The artists I am looking at today is the South Korean painter, Hun Kyu Kim. It is difficult to describe the artwork of today’s featured painter. It is, to say the least, troubling and the more one concentrates on the figures, the more one becomes alarmed. The individual figures look like something out of Japanese anime or going back further in the past, the figures one saw and was fascinated with in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch
Kim says his favourite artwork is Bosch’s work, The Garden of Earthly Delights. According an interview he gave to CNN Seoul, he also sees his art as a bridge between the past and the contemporary.
Funeral on the Beach by Hun Kyu Kim (2020). Pigment painted on silk
However there is a thread of violence running through many of his works, whether it is threatened catfish, sword-wielding dogs or armoured vermin performing acts of violence, cruelty and damage. Their expressions distorted by hate, their eyes bloodshot and jaundiced, and their contorted faces often partly decomposed add horror to the depiction. Kim tries to mix amusement with the grotesque, and his paintings put a modern spin on the historical painting styles that Kim spent almost a decade mastering. What I like about his work is the way I can lose myself in the compositions which are so full of details and so visually multifaceted. Kim has said that he hoped his work tangled peoples brains. I am sure by the end of this blog you will see that he has managed that !
Kim in his studio.
Born in Seoul in 1986, when it came to enrolling at the city’s College of Fine Arts, Kim opted for the course on traditional Oriental painting and Aesthetics as his double major. During his studies he was taught the techniques behind restoring the great Buddhist paintings of the past and was set tasks to faithfully copy them. Of these tasks Kim spoke about the enjoyment he gained from the various tasks:
“…It was just an instinct. Old paintings come from religious activity so they have an aura inside, and a great beauty. The process is comforting, and I liked the scent of the silk and black ink…”
It took him almost a decade to graduate because the required techniques took that much time to grasp and understand.
Readymade Flea Market by Hun Kyu Kim. Pigment painted on silk.
After graduating Kim became involved in political activism and he found it difficult to gain exhibition space for his work which had anti-authoritarian connotations. He left South Korea and travelled to London where, in 2015, he enrolled on a postgraduate course at London’s Royal College of Art. Through his activism days he learnt how to engineer a more subtle activism with his allegorical depictions which left the observer to decide what they were all about and he believed that those who have suffered or are suffering oppression will understand the paintings.
Too Cool for Shopping by Hun Kyu Kim. Pigment painted on silk
Although at one time he considered himself to be a political artist, he now believes that since leaving his homeland he feels more relaxed and less politicised. In his work entitled Too Cool for Shopping we see anthropomorphic animals perform out endless and various storylines amidst a multicoloured, animated worlds. Look carefully and we can make out harassed catfish, sword-wielding dogs and rodents dressed in armour which commit acts of violence, malevolence and rascally deeds. Their contorted expressions are frightening. Their eyes are bloodshot and yellow, and even their putrefied faces are sometimes partly decomposed. As we look at the various figures we are partly amused and partly horrified.
Derby Lovers (Spring Day) by Hun Kyu Kim. Pigment painted on silk.
Kim would probably be looked upon as a workaholic. He is in his studio painting ten hours a day and seven days a week. It is what he loves doing and he says to complete one of his larger works takes him at least a month. The painting on silk is a complex process. His modus operandi is to start the work at one corner and let details run out slowly and one must remember that any mistakes made are irreversible resulting in the painting being binned. So how does Kim cope with that problem? According to him it is the case of morning meditation before starting work!
Drowning by Hun Kyu Kim. Pigment painted on silk.
We are aware that Kim’s has taken an inordinate amount of time to complete his artworks. It has consumed hours and hours of his time and in a way it demands we take our time to carefully peruse the depictions and take in every feature of it rather than just giving it the usual cursory five-second glance, the normal time we allow ourselves to gain some pleasure from what we see.
Ark for One by Hun Kyu Kim (2017). Pigment painted on silk.
Kim’s work is what I believe you either love or hate. There is simply no halfway house !
Eight Universes and The Machine by Hun Kyu Kim.
The four paintings above were part of Kim’s first solo exhibition in the UK entitled The Eight Universes and The Machine. The exhibition was held in November and December 2018 at The Approach Gallery, a contemporary art gallery situated above a public house of the same name in Bethnal Green, London. The exhibition was entitled The Eight Universes and The Machine. His exhibition weaved intricate stories about an imaginary world. However, Kim’s imagined world becomes an analogy for his understanding and thoughts with regards the very real recent political situation in South Korea and its disquieting change since a stamping out of a corrupt regime.
Pigdog by Hun Kyu Kim
Kim’s Eight Universes and The Machine, has scrupulously created eight parallel universes across his eight paintings, comprising four seasons, night and day. The depictions included numerous hybrid animals symbolising a social status such as scholar, artist and labourer. Kim’s created worlds are envisaged to be under the control of one huge machine, neoliberal capitalism, which is a reference to an ideology encouraging free-market capitalism and minimal government intervention which has been the dominant and increasingly pervasive economic system of the contemporary world since the late 1970s.
Life will become more interesting by Hun Kyu Kim. Colouring on silk with oriental pigments and taxidermy.
