals were taken bodily from their homes in palaces at Ferrara and Venice.
To the interesting furnishings and adjuncts of the museum there is no end, and all from the generous heart of Mrs. Carnell. There are “peep-shows,” Chinese temples, fountains, beautiful door lintels, a miniature reproduction of the Baptistry doors at Florence, carved chests, pottery urns, a Chinese garden enclosing a pool with Chinese fish and oriental aquarium plants. In short, from one end to the other the Institute is a living and breathing school of the beautiful.
Most fascinating are the chapels opening into the cloisters. The Gothic chapel has an exquisite stained glass door of such rare beauty that it was held over in Buffalo for a special exhibit before being sent to Dayton. The south cloister is developed in Italian Renaissance character with marble columns from the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries surrounding a lovely stone fountain containing a bronze statue, (The Joy of the Waters,” by Harriet Frishmuth. The north cloister possesses an interesting feature consisting of a tower protruding from the main building terminating in a beautiful slate roof topped by a copper weather-vane, and in the center an old Italian circular well-curb so constructed that it can be used as a pulpit in Sunday afternoon outdoor services.
But it will be impossible to go into all the beauties of the Art Institute. They are increasing all the time. Always in her trips abroad Mrs. Carnell has the museum in mind. As she said in her speech of dedication when she presented it to Dayton: “I feel as if I were giving into your hands a child of my own. Be good to it.”
Moreover, the Museum has been a family affair with the Carnells, Mr. Carnell giving time and sympathy and advice every step of the way, and Jefferson Patterson seconding his mother’s efforts by purchasing beautiful additions to the collection during his wide and varied travels.
A description of the Museum building and its features is a gratifying story, but a partial one. The remainder is that of the human activities going on under its roof. First:
Exhibits – Since two fine-print pages in the 1931 report are filled with a list of the paintings, prints and etchings, lithograph and wood-carvings, sculptures, water colors, glass and rugs, artist photographs, travel-posters, drawings, Japanese block prints, pastels, bronzes, Egyptian casts, stained glass, eighteenth century furniture, textiles, which have been during the past year on exhibition at the Museum, it is plain that nothing more than a mere outline can be included in this chapter.
Art Institute School – Running back to the north of the main building a long passageway leads into the Art School. Five hundred young men and women take daily advantage of the classes going all the year round under the following competent instructors: Siegfried R. Weng, Director – History of Art, Art Appreciation; Martha K. Schauer, Painter – Director of Saturday School; Margaret Beck, Student Assistant – Saturday School; Frank M. Betz, Photographer – Photography (night); Howard Breidenback, Instructor – Saturday School; Edward R. Burroughs, Designer and Commercial Artist, Etcher, Block-printer – Design, Mechanical Perspective, Rendering, Lettering, Commercial Art (day and night); Bernice E. Buyer, Metalworker and Jeweler (night); Margaret Chatterton, Student Assistant – Saturday School; Roy Cheesman, Architect – Architectural Rendering (night). Ruth Boes Herr, Instructor – Saturday School. Irene Hoffman, Assistant Instructor – Life Drawing, Painting (night and Saturday); John M. King, Painter – Life Drawing and Painting (day and night); Robert Koepnick, Instructor – Modeling (Saturday School); W. P. Lloyd, Commercial Art Director – Layout (night); Louis Lott, Architect – Ornament (night); Leroy D. Sauer, Block-printer, Etcher, Commercial Artist – Commercial Art (night); Ellasson R. Smith, Architect – Architectural Rendering (night); Mrs. E. M. Thacker, Jr. – Interior Decoration (night); Grace Valentine – Fashion Design (night); Seth M. Velsey, Sculpture – Modeling, Anatomy, Design in the Round, Carving (day and night); Don Wallace, Photographer – Photography (night); E. Paul Wilhelm, Painter – Lettering, Decorative Art and Ornament, Composition (day and night); John Zwinak, Advertising Artist – Layout (night).
