The Red Rose Girls. Part 5. The latter years.

Front cover illustration of The Ladies Home Journal by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Jessie Willcox Smith rented a small studio space at 1334 Chestnut Street, in downtown Philadelphia.  The studio, although cramped and barely room enough for one artist, was in an ideal place for Jessie, as it was close to her job at Ladies Home Journal.

Violet Oakley and her family had returned from their European travels and relocated to Philadelphia to seek medical treatment for her father, Arthur Oakley.  She and her sister Hester rented a studio further down the street at number 1523, in the Love Building.   It was a three-room skylight space on the third floor.   It was a much larger space in comparison that of Jessie’s studio apartment.  The sisters managed to spruce up the space by furnishing it with items lent to them by their mother.  The walls of the studio were covered with prints of paintings by the Old Masters.  Hester Oakley, who was not particularly interested in art was concentrating on her writing and did not need a spacious studio and so vacated the premises, leaving her sister to find new tenants.  Eventually Hester’s place was taken up by Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Willcox Smith, and Jessie Dodd, all fellow students of Violet at the Drexler Institute.

Living together, the ladies soon began working together on commissions.   Jessie Smith and Violet Oakley, with Howard Pyle acting as their mentor, began work on illustrations for a new edition of Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, an epic poem by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which was first published in 1847.  The epic poem describes the betrothal of a fictional Acadian girl named Evangeline Bellefontaine to her beloved, Gabriel Lajeunesse.  The story tells of how the lovers are separated when the British deported the Acadians from Acadie in the Great Upheaval. The poem then follows Evangeline journey across America as she spends years in a search for him. Finally, Evangeline settles in Philadelphia and, as an old woman, works as a Sister of Mercy among the poor. While tending the dying during an epidemic she finds Gabriel among the sick, and he dies in her arms.  The commission was completed and the book was published in 1897.   Howard Pyle was delighted with the finished illustrations by Jessie and Violet saying:

“…There is a singular delight in beholding the lucid thoughts of a pupil growing into form and colour; the teacher enjoys a singular pleasure in beholding his instruction growing into definite shape.  Nevertheless, I venture to think that the drawings possess both grace and beauty…”

Illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith for Maud Goodwin’s book The Head of the Hundred.

The illustrations that Smith and Oakley did for the book were a great success and this resulted in a number of new commissions including a commission for Jessie Smith to provide illustrations for a romantic novel, The Head of a Hundred by Maud Wilder Goodwin which was first published in 1897.  Violet Oakley meanwhile provided illustrative covers for The Century magazine and Collier’s Illustrated Weekly

The three women became part of Philadelphia’s vibrant artistic community and became founder members of The Plastic Club.   The art educator Emily Sartain founded the Plastic Club. Its raison d’être was as an arts organization for women to promote collaboration and exhibit members’ works.  It was partly in response to the Philadelphia Sketch Club, which was an exclusively male arts club.

Photograph shows Green, Oakley, and Smith seated, each holding a rose, while Cozens holds a watering can over their heads, pretending to water them. Handwritten identification on verso: The Red Roses; Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Jessie Willcox Smith, Henrietta Cozens; with Violet Oakley’s poster in the background for first exhibition at the Plastic Club.  Photograph taken at 1523 Chestnut Street, when they planned to move to “The Red Rose”, Villanova.

Jessie Dodd finally left the shared apartment as she was struggling to gain commissions, unlike the other three women.  She became very despondent and in 1899 she gave up artistic career and returned home to Ohio leaving just Violet Oakley, Jessie Wilcox Smith, and Elizabeth Shippen Green living at the Love Building.  The relationship between the three ladies was what was termed a “sympathetic companionship” but in fact was what we would now term a romantic friendship.  There was nothing scandalous about their relationship as in nineteenth century America romantic friendships was deemed a normal part of a woman’s life. The three women were very supportive of each other and shared their triumphs and failures.  There came a time when they had to decide the course their future would take.  Howard Pyle had warned them that combining an artistic career with marriage was not a viable option in an age when a woman was expected to manage a household, function as a hostess and bear children and of course in the minds of Jessie, Violet and Elizabeth, the words of Howard Pyle were sacrosanct.  Jessie Smith was very definite about her views on this subject, saying:

“…A woman’s sphere is as sharply defined as a man’s.  If she elects to be a housewife and mother – that is her sphere and no other.  Circumstances may, but volition should not, lead her from it.  If on the other hand she elects to go into business or the arts, she must sacrifice motherhood in order to fill successfully her chosen sphere…”

Elizabeth Shippen Green ink on paper illustration, Climbing the Steps.