These exhibited works were the first eight paintings from a much larger ongoing project that Kim is embarking upon, which he terms as The Big Picture. A huge endeavour, meticulously illustrating, in obsessive detail, a story combining Korean fairy tales, political history and folklore, as an original science fiction epic. Kim takes on the role of the storyteller. Each story acts as an independent unit, but shares a common world full of imagination, informing a single overarching narrative. The political message Kim puts over with these paintings exposes how neoliberalism perniciously operates in our society today, and how, we, its subjects, innocently take part in its operation to their own disadvantage.
Unwashed by Hun Kyu Kim. Colouring on silk with oriental pigment.
Hun Kyu Kim currently lives and works in London and in 2017 was the winner of the Chadwell Award. This award was set up by Andrew Post and Mary Aylmer in 2010 in memory of Andrew’s mother. The award is offered to students as a bridge between art school and practice as a professional artist by giving a recent Fine Art MA graduate a free studio in Bow, London for a year, together with a bursary of £1,000. In addition the Chadwell Award has a discretionary purchase grant of up to £4,000 to buy a work from the award holder at their end-of-award show.
So there you have it ! Love it or hate it – your decision.
My next blog will be all about colour but equally different from mainstream art.
In my last blog, I looked at the life and works of the Australian painter Agnes Goodsir, who had spent a large part of her life in Paris. Today I am showcasing another Australian artist, Rupert Bunny, who also spent many years in the French capital and was one of the most successful expatriate Australian artists of his generation.
Self portrait by Rupert Bunny (c.1920)
Rupert Charles Wulsten Bunny was born in St Kilda, Melbourne on September 29th 1864. Rupert was the third son of a English-born, Eton educated, Brice Frederick Bunny. His father had studied law and was called to the Bar in 1844, becoming a talented equity barrister in London. The news of the discovery of gold in the 1850s in New South Wales and Victoria whetted Brice’s appetite and in October 1852 he arrived on Australian soil intending to make a quick fortune before returning to London. However neither of his plans materialised, as after six months of prospecting he had nothing to show. However, the one bit of luck he had was when he emigrated to Australia he brought with him all his law books and so, after his failed prospecting period, he went to Melbourne and resurrected his legal career in October 1853. In June 1856 Rupert Bunny’s father married German-born Maria Hedwig Dorothea Wulsten, who had followed him to Australia. They set up home in St Kilda, where he was active in the Municipal Council. In 1873 Brice Bunny was appointed an acting County Court judge but his health started to deteriorate and he had to resign from the legal profession. He died on 2 June 1885 at St Kilda, Victoria, leaving three sons, one of them a barrister, and three daughters. His wife, Rupert’s mother, died in 1902.
Hair Drying by Rupert Bunny (c.1908)
Rupert Bunny had three sisters, Alice and Annette who were five and two years older than him and Hilda who was three years younger. He also had two older brothers, Herman and George and a younger brother Brice. Rupert attended the Alma Road Grammar School in St Kilda, and later the Hutchins School in Hobart. In 1881 he enrolled at the University of Melbourne where he studied civil engineering. He was not happy with the course and abandoned it. At one time he decided he wanted to become an actor, but this future path was abruptly blocked by his parents. Maybe as a compromise between his desires and those of his parents, he settled for joining the National Gallery Schools under British-born Oswald Rose Campbell and Irish-born George Frederick Folingsby, who was the director of the National Gallery and master in the School of Art. Whilst there he became friends with his fellow students including Frederick McCubbin, E. Phillips Fox and Louis Abrahams.
The Descent from the Cross by Rupert Bunny (1898)
The painting was hung at the 1898 Royal Academy in London
In 1884, at the age of twenty, Rupert Bunny left Australia and went to London. Once in the English capital he enrolled at St Johns Wood Art School where one of his tutors was the English painter, Philip Calderon. Two years later, in 1886, he left England and headed for Paris to study under Jean-Paul Laurens in his studio at the Académie Julian. He left Laurens in 1886 and went to study at the Académie Colarossi where he studied under the French painter, Pierre Paul Léon Glaize. His studies here made him an accomplished academic history painting – paintings on a large scale, with complex compositions based on mythological, historical and biblical subjects, and the depictions would characteristically contain multiple figures. From 1888, now in Paris, Bunny exhibited at the Parisian Salon de la Société des Artistes Français (Old Salon).
The Tritons by Rupert Bunny (1890)
During the late 1880s he produced a series of large-scale, delicately coloured sea idylls peopled with mythological and pagan creatures including mer-folk. Having a German mother, Rupert remembered the German myths and legends. Bunny often drew inspiration from the German myths and legends that she would read to him and characters from these often appeared in his depictions. These stories were balanced by his father telling his son tales from the bible and Greek and Roman mythology. One such painting was entitled The Tritons which Bunny completed in 1890. The painting was exhibited in Paris at the Old Salon in 1890, and it was the first painting by an Australian to receive an honourable mention at the event. The painting depicts a group of tritons, who were legendary creatures that lived both on land and at sea. They are enjoying a lazy moment in their calm surroundings. Rupert Bunny, in this work, lays before us some of the features which would become characteristics of his work, such as an attraction he had for mythological subjects and the depiction of the mystery and glamour within an intimate setting. Look how he has expertly shaped a twilight atmosphere by the use of subtle colour schemes, as is the case where the pale blue, silvery ocean and pink-toned sky are quietly reflected in the flesh tones of the figures.