The day time courses are planned in such a manner that the beginner receives a general basic foundation so that he will be better equipped to choose that phase of art work for which he is best fitted. The night school affords an opportunity for men and women engaged through the day to study that which their daily life lacks and which gives an outlook of self-expression. The Saturday school for children under the direction of Miss Martha Schauer is one of the most valuable services of the Institute. Who knows how many artists and craftsmen have been lost to the community through having had no means to cultivate their powers? Here, the men and women of tomorrow are given the fundamental principles of art and aesthetics which, whether they become machinists, mayors or millionaires they will carry with them through their lives. Beauty belongs in every occupation of life. From the lack of a sense of it more cities than Dayton have suffered. The next generation will not, we hope, endure the monstrosities perpetrated in the past in the way of monuments, buildings and bridges, but will insist upon good taste and true art in public things.
The school at various times has received pleasing recognition from visiting authorities. Recently a group of two water colors, an oil painting, two pieces of sculpture and seven photographs were requested by the College Art Association for an invitation exhibition of outstanding student work to be held in New York City. From this group the Head of a Negress, by Robert Koepnick, has been reproduced in a number of art journals in this country, and won first prize in the sculpture section. The Toledo Art Institute has also requested the loan of these pieces for their annual exhibit.
Miss Susan Odlin has been active in promoting the love of art among children by entertainments, and talks on art every Saturday morning. Over thirteen thousand children availed themselves of this privilege during the past year.
The eminent art critic, Royal Cortissoz, once congratulated Dayton upon the possession of a small museum. It used to be the custom to house the biggest possible collection in the biggest kind of a building in the most inaccessible (to the general public) part of the city. In consequence only those who had cars and leisure could avail themselves of art treasures. The Dayton museum entails only the climbing of a flight os steps so near to the center of the city that everyone can enter. Instead of a fixed collection there are rotating exhibits. Instead of dim galleries, a formidable atmosphere and weary miles to pass over, the Dayton museum is bright, hospitable, friendly and educational.
No further proof of the wisdom of the founder and the trustees is needed than to see the men, women, and children mounting the steps from Riverview Avenue on a Sunday afternoon. No other proof than what they see and hear when they have entered the doors. For the twin art of painting – music, has its due share in the feast of soul which the Museum offers. The programs of the Sunday afternoon concerts have included the best amateur and professional talent in Dayton. Organ concerts, choruses, violin and piano soloists, under the auspices of the Dayton Federated Clubs, have given joy to many otherwise deprived hearts.
With the recording of the exhibits, the concerts, the lectures and classes only part of the story of the Art Institute as a cultural force has been told. The old-time public library was one where the books stayed on the shelves and the people had to go after them. The new-time library takes the books to the people by means of branch libraries, traveling libraries, shop collections, etc., etc. It took the brain of Mr. B. B. Thresher to borrow the idea and apply it to pictures. It was he who instituted “Circulating Gallery of Portable Pictures.” Unique in the beginning it has since been copied in other cities. Through the cooperation of a large number of the prominent artists of the country the Dayton Art Institute has put into circulation, under the same rules and regulations under which the public library issues books, a circulating gallery of pictures. The plan works out happily both ways. It enables the man of moderate means to enjoy upon his own walls, for a limited time, the work of a fine artist; it results, in not a few cases, in the artists selling the picture because the temporary borrower finds he cannot do without it. Most of all it results in a constantly widening appreciation of art through the only means known – that of intimate and daily association with pictures. On the back of each picture are printed the main facts of the artist’s life and his successes and a few lines of appreciative criticism that may serve as an avenue of approach to its evaluation. The selling price is marked on the picture, and the fact that that it may, if desired, be purchased on the installment plan.
In the space of three years no less than seventy important canvases have been sold in Dayton, where previously no interest whatever in good art existed. In some instances the children in a schoolroom saved their pennies and bought a canvas as a permanent possession of their school. From the wide endorsement that this plan has had from artists all over America and the favorable comments made in both this country and in England, it is plain that a new epoch in the promotion of the love of art has been successfully inaugurated. It is known as “The Dayton Plan.” The collection includes original paintings in oil, original water-colors by eminent living American artists, reproductions of Old Masters and block prints and etchings and bronzes.