Jessie Smith and Elizabeth Green were both busy working for The Ladies’ Home Journal and were soon being inundated with commissions resulting in that they could leave their staff jobs and work on a freelance basis.  Elizabeth Shippen Green was submitting a number of pen-and-ink drawings many of which appeared on the covers of the St Nicholas and The Scholar’s Magazine as well as appearing alongside short stories published in Curtis Publishing Company’s Saturday Evening Post.  One of the latter was reproduced in a volume published in London under the title:  The Studio’s 1900-1901 Modern Pen Drawings: European and American.  Her drawings featured in the volume alongside works by the renowned illustrators of the time, Edwin Austin Abbey, Maxwell Parrish, and her teacher Howard Pyle.  The editor, Charles Holme, wrote:

“…Miss Elizabeth Shippen Green though a newcomer, draws with force and has a nice regard for the decorative effect of lines and black masses…”

Madonna and Magi sketch for stained glass panel, by Violet Oakley (1902)

In 1900 Violet Oakley received a commission to paint two murals and create five stained-glass windows and an altarpiece in mosaic for All Angels Church in New York’s Upper West Side. The year 1900 was both a happy and unhappy year for Violet Oakley.  Her sister Heather had married her long-time friend Stanley Ward in 1898 and in 1900 the couple had their first child.  Birth and death are mechanisms of population balance and 1n 1900 Violet’s father Arthur died after a long and debilitating illness.

The three artists remained at their studio on Chestnut Avenue and whilst the winters were tolerable the heat and humidity of New York in the summer months was oppressive so much so that during the summer of 1900 they rented apartments in the Low dormitory on the Bryn Mawr College campus.  Jessie and Elizabeth even won a commission to illustrate the 1901 calendar for the college.

The Red Rose Inn , Villanova, Pennsylvania

In the Autumn of 1900, at the end of their summer stay at Bryn Mawr college, the three friends first visited the Red Rose Inn which was situated in the Philadelphia suburb of Villanova.  The friends had spent many a happy hour leafing through the pages of England Country Life magazines and hankered for a country lifestyle.  Violet Oakley in her handwritten autobiography remembered the time.  She wrote:

“…We became enamoured of the idea of living in the midst of beauty and order of such Gardens as those of England:  of having a country estate; of escaping from work in city studios…”

 

Red Rose Studio

On one of their last days at the college campus they drove out to Villanova to see the Red Rose Inn.  The inn had been in the local news for many years as the owner, Frederick Phillips, was rumoured to be turning it into an artist’s colony and subdivide the eight hundred plus acres into a number of building lots.  Unfortunately for Phillips he was not the sole owner and his co-owning siblings baulked on his expensive plans to renovate and build on the land as were his near neighbours who christened his plans, Phillip’s Whim.  The die was cast when Frederick Phillips died and his siblings wanted to sell the property.  It was eventually sold to the American banker, Anthony J Drexel for $200,000. 

After a lot of legal wrangling the three artists managed to arrange to rent the Inn and, in the Spring of 1901, they gave in their notice terminating the lease on the 1523 Chestnut Street studio and moved out.  They moved into the Inn in the late Spring of 1901 and with them came another female, their friend, forty-three-year-old Henrietta Cozens.  Henrietta, the daughter of a cotton broker, was not an artist but her role was to be responsible for managing the property, overseeing all the domestic chores, and looking after the upkeep of the gardens.  The monthly outgoings for the three artists had suddenly increased from the mere $125 per month they paid to the landlord for their studio in the Love Building to $500 per month for the rent for the Rose Inn and the wages of the servants and cook.  An although the three artists subsidised Henrietta’s share of the costs it was a financially binding situation and one which needed the three artists to remain together and so once again, they vowed to remain together and never marry.  It was this new home of theirs that led to Howard Pyle calling them The Red Rose Girls.

Bryn Mawr College 1902 calendar – illustration by Elizabeth Shippen Green

In February 1902, the three artists were offered their own three-woman show.  It was an exhibition of a variety of their work. It comprised of their book illustrations and Jessie Wilcox Smith’s designs for the Bryn Mawr calendars.   Elizabeth Green showed her illustrations for Harper’s Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post as well as her calendar illustrations.  Violet Oakley’s offerings for the exhibition comprised of two covers she completed for Collier’s Weekly, some charcoal drawings and her designs for the All Angels’ stained-glass windows and chancel decorations.  The exhibition was a great success and was an important step in the careers of the three artists.

The 1914 advert illustrated by  Jessie Willcox Smith for Procter Gamble Ivory Soap.  

At the exhibition Jessie Wilcox Smith submitted thirty of her illustrations some of which were advertisements for Procter & Gamble.

All good things have to come to an end and their time at The Red Rose Inn ended on January 25th 1906 when the three women were served with an eviction notice:

“…Anthony J. Drexel having leased to you the premises in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, known as the Red Rose Inn, by lease the terms of which expire on May 1st 1906, subject to three months’ notice, and the said Anthony J Drexel and Margarita, his wife, having granted, assigned and conveyed to me the said premises, with the lease, you and each of you are hereby notified and required to quit and deliver up to me possessions of the said premises, which you now hold as tenant under me, at the expiration of the said lease, namely the first day of May A.D. 1906 as I desire to have such possession…

Signed Henry S Kerbaugh…”

Cogslea, photographed by Elizabeth Shippen Green in 1907

Thanks to the benevolence of Dr. George Woodward, a wealthy relative of Elizabeth Shippen Green, the three artists managed to rent a renovated stone-walled house, adjacent barn, and carriage house at Hill Farm, located on Woodward’s estate at Cresheim Creek in Mt. Airy, some ten miles north of Philadelphia.  The three women named their new home Cogslea (C for Henrietta Cozens, O for Violet Oakley, G for Elizabeth Green and S for Jessie Smith) and “lea” for the sloping land of the new estate.