Pastoral by Rupert Bunny (1893)
His 1893 painting entitled Pastoral is a good example of the large-scale mythological works Bunny painted during his early years in France. The painting is an allegory about the life-changing power of music. Before us we see youths and pagan beings who are all mesmerised by the strains of the pipes and soothed into a state of heightened consciousness. The figures we see in the painting are contemporary youths and Rupert used their inclusion to show that Arcadia was not something we read about in days gone by but a state of mind. There is a dream-like quality about the depiction and note the inclusion of vermillion poppies, a flower which symbolised sleep.
Madame Melba by Rupert Bunny (1902)
Rupert Bunny, besides being a great artist, was also a talented pianist and composer. The love of all things musical probably persuaded him to paint a number of portraits of the Australian soprano, Dame Nellie Melba. She had, during the latter days of the nineteenth century, moved to Europe to cement a career as a professional singer. Rupert’s portrait of her entitled Madame Melba was completed around 1902. Rupert had known her since the 1880s. The painting, once completed, hung in the singer’s London home. Later, she presented it to Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. The National Gallery of Victoria bought the painting in 1980 and later it was loaned to Government House in Melbourne Victoria.
Percy Grainger by Rupert Bunny (1904)
Bunny created portraits of a number of Europe-based Australian musicians and performers. He was commissioned, by twenty-two-years-old Australian pianist and composer, Percy Grainger, to paint his portrait in the early days of his professional musical career. Grainger became acquainted with Bunny through Nellie Melba. Whilst living in London Rupert Bunny attended gatherings at Grainger’s rooms at King’s Road where the guests would sing many of Grainger’s compositions. In this portrait, the young musician is portrayed as a relaxed young gentleman in the tradition of what was termed the ‘swagger’ portrait, which aptly reflected Grainger’s own ambitions. In Grainger’s left hand is a sheet of music, a conscious reference to Grainger’s celebrated career.
Portrait of the Artist’s Wife by Rupert Bunny (c.1895)
Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, Jeanne Morel by Rupert Bunny (1902)
In 1892, Rupert Bunny met his future wife, Jeanne Heloise Morel who was a fellow art student. It was love at first sight as Bunny was bowled over by her beauty. John Longstaff, a fellow Australian painter who was living in Paris, remembers the first meeting between Rupert and Jeanne, saying:
“…I remember … the very night they met, and how he fell in love with her at first sight. She was a regular Dresden china girl with a deliciously tip-titled nose…”
The meeting was to prove a turning point in Rupert’s life, not just with the romance which followed, but by his change in his artistic style. A colleague of Bunny commented:
“… Jeanne changed not only Bunny’s life but also his art, which now focused on subjects in which beautiful women played the central role, with Jeanne as his favourite model…”
Rupert Bunny was influenced by Morel and she became his favourite model who featured in his depictions of the idyllic and leisured lifestyle of the Belle Epoque. Her graceful form and sensuous features were seen in many of his works, embodying Bunny’s feminine ideal. Bunny was also greatly influenced by the English Pre-Raphaelite painters such as John Everett Millais.
Portrait of Mlle Morel by Rupert Bunny (1895)
Portrait of Mlle Morel by Rupert Bunny, which he completed in 1895, is the first, major full-length portrait by Bunny of Morel. It is a tender depiction of his then girlfriend that he painted and was submitted and accepted into the Paris Salon that year. It was a painting which marked the turning point of Rupert Bunny’s art from the Allegorical to the Belle Époque.
A Summer Morning by Rupert Bunny (1905)
Jeanne Heloise Morel was born on July 29th 1871 in Paris. Her mother was Marguerite Morel, an unmarried servant. Her father, who was never named on the birth certificate, was said by Jeanne to be Eugénie François Morel, who served as an officer in the French Navy. Jeanne received training in Fine Arts at the Orphanage of Arts at 96 rue de Vannes in Paris. In 1884, when she was thirteen-years-old, Jeanne made her public debut at the Société des Artistes and subsequently exhibited at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, working in oils. Jeanne-Heloise Morel married Rupert Bunny in London in March 1902.
Dolce Far Niente (Sweet Idleness) by Rupert Bunny (c.1897)
The painting’s title means sweet idleness or the sweetness of doing nothing. Rupert Bunny would paint numerous similarly composed works featuring groups of women relaxing, dreaming, dressing or undressing close by expanses of water. The French art critic Gustave Geffroy was a great believer in Rupert Bunny and loved his work, Dolce Far Niente and in a review of the Salon of 1897 at which the painting was exhibited, he wrote:
“…To discover the promises and creations of newcomers, it is necessary to research, to go to canvases attracted by a soft radiance, a quiet force, a secret charm….I like the poetry of Dolce Far Nniente by Mr Bunny [of] women with graceful bodies, and beautiful and instinctive faces, who dream by the sea…”
Gustave Geffroy was a great advocate of Bunny’s work for the next three decades and in a 1917 review he wrote:
“He is a brilliant and spirited artist…at one and the same time, a realist and a visionary, an observer of truth and a poet of the world of dreams…”
Endormies by Rupert Bunny (c.1904)
Rupert Bunny’s 1904 painting entitled Endormies (Sleepy) portrays two female figures at the water’s edge relaxing and lost in a world of dreams. Rupert modelled the sleeping figure once again on his wife Jeanne Morel. Her elegant and sensuous physical qualities enhanced many of his paintings. In this depiction the artist has included a rose by the side of one of the sleeping women. The rose was a traditional symbol of love and sensuous power. The white swans we see in the background symbolise the attributes of grace and beauty. Rupert, like many artists also used the motif of a small dog, which often signifies marital fidelity. In this painting Rupert has placed the animal sleeping at the feet of his mistress.