It is not mere local self-satisfaction which gives high rank to the Dayton Art Institute. It is being known about, inquired about and its best features copied by other art associations far and wide. The impetus it has given to Dayton connoisseurs is incalculable. It has promoted collection buying on the part of Daytonians, some of which are housed in the homes of the owners, some deposited as provisional loans or downright gifts, in the Museum itself. Mr. Frederick Beck Patterson has cultivated and indulged a taste for English portraiture and owns a number of notable works of this type. Mrs. R. R. Dickey’s famous collection of fans, and Mrs. R. D. Patterson’s laces both exist in the museum as indefinite loans. Mr. R. D. Patterson’s portrait by Sir William Orpen is a masterpiece.
The museum has some good outside friends, like Mr. Leo Flesh, of Piqua, and Mr. William Cullen, of the Springboro Pike, who have loaned from time to time their own collections. Mrs. Evelyn Huffman Patterson has loaned her collection of English portraits. A Metcalfe landscape, now very rare and valued at fifteen thousand dollars has been presented the museum by Mr. John B. Hayward. A Flanders tapestry of the Louis Quatorze period is the gift of John G. Lowe. Lorado Taft, the master sculptor, has been very generous to the Dayton Institute, having presented it with his group, “Solitude of the Soul”; also a bust of Hamlin Garland, and a cast of St. George by Donatello. It was he who made possible the purchase of the peep-shows in the lower hall, those idealistic presentations of art in Florence in the fifteenth century. They were made in his own studio, and the prices reduced to $300 and $500 each, so as to place them within reach of the museum. Mrs. Carnell purchased one, and the Kettering Foundation the other. Mrs. Carnell also presented a superb tapestry by Oudenard of 1600 A. D.
To whom, it may be asked after Mrs. Carnell, does Dayton owe her Art Institute? They are so many that the mere recording of their names if there were room would result in a dull catalogue. But they deserve recognition if in the briefest way. The supporting membership is divided into six groups: Founders, Benefactors, Fellows, Life Members, Active Members. The total membership up to April 1, 1931, was one thousand three hundred and twenty-three. Of these names some are donors of large sums of money; some have loaned or presented gifts; some have been presidents or served on the board of trustees; some have given lectures or taught classes, or served on committees or sponsored social activities, or written interpretative articles for the papers. In short they have one and all, each in his or her own way, made Mrs. Carnell’s gift a practical reality.
The list of Founders, as they appear upon a bronze tablet set to the wall of the loggia are as follows: Frederick P. Beaver, Edward A. Deeds, Mary P. Patterson, Charles F. Kettering, Elizabeth Hill-Smith, George H. Mead, Henrietta C. L. Patterson, Jefferson Patterson, Katherine H. Talbott, John B. Hayward, Harrie G. Carnell, Edith W. Deeds, Anna B. B. Gorman, Olive W. Kettering, John G. Lowe, Elsie T. Mead, Frederick B. Patterson, Robert Patterson, Orville Wright, Lillie Gebhart Mayer.
If distinction could be made there would be five names which stand out as the chief supporters of the plan. They are John G. Lowe, Robert Patterson, B. B. Thresher, John B. Hayward, and Robert G. Corwin. From the first they have been warm and generous promoters of the Art Institute. All would deprecate personal particulars; suffice it to say that one of them has acted in his professional role of legal adviser, one contributed the qualities of a business man; one has given of his supreme selective taste in choosing exhibits; one has devoted time, material and spiritual gifts to the cause, and one has not once, but several times, without solicitation and with the utmost caution, pressed into the not unwilling hands of the treasurer, a check for ten thousand dollars.
Of directors and supervisors Dayton has enjoyed the services of some outstanding men. The first was Herman Sachs, who came in 1921 after twelve years in Europe at the head of an art school and as a leader of the modern movement. His work both there and here, included portraits, ceramics, tapestry and craft work. He was an artist of original and superlative quality and a pioneer in introducing designs for inlaid marble.
Theodore Hanford Pond was born in Beirut, Syria, and his childhood spent in Europe and the Holy Land. At nineteen he came to America, studied at Pratt Institute and afterwards taught designing wall paper, carpets, stained glass, furniture and jewelry. It was he who opened the first class in the Rhode Island School of Design, held the directorship of drawing and designing in the Association of Business and Art in New York and from there to the School of Design at Rochester. In 1911 he started constructive work in the department of design and applied art at the Baltimore Institute and in 1915 we find him director of applied art at Baltimore. Just before he came to Dayton the degree of Master Craftsman was conferred upon him by the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts.