Summer Time by Rupert Bunny (1907)
In all Rupert Bunny’s depictions of his wife Jeanne and her friends there was an aura of beauty and elegance. The clothes which adorned the females were typified in their fashionable trimmings and reflected the stylishness of the apparently endless summers that was La Belle Époque. The public loved these works of art and they became the most commercially and critically successful works of his career. Rupert Bunny’s 1907 work entitled Summer Time splendidly validates his skill as a draughtsman and his consummate treatment of large-scale works such as this one which measures 250 x 300 cms. It was exhibited at that year’s Paris Salon. It was his most ambitious work.
in situ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales
The painting depicts a spirit of leisure and sensuality as we observe seven voluptuous women relaxing inside a bathhouse on the Seine. It is a floating swimming pool sealed off from public view where women could bathe modestly. We see 0ne of the women is undressing preparing to climb down into the water while another female, on the left of the painting, is getting dressed before she emerges into public view.
The Rape of Persephone by Rupert Bunny (1913)
Rupert Bunny was never afraid to shy away from changing his artistic style. He had a refreshing willingness to keep reinventing himself and during his life, he simply kept an eye on what was the most fashionable style, so that his popularity would not wane. Of the painting, The Rape of Persephone, one art critic, George Bell, described it as:
“…a glorious riot of colour from the finest imaginative Australia has produced…”
Fresque by Rupert Bunny (1921)
Rupert Bunny moved through successive styles and was strongly influenced by British pre-Raphaelites French primitives, symbolists and Post-Impressionists. He was particularly influenced by Matisse and his love of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, an itinerant ballet company begun in Paris that performed throughout Europe between 1909 and 1929.
Salome by Rupert Bunny (c.1919)
The paintings of Rupert Bunny around this time began to be ones of heightened colour and abstracted, rhythmical forms.
In 1933, Bunny returned to live in Melbourne where he continued to paint until his mid-70s. He died on May 25th 1947, aged 82. Rupert’s forte was his ability to change with the times and he was always open to new artistic influences. Throughout his life he had always been motivated when it came to his painting. He never tired of experimenting with colour combinations and was never afraid to take risks. He was a master colourist.
Much has been written about Rupert Bunny and this blog has just scratched at the surface of his life but I hope it will tempt you into reading more about this great Australian painter.
The subject of my blog today is the Australian portrait and still life painter Agnes Noyes Goodsir.
Agnes Goodsir was born in Portland, in South-west Victoria, Australia, on June 18th 1864, and was the second daughter and fifth of the eleven children of David James Cook Goodsir, who held the post of Commissioner of Customs at Melbourne, and Elizabeth Archer, née Tomlins. Goodsir enjoyed painting and sketching and concentrated on still life works. She started formal art training at the Bendigo School of Mines around 1898. Her tutor was the painter and educator, Arthur Thomas Woodward. Woodward was born in Birmingham, England, and had received his art education at the Birmingham School of Art where Edward Richard Taylor was headmaster and one of his tutors. Later he attended the South Kensington Art Schools, in London where he was a gold medallist. He emigrated to Victoria, Australia and in 1894 he was appointed Head of the School of Art and Design at the Bendigo School of Mines. He was an excellent educator who was aware of the trends in European fine arts and introduced methods and syllabi based on it, including en plein air art classes and life drawing, thus offering the opportunity for his students to move to France, immerse themselves in French culture and enroll at French academies, where they would be able to study art internationally. Agnes Goodsir was open to the idea of travelling to France and in 1899, aged thirty-five, she decided to increase her knowledge of art by moving half way round the world to Paris but to achieve that goal she needed money. This was achieved when a one-woman show of her paintings was held in Bendigo. Sufficient money was raised by the sale of her work and in 1900 she set sail for France.
Self portrait by Agnes Goodsir (1900)
This self-portrait by Agnes Goodsir is hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. It is dated 1900, around the time Agnes arrived in Paris. It is a beautiful oil on canvas work. It combines a formal representation with a dark sobriety that Goodsir presumably believed brought gravitas to the depiction. At the time of the portrait Agnes would have been studying at Académie Delécluse and the Académie Julian and this could be the reason for this academic-styled depiction with its dark background providing an appropriate backdrop and contrast with the artist’s pearly features and beautifully depicted draped hand. This signaled the starting point of her illustrious artistic career in France.
The Letter by Agnes Goodsir (1926)
On arrival in the French capital Agnes enrolled at the Académie Delacluse, an atelier-style art school founded in the late 19th century and named after its founder, the painter Auguste Joseph Delécluse. Later she would take courses at the Académie Julian, under Jean-Paul Laurens, where she was twice placed first in Composition, the Académie de la Grande Chaumière where she won the 1904 silver medal for portraiture, and finally the Académie Colarossi. Agnes made a number of visits to London and at the outbreak of the First World War she left Paris and went back to London. While in London during the war, Agnes became close friends with Bernard Roelvink and his American wife Rachel. Rachel later divorced Roelvink and she reverted to her maiden name, Mrs Rachel Dunn, but to her friends she was known by her nickname ‘Cherry’.
A Letter from the Front by Agnes Goodsir (1914)
Once the Great War had ended Agnes and her beloved companion and muse, Cherry, left the English capital and moved to Paris where they set up home in an apartment at 18 rue de l’Odéon, which is in the sixth arrondissement of Paris on the Left Bank of the Seine, a short walk from the Luxembourg Gardens. Agnes’ work was well received on both sides of the Channel and exhibited at the New Salon, the Salon des Indépendants and the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Girl with a Cigarette by Agnes Goodsir (1925)
Paris in the 1920s was the centre of artistic activity, with writers, artists, performers and musicians from all around the world gathering together. Paris’ 6th arrondissement where Agnes and Rachel lived was in the heart of the “action” and was referred to as the Latin Quarter. One of Agnes’ famous portraits of Rachel, which she completed in 1925, was entitled Girl with a Cigarette. Rachel is stylishly dressed, with a colourful wrap and chic accessories. It is the archetypal depiction of a 1920s flapper seen enjoying her coffee and cigarette. She is both self-assured and relaxed within the cafe environment.
The Chinese Skirt by Agnes Goodsir (1933)
Agnes Goodsir and Rachel Dunn lived together in Paris, and Goodsir often depicted Dunn as the unflinching liberated and trendy woman that she undoubtedly was. Once again in her 1933 painting The Chinese Skirt, like many of Goodsir’s works, the subject of the portrait is her lover, Rachel Dunn. In this painting we see Rachel adorned in an elegant and fashionable Chinese-inspired skirt. To the right of her, on a table, are two ceramic figures the colour of which is echoed in the blue embroidery of her skirt, a couple of books in the bookcase seen in the background and the pot sitting atop this piece of furniture.
The Australian newspaper, The Australasian newspaper described Goodsir’s work at the time as being:
“…a galaxy of beautiful, and even more beautiful women, doing feminine things: taking morning tea, posing before a mirror, reading, wearing blue hats or Chineseshawls…”
The Parisienne by Agnes Goodsir (c.1924)
Goodsir lived in Paris with Rachel during the period between the two World Wars. France, like other participating countries of the Great War, had lost so many men in the fighting and with this lost generation of men the social life in the French capital was more a feminine affair, and the city between wars was a place for innovative women. Paris was also a place for lesbian couples to live their lives publicly and in peace. The Parisienne depicts Cherry in a modernist style. She is seen in masculine attire, wearing a cloche hat and high collar which encloses her face. Her hands are relaxed in lap, with a cigarette evoking an air of self-confidence and independence.
The Hungarian Shawl by Agnes Goodsir (c.1927)
Following a period of spending time in England, Agnes and Rachel settled down in their rue de l’Odéon apartment in Paris. Agnes painted subjects of the domestic interior of their apartment like a series of still life compositions, continually rearranging views of her everyday life, and often using them as a means to explore the expressive potential of colour combinations. Dunn repeatedly featured as Goodsir’s model, imaged in states of repose and gowned in flamboyant dress creating a sense of a domestic theatre that hovers between pretence and realism. In her 1927 painting entitled The Hungarian Shawl it is all about colour. The background is almost bare and uncluttered allowing us to concentrate on the figure. It is all about the patterns on the shawl’s silky fabric design set against an almost monochromatic background. The depiction is instilled with the diffused interior light and almost resembles a small sketch-like work but at the same time conjures up a luminous sense of colour.
Agnes Goodsir (left) and Rachel Dunn (aka Cherry) (second from left) at Valerie en Caix, c. 1930
In 1926, Goodsir was made a member of France’s Société Nationale des Beaux Arts, one of few Australians to receive the honour.
Portrait of Sunday Baillieu Quinn, Parisby Agnes Goodsir (1929)
Although Agnes Goodsir’s lifestyle was looked upon, during her lifetime, as being somewhat controversial, it was nothing compared to the colourful lifestyle of the sitter of a portrait Agnes completed in 1929. The painting was entitled Portrait of Sunday Baillieu Quinn, Paris. Sunday Reed who was born Lelda Sunday Baillieu in Melbourne on October 15th 1905, who later with her second husband, became patrons of the arts and established in Bulleen, a suburb of Melbourne, the Heide Museum of Modern Art, also simply known as Heide . She was the third of four children of Arthur Sydney Baillieu and Ethel Mary Baillieu (née Ham) and was a member of the very affluent Melbourne’s Baillieu family and the niece of William Baillieu, one of Australia’s richest men. She was the third of four children and after being home-schooled from a young age by a governess, completed her education at the prestigious boarding school, St Catherine’s School in Toorak. In 1924 she accompanied her family to England, where she was presented at court during the débutante season. In 1926, when she was twenty-one, she married an American, Leonard Quinn and the couple left Australia and visited England and France. In 1929, around about the time of the portrait Lelda, she was diagnosed with gonorrhoea and had to endure several operations including a hysterectomy which left her unable to bear children and causing deafness in her right ear. Shortly afterwards, her husband deserted her in England and her father and brother had to travel to London to bring her home. By the end of the year the couple were divorced.
John and Sunday Reed on their wedding day in 1932.