With this training Pond came to Dayton and took up work in the old museum on St. Clair Street where not only his work in silver and textiles created much admiration, but his personality as evinced in his teaching and lectures aroused the creative enthusiasm of all who came in contact with him. His influence in Dayton can never be fully measured. He is now director of the Art institute at Akron.
The present head of the Dayton Art Institute is Seigfried Weng, whose youth and zest, whose fine technical training and inbred love of art fully qualify him for the position. Born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, he worked at the State Teachers College, took his bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Chicago. A year with the Art Institute and postgraduate work at Harvard completed Mr. Weng’s formal education. His informal training consisted of a loyal and joyous association as docent in the studio of the great sculptor, Lorado Taft. During that five years he made two trips to Europe as assistant to Mr. Taft – an inestimable privilege. As an artist Mr. Wang’s best work is in block printing, but his interest lies primarily in sculpture. Not the least of his accomplishments is a vibrant expressive voice with which he occasionally delights his friends. As a student in the University of Chicago he was cantor in the college choir.
Local artists – In summing up the achievements of Dayton artists, present or past, the name of Hugo B. Froelich, whose untimely death a few years ago was a distinct loss to art, comes instantly to mind. He was a Dayton boy, educated at the old Central High School, and a friend of Otto Beck and Victor Shinn in that early primitive school of workers who laid such good foundation for those who came after. Froelich conducted, for some of the years in the ‘nineties, an art studio in the Newsalt Building. But larger fields called him, and in 1895 he became connected with the Pratt institute and also with the Prang Company in designing. He also conducted the Froelich-Snow Summer Art School in Chicago. No better summing up of his influence can be found than the inscription on a memorial window erected by his artist friends in Newark, New Jersey, where he was director of the museum during the last years of his life.
To one whose life brought rewards more largely to others than to himself – whose genial colorful personality, radiating joy everywhere, continually inspired teachers and pupils alike to their highest efforts.
Mr. Froelich was a much quoted authority on art matters and the author of a number of textbooks on art.
Miss Anne Campbell has built for herself an enduring monument in the hearts of high school pupils whose budding love for art she has fostered though many years. Long study when a girl with miss Laura Birge, then with Otto Beck, after that with Arthur W. Dow, a year at Teachers College, two summers abroad, study in the National Gallery, Louvre and Rycks Museum; most of all, continued devotion to her work have brought Miss Campbell to the place of honor she now occupies among the artists of Dayton.
Mercy Crowell Brett, although not now in Dayton, deserves to be counted in, because she is a gifted natural artist and still remembered here for her studies in water colors and crafts work. Her present home is in California, where she made her immediate mark among the artists of that State and is now in charge of the drawing classes of the Palo Alto High School.
Another absent though not forgotten Dayton artist is Ernest Blumenschein, who began as a violinist, went to Paris to study, got shifted into art and whose illustrations frequently meet the eye in the current magazines. While living in Paris his home was a rendezvous for the American artist colony, and his pictures exhibited in the Salon.
Although in the meaning of the word art, as accepted in the distant past Miss Jane Reece is not an artist, she is one of the foremost who have raised the pursuit of photography into its due rank among the fine arts. Through her unerring sense of values in light and shade, in composition and design, she has acquired the distinction of being a “pictorialist.” A practiced searcher after beauty and, with her camera, in long walks afield and during her trips abroad she has found and recorded it in unexpected places. Her works are exhibited in the collections at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, in Cleveland, New York, Buffalo, Detroit, and Omaha. Her photographic skill is well known in Europe, and exhibits are in constant demand. They will be found in Vienna, Salzburg, Austria, in Copenhagen and in Saragossa, Spain. Her portrait of Lorado Taft seated at the base of one of his statues has been reproduced in the “World’s Work,” and hailed as “The Picture of the Month.” A new invention of hers in which color plays an important part is said to be about to revolutionize pictorial art.
Honors for Miss Reece have been many. Her medals include one from Hamburg, five from Canada, one from France, one from Italy, one from Edinburgh. She lives in a transformed engine house on Riverview Avenue, where she receives her friends, pursues her art and from time to time gathers about her by exhibitions, art of all kinds, her own included.