Whilst still convalescing in late 1930, Lelda met her second husband, lawyer John Harford Reed at a tennis party. Despite the difficulty of obtaining a divorce, powerful family influence and connections prevailed and Sunday’s divorce was finalised in June 1931. She and Reid married in January 1932 in a civil ceremony. In 1934 John Reid and his wife bought a former dairy farm on the Yarra River at Bulleen, Victoria, which became known as “Heide”. The couple lived on the property until their deaths in 1981, a short time after, the property had become the Heide Museum of Modern Art.
In the Latin Quarter Studio by Agnes Goodsir (c.1922)
Goodsir’s reputation as a great portrait artist, coupled with her social connections, allowed her to complete portrait commissions of many famous people such as the Australian author and journalist Banjo Patterson, English actress, Ellen Terry, Mussolini, Tolstoy and the Australian soprano, Dame Nellie Melba. Despite those portraits of famous people Agnes Goodsir will be remembered for her portraits featuring Rachel Dunn.
In a Paris Studio by Agnes Goodsir (1926)
Although Goodsir was fond of her Australian birthplace, it was Paris that she loved and where she would spend her final days with Rachel. Agnes Goodsir died in Paris on August 11th 1939, aged 75. All of Agnes’s paintings were left to Rachel. Rachel sent forty of her painting to Agnes’s family in Australia and others to Australian galleries. The Goodsir Scholarship of the Bendigo Art Gallery, one of Australia’s oldest and largest regional art gallery, is named in memory of her. Rachel died in 1950 and was buried in the same grave as her constant companion in a cemetery on the outside Paris.
The artist I am looking at today is the late nineteenth century American painter, muralist, art historian and travel writer, Edwin Howland Blashfield. Blashfield was born on December 5th 1848 in Brooklyn. He was the son of William H. Blashfield and Eliza Dodd. His father was an engineer and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. On the other hand, his mother, Eliza, had been trained as a portrait painter and she encouraged her son’s artistic studies. His father’s wishes for his son’s future were granted, and in 1863, aged fifteen, Blashfield travelled to Hanover, Germany, to study engineering. The death three months later of his companion and godfather, Edwin Howland, necessitated in his return to the United States. Once on home soil, he enrolled on and engineering course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, which lasted for two years.
The Roman Pose by Edwin Blashfield
While studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his mother, sent some of his drawings to the French academic painter Jean Léon Gérôme, whose praise for Edwin’s work persuaded his father to allow him to take up a career in art. Blashfield followed his technical training with three months of study with Thomas Johnson, who had once been a pupil of William Morris Hunt, the American Romantic painter. He then travelled to Paris in 1867 to gain more artistic training but was denied entrance to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, so, instead, he took a place in the studio of the French history and portrait painter, Léon Bonnat from 1867 to 1870. As well as the tuition, Blashfield met great artists living in the French capital such as Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and William-Adolphe Bouguereau whose work greatly influenced him. Blashfield led a good life in Paris thanks to his inherited wealth and during the summers he would head for the French countryside. In late 1870 the Franco-Prussian War began and Paris was under siege and later came the uprisings in the French capital, so ending his artistic training, and so to escape the troubles he travelled around Europe, visiting Belgium and then went to Florence where he remained for eight months. He returned home to New York in 1871 and for the next three years he painted mainly costume pictures of fashionable ladies.
The Lover’s Advance by Edwin Blashfield
He returned to Paris in 1874 and re-enrolled at Léon Bonnat’s studio where he became great friends with fellow American painters Elihu Vedder, H. Siddons Mowbray, and Frederick A. Bridgman. In 1876, he met writer Evangeline Wilbour, a pioneer of women’s history, and activist. Evangeline was born in 1858 and often summered in her birthplace, Little Compton, Rhode Island, though she lived much of her life in New York. She was the eldest of four children of Charles Edwin Wilbour and his wife Charlotte. Her father’s principal business was ownership of a large paper manufacturing company and had connections with Tammany Hall, a New York City political organization, which became the main local political machine of the Democratic Party and played a major role in controlling New York City and New York State politics. It was through this connection that Charles Wilbour received many contracts and made his fortune from William “Boss” Tweed the political boss of Tammany Hall. Tweed fell from grace in 1871 and eventually in 1873 he was jailed for corruption. To escape any fall-out from this, Evangeline Wilbour’s father decided to hastily leave the United States in 1874, and move to Paris with his family.
Evangeline Blashfield née Wilbour
Evangeline spent a short time in finishing schools in Florence and Paris but despite her interrupted education, her insatiable curiosity and her never-ending search for knowledge, she was looked upon as one of the most learned people of her era: fluent in French and Italian, capable in German, Arabic, and Latin; a world-class expert on history, art history, literature, and theatre.
The Dolls by Edwin Blashfield
Evangeline and Edwin Blashfield met at a dance in Paris in 1876. Blashfield introduced her to his art, which consisted mainly of painted pictures of ladies in fancy dress, which he sold. Evangeline and he developed a close friendship but she believed he could better himself as his main source of income was squandered on parties and trips to London. Evangeline knew that Edwin must change his modus operandi if he was to succeed. Having met Evangeline, Blashfield’s painting motifs changed and he started to depict female gladiators fighting each other with swords, ancient women artists, and theatrical female figures thrilling with passionate intensity but this was just the start of the change Evangeline envisaged for Edwin. The couple married in 1881 and she provided him with a substantial income. Edwin gave up his studies with Bonnat and the couple returned to New York They set up home in the newly built studios in the Sherwood Building on West 57th Street, which was home to many of the emerging young artists of the generation.
The Roman Aviary by Edwin Blashfield
Evangeline persuaded her husband, who was now financially sound, to abandon his painting and selling small easel pictures and instead concentrate on painting larger and more ambitious works. However, Blashfield continued painting whimsical genre pictures and also did illustrations for the St. Nicholas Magazine. Soon after returning to New York, he worked together with his wife, producing illustrated articles for Century Magazine and Scribner’s Magazine. Edwin and Evangeline Blashfield returned to Europe in 1887, spending time at the artist colony of Broadway, in the heart of the English Cotswolds, where they met fellow painters, Francis Millet, the leading light of the group, from Mattapoissett, Massachusett, Edwin Austin Abbey, the American muralist and John Singer Sargent. These artists, who were mainly American, were attracted to the village by its idyllic rural nature.
Iliad, The Luxor Barber by Edwin Blashfield
Later that year the Blashfields continued their travels and took a boat trip to Egypt and went to sail on the Nile aboard the boat owned by Evangeline’s father. Her father Charles Wilbour had escaped America and the time of the fall of William “Boss” Tweed and the Tammany Hall corruption scandal which might have touched him, due to the many contracts his paper-making business had with Tweed. Charles Wilbour then had concentrated on his love of all things to do with Egypt and he visited Europe and spent his time studying the Egyptian treasures of the British Museum and other great European collections. He became associated with many well-known Egyptologists and went on five Nile River expeditions. He bought a boat which was moored on the Nile.
The Columbian Exposition (Chicago’s World Fair ) (1893)
Influenced by his wife, Blashfield agreed to concentrate are large scale paintings and murals, and soon in the 1880s he became America’s foremost authority on mural and monumental painting after his success at the Chicago World’s Fair. The Chicago World Fair was held in Chicago in 1893. It was also known as the World’s Columbian Exposition as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492. The Fair was held in Jackson Park, with the centrepiece being a large expanse of water epitomising the voyage Columbus took to explore the New World. The exposition was an influential social and cultural event and had an insightful effect on American architecture, the arts, American industrial optimism, and most of all, Chicago’s image. In 1892 Blashfield was approached by the American academic classical painter, sculptor, and writer, Francis Davis Millet, whom he had previously met whilst visiting the Broadway artist colony in Worcestershire. Millet, a member of the Society of American Artists in 1880, and in 1885, was elected as a member of the National Academy of Design, New York and as Vice-Chairman of the Fine Arts Committee. He was made a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and sat on the advisory committee of the National Gallery of Art. He was decorations director for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He wanted Blashfield to contribute a mural, The Art of Metalworking, for one of the domes of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago. The murals Blashfield completed for Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building of the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago were loved by attendees and it led to many more mural commissions.
Edwin Blashfield’s mural for the interior of the dome of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building.
One such commission was for the interior of the dome of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building. It was decided that Blashfield’s murals would adorn the dome of the Main Reading Room, occupy the central and the highest point of the building and form the culmination of the entire interior decorative scheme.
His murals would decorate inside the lantern of the dome and depict Human Understanding. They would be observed above the finite intellectual achievements which were represented by the twelve figures positioned in the collar of the dome. These twelve seated figures represented the twelve countries, or periods, which Blashfield felt added the most to American civilization. On the right of each figure was a tablet on which was inscribed the name of the country typified and, below this, the name of the exceptional contribution of that country to human development.
Egypt represents Written Records.
Judea represents Religion.
Greece represents Philosophy.
Rome represents Administration.
Islam represents Physics.
The Middle Ages represent Modern Languages.
Italy represents the Fine Arts.
Germany represents the Art of Printing.
Spain represents Discovery.
England represents Literature.
France represents Emancipation.
America represents Science.
Edwin Blashfield at work on his murals
The precarious staging need by Blashfield to paint the murals
Blashfield’s murals featured in courthouses, state capitols, churches, universities, museums, and other places across the United States, including the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York
Westward – mural by Edwin Blashford
Blashfield completed a mural for the Iowa State Capital Building in Des Moines, which extended the full width of the east wall above the staircase. The mural painted by Blashfield in 1905 measures 14 feet high and 40 feet wide and is simply entitled Westward.
Detail from the Westward mural
It was painted on six pieces of canvass and placed into the frame. It is an idealised representation which depicts early pioneers, who are crossing Iowa and heading West seeking a new life.