Mr. John Kabel is also a photographer whose work has earned high praise and is seen in numberless magazines and books.
Mr. Frank E. Betz is best know among his fellow-citizens for his photographic studies of the Steele High School lion and of Dayton from the Art Institute, both of which are reproduced in this volume.
In Miss Martha K. Schauer, whose flower studies of rampant color are a joy we find not only a producer, but an interpreter so to speak, of art. An industrious and loving transcriber of beauty she has exhibited water color renderings at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Ohio Water Color Society, the Ohio Modern Painters Society, and the Dayton Art Institute. Many have been purchased and hang on Dayton walls. She became director of that happy hive of creating children, the Saturday School at the Institute in 1926, and in 1927 organized the first Summer School and directed it until it was absorbed into the regular Art School. She organized the first “art week” and served as chairman of the Art Committee of the Chamber of Commerce; is now a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute.
As an interpreter, her weekly articles in the local papers have taught many people what to look for at the Institute and why; they have without doubt pulled even unwilling people into the galleries and made them alive to what they were looking at. The “American Magazine of Art” and the “School Art Magazine” carry frequent articles from her pen.
In one of her articles Miss Schauer says: “Dayton has always had beauty as a dominant objective,” in support of which she cites the wide streets laid out by Daniel C. Cooper, the elms planted by John Van Cleve, and the dignified classic courthouse. With a part of this estimate we differ and with part concur. With scenic beauty we did indeed start well, but with pictorial beauty we were, in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties as ignorant as Hottentots. Barring the Soules in 1860 and the Threashers and Miss Forrer in the ‘seventies, not one Dayton out of a hundred would have known a good painting from a chromo. Pray Heaven, we may not take a backward road and grow so sophisticated on the subject of framed landscapes that we forget the beauty of our own Miami Valley, and perhaps allow out courthouse to disappear from the face of the earth.
Robert Whitmore is a Dayton boy, although now in connection with Antioch College and living at Yellow Springs. His work is full of feeling, and more people besides his own fellow-citizens have learned to look for it in exhibits of paintings and etchings. Three of his works were accepted for the exhibit of the Chicago Society of Etching. His work in color has also received wide notice and sincere admiration.
Walter W. Pfeiffer, a graduate of the Maryland Institute of Art is instructor in the Dayton school, and carries on class work in pottery, silversmithing, jewelry, engraving, wood carving. Specimens of his work have been shown in important exhibits as far east as Boston, and as far west as Minneapolis, and many points between.
Of Mr. Brainers Bliss Thresher’s work as a craftsman it is difficult to speak with proper appraisement. His artistic instincts are sui generis. Scarcely known in Dayton, his work is on permanent exhibit at the Grand Central galleries in New York and frequently sold. His inlaid screens, radio cabinets, tryptichs, lamps, are to be found in some of the most exclusive and artistic homes in America. For his foundations he uses cypress wood of beautiful graining, and by a process known only to himself (and which he says “comes by prayer and fasting”), he eliminates the substance between the lines of the grain of wood, leaving nature’s pattern in relief and qualified by color or gold. Upon this foundation and in designs always different and striking he superimposes silver or gold, ivory or shell, horn or copper, as his taste dictates. His studio contains materials which he has gathered in travels far and wide from Mexico to the Orient, and which he uses in amazing designs and intriguing patterns.
Always interested in fine craftsmanship, Mr. Thresher began while in college to work in wrought iron, in a hired forge of the village blacksmith. This occupation proving too boisterous for home consumption he turned his attention to quieter media. It was pioneer work in those days and gained great acclaim. The Boston Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Arts Club, New York, the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts have all carried from time to time Mr. Thresher’s beautiful work. An international exhibition of Applied Arts in Turin, Italy, also contained specimens. The new technique in bas-relief wood carving above alluded to has been shown at the Ehrich galleries and the National Arts Club. His bas-relief ivory sculpture, where the background is cut away and gold substituted, has attracted an immense amount of appreciative criticism. Several of these pieces were invited for their first New York showing by P. Jackson Higg’s gallery, which shows only foreign art. They have been compared to the work of Cellini.