Detail from the Westward mural by Edwin Blashfield
Blashfield described his mural, writing:
“…The main idea of the picture is symbolical presentation of the Pioneers led by the spirits of Civilization and Enlightenment to the conquest by cultivation of the Great West. Considered pictorially, the canvass shows a ‘Prairie Schooner’ drawn by oxen across the prairie. The family ride upon the wagon or walk at its side. Behind them and seen through the growth of stalks at the right, come crowding the other pioneers and ‘later men.’ In the air and before the wagon, are floating four female figures; one holds the shield with the arms of the state of Iowa upon it; one holds a book symbolizing Enlightenment; two others carry a basket and scatter the seeds which are symbolical of the change from wilderness to ploughed fields and gardens that shall come over the prairie. Behind the wagon, and also floating in the air, two female figures hold, respectively, a model of a stationary steam engine and of an electric dynamo to suggest the forces which come with the ‘later men.’ …”
Mural above central staircase
The mural was a reminder of the courageous journey taken by pioneers travelling west to set up home and achieve a new life for their families and descendants. A truly noteworthy and heroic journey – or was it ? Some did not think so and wanted the mural removed. In Iowa, the Indigenous women-led activist group Seeding Sovereignty delivered a letter to officials seeking the removal of monuments and Blashfield’s mural from its State Capitol in Des Moines. Ronnie Free, a member of Great Plains Action Society, told the local newspaper, the Des Moines Register:
“…I feel it is a century long’s attempt at trying to erase the history of Indigenous peoples. It covers up genocide. The term whitewashing comes to mind. I think they’re horrible, and I hate that my children have to see that…”
In its place, activists are calling for the mural and monuments to be replaced with works that celebrate the state’s Indigenous history.
Trumpets of Missouri mural by Edwin Blashfield (1918)
In 1918, Edwin Blashfield was commissioned by the Kansas City Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to complete a mural entitled Trumpets of Missouri which would commemorate and honour the citizens of Missouri who answered the nation’s call to arms in the First World War. The work is a rare surviving mural by the Blashfield. The Kansas City Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was established in Kansas in 1896 and has helped promote history throughout the state from its 19th century beginning through the present. The foreground features a woman symbolizing Missouri, seated and clad in armor while watching her sons depart for war. Further historical symbolism emerges with a group of trumpeters in the background, “representing Old France, Old Spain, and the Union and Confederate forces, while in the front of her is a figure in khaki representing the Union of the present time, sounding the call to arms. Blashfield’s mural was described in the New York Times article of June 16th, 1918:
“…The composition is intended to give a historical outline of the development of the State. Before the Louisiana Purchase, Missouri belonged to France, then to Spain, and, again, to France. During the Civil War she was tossed from the Confederate to the Union side. The wide range of her racial and political affiliations is indicated in the painting. Missouri is symbolized by a seated female figure watching the departure of her troops. Over her head the Stars and Stripes billows on a strong wind in noble folds. Clad in armour, her hand grasping a sheathed sword, she looks out over a vast expanse of rolling country under a sky filled with clouds. Behind her stand a group of trumpeters representing Old France, Old Spain, the Union and Confederate forces, while in front of her is a figure in khaki representing the Union of the present time, sounding the call to arms. The troops responding are carrying the American flag and the Missouri State flag…”
Following its completion in 1918, the artwork was briefly displayed at an art gallery in Blashfield’s home state of New York, but later that year was presented by the Daughters of the American Revolution as a gift to the Kansas City Public Library to be hung in its facility at Ninth and Locust Streets. However mystery surrounds the mural and its present whereabouts. The library building was bought by U.S. Trade School and at that time the mural was in the building but sometime in the 1980s it disappeared. According to the Christies’, New York auction service website, the painting entitled Trumpets of Missouri, was sold at auction in 2014 to a private bidder for a substantial $149,000.
Evangeline Blashfield by Edwin Blashfield (1889)
Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield came from a long line of feminists and suffragists. Her mother, Charlotte Beebe Wilbour, founded and led half-a-dozen societies for the advancement of women, including Sorosis, the nation’s first women’s professional club. Evangeline often wrote about the rights of the poor and the downtrodden. She was able to understand a deep problem that even nowadays troubles her country and politics: that the oppressed, forgotten, and disenfranchised cannot become equal citizens until they have equal voice, dignity, and history. Evangeline was a knowledgeable historian. She understood that remembering rather than forgetting the errors and abuses of the past is the best defense against future abuses of our shared humanity.
Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield Fountain
A gift of the Municipal Art Society of New York to the city in honor of Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield who sought to beautify public space and provide water for vendors at the open-air marketplace originally on this site.
Evangeline Wilbour Blashfied died in New York on November 15th, 1918 aged 60. Six months after her death, the Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield memorial fountain was dedicated to her at Bridgemarket, underneath the Queensboro Bridge. She had lobbied for the fountain through her position in the Municipal Art Society. She wanted the vendors (and their horses), who came over the bridge from the farmlands of Queens with their wares, to have fresh water. At the turn of the twentieth century the immigrant sons of toil who kept New York and the nation running trucked their vegetables across the bridge every day to the beautifully vaulted Bridgemarket, but the space outside was a muddy, rutted mess. Evangeline wanted a fountain to be built to beautify this space and to water the horses of the vendors at the market.
In 1928, ten years after Evangeline’s passing, Blashfield re-married. His second wife was Grace Hall. Blashfield had been very active within the art community throughout his life. He served as President of the National Academy of Design, the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1915-16), and the Society of American Artists (1895-6). He was also a member of the Society of Mural Painters, the Architectural League, the Federation of Fine Arts of New York, and the National Commission of Fine Arts. Among his many honours, Blashfield was awarded a Gold Medal by the National Academy of Design in 1934, an honorary membership in the American Institute of Architecture, and an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts by New York University in 1926.
Edwin Howland Blashfield died at his summer home on Cape Cod on October 12th 1936, aged 87.