With all this well-earned acclaim Mr. Thresher remains a prophet in his own country and has never had his picture in the Dayton papers.
There is a group of ambitious and conscientious women painters in Dayton who are gradually making their mark in the local art world, and some beyond. Miss Rosalie Lowrey devotes herself to portraiture with gratifying results. Her first study was under Robert M. Oliver, at the Dayton Art institute, later at the Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts, and the Art Students’ League of New York. She has painted a number of Dayton women, the most outstanding being Jane Reece.
Mrs. Juliet Burdoin has a studio in Dayton and one at Gloucester, Massachusetts, where in the artists’ settlement she paints busily all summer, and exhibits in the fall. Her training came in New York, Paris, and Holland. Many of her most beautiful pieces are painted from her own window in Gloucester of fishing boats in the harbor. Mrs. Burdoin uses both oils and water colors, and chooses as her subjects landscapes, flowers and portraits.
Mrs. Abby Lytle Wuichet contributes to the Dayton summary some well dealt with examples of flowers and landscapes.
Mrs. Jess Brown Aull is another of the women artists of abundant promise and charming achievement. Her studies in Brittany give one a real glimpse of medieval Europe.
Mrs. Howell Howard not only has the outstanding modern collection in Dayton, but is herself actively engaged in painting. Her water colors and oils have been shown in the exhibition of Independent Artists in New York, and in Cincinnati.
Paul E. Wilhelm, a young sculptor, has had his pieces in this year’s exhibit of Independent Artists and in the Legion of Honor gallery at San Francisco. His work claims more and more attention from connoisseurs. Albert Loos, Alvin Raffel, Stephen Gilman, Robert J. Smith are all doing good work as painters; Phillis Kumler Thacker, Seth M. Delsey, Robert Koepnick and Eliza Talbott Thayler (of Newton Square, Pennsylvania, but formerly of Dayton) as sculptors.
An important member of the faculty of the Institute School of Art is Leroy D. Sauer, block printer, etcher, poster designer and advertising illustrator. He is a product of the Cincinnati Art Academy, the Cleveland School of Art, and the American Art Training Center at Paris.
Edwin R. Burroughs is a graduate of the Maryland Institute, won the Municipal Arts Society scholarship in 1925, and the Howard W. Jackson first prize in 1926. Bernice E. Buyer is a metal worker and jeweler of great taste, and a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Seth M. Velsey is doing good work in anatomy, modeling and sculpture. He worked four years in the studio of Lorado Taft, and studied at the Art Institute in Chicago.
Louis Lott is our veteran architect, landscape planner, lover of art, lecturer and promoter of public interest and upholder of the Dayton Art institute. He studied in Cologne, Munich, at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, and has spent many years on the Continent and in England.
In summing up the activities and community service of the Dayton Art Institute the writer meets the insuperable difficulty of limitation of space. To enumerate the exhibits would require not a chapter but a bulky catalogue; to record the concerts, lectures, club meetings, teas, receptions, dramas, orchestral performances, choir programs, and special privileges, we find not a chapter would suffice but a whole volume. Not a day in the week not a week in the year but sees something vital and educational offered to the public, and the public begins to understand. Nearly fourteen thousand people entered those doors during the year of 1930. All will come again.
Especially significant are the Sunday evening vesper meetings. There in the lovely cloisters, under the fading summer sky, there is the sound of voices and of violins. The breeze that the hill-top catches moves the vines and the greenery. The glow of the sunset touches the ancient stone columns under whose arches people sit listening. Are they supercilious connoisseurs with a life-time of gallery haunting in their experience? Not at all. They are people who, most of them, have never been to Europe, have had no training in appreciation and have spent all their lives in Dayton. Yet here they are, drinking in the beauty of art which they feel belongs to them, and treading the paths of culture open heretofore only to the sophisticated and the rich. There are children, too, not noisy and romping but quiet and receptive, learning their lesson, too, that man does not live by bread alone.
It is not only impersonal art which welcomes these visitors, but human hospitality and a friendly welcome. “We hope you will come again” is the invitation. They do come and they always will come. Dayton is having her soul restored.
It is the triumph of democracy in art.
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