Photograph of Huger Elliot posing for Elizabeth Shippen Green at Cogslea

In 1909, Elizabeth Green’s mother died and the following March, her father Jasper Green passed away.  More change was to come in 1910.  Elizabeth Shippen Green had built up a friendship for a couple of years with Huger Elliott, a graduate of Columbia University’s school of architecture and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.  He was looking for more than just a friendship with Elizabeth, albeit the couple had become engaged, but Elizabeth was hesitant about their future considering she had, along with her two friends, “signed a pledge” to keep men out of their lives and just live for their art.  In October 1910, Huger Elliot visited Elizabeth at Cogslea and gave her an ultimatum – marry me now or break off the engagement!  One can only imagine the state of Elizabeth’s mind at this turn of events.   She had to try and think rationally.  She was now thirty-nine years of age and been with her friends for thirteen years and a decision to marry Elliot would violate their “agreement”.  On the other hand, she knew her friends were financially secure and had been given numerous commissions.  She also realised that the dynamics of the household were changing.  Jessie Smith and Henrietta Cozens, who were close in age, were becoming inseparable and both had a quiet temperament and an unbending sense of decorum which was polar opposite to Elizabeth’s exuberance.  Her other friend and housemate, Violet Oakley, was engrossed in her religion and impassioned about her dream of a utopian society and her aspiration to elevate the morals of the country though her art.  Maybe the deciding factor was that Elizabeth more than just liked Huger.  She made the decision to marry Huger Elliot and leave Cogslea and her friends.  Violet, Jessie, and Henrietta were stunned by her decision., Henrietta Cozens declared:

“…How can she love anyone more than she loves us?…”

Elizabeth Shippen Green and Huger Elliot on their honeymoon in Germany  in 1911

The die was cast and On June 3rd 1911 Elizabeth Shippen Green married Huger Elliott at Cogslea.   The couple left Cogslea that evening and went to stay in Philadelphia prior to their honeymoon in Germany.  Unfortunately for Elizabeth being in Philadelphia she saw the front page of the June 4th edition of the Philadelphia Press which announced:

“…Trio of Artist Friends Broken by Cupid…”

which went on to state:

“…a note of sadness was felt when the realization came that the trio of artists who had lived and worked together so long would be depleted by the absence of Mrs Elliott…”

 The Chestnut Hill Herald was even more sensational in its coverage stating that a heartbroken Violet Oakley broke down completely whilst trying to change Elizabeth’s mind.     After their honeymoon, Elizabeth and her husband Huger settled in Cambridge Massachusetts.  From 1912 to 1920 Huger was supervisor of educational work and director of the department of design at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. For the next five years, he served as president of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia. He was the Director of educational work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New Nork from 1925 to 1941, when he retired.  It was not until two years later, in July 1913, that Elizabeth was reunited with Violet, Jessie and Henrietta when she and her husband returned to Cogslea for a visit. 

Violet Oakley was desperate to have a much larger studio to accomodate her massive murals and so she decided to buy Cogslea for herself and to achieve that she had to sell all her assets.  Jessie Wilcox and Henrietta Cozens moved out of Cogslea, bought a quarter of the estate land, and built a house on it for themselves.  The Red Rose Girls had finally been separated.

Jessie Wilcox Smith died on May 3rd 1935, aged 71.

Elizabeth Shippen Green Elliott died on May 29th 1954, aged 82.  Her husband Huger had died of a heart attack on November 13th 1948, aged 71.

Violet Oakley was the last of the Red Rose Girls to die.  She passed away on February 25th 1961, aged 86.


The Red Rose Girls. Part 3. Jessie Willcox Smith.

The third of the Red Rose Girls was Jessie Willcox Smith.  She became one of the most prominent female illustrators in the United States, during the celebrated ‘Golden Age of Illustration‘.  Jessie was the eldest of the trio, born in the Mount Airy neighbourhood of Philadelphia, on September 6th 1863, the youngest of four children.  She was the youngest daughter of Charles Henry Smith, an investment broker, and Katherine DeWitt Willcox Smith.  Her father’s profession as an “investment broker” is often questioned as although there was an investment brokerage called Charles H. Smith in Philadelphia there is no record of it being run by anybody from Jessie Smith’s family.  In the 1880 city census, Jessie’s father’s occupation was detailed as a machinery salesman.  Jessie’s family was a middle-class family who always managed to make ends meet.  Her family originally came from New York and only moved to Philadelphia just prior to Jessie’s birth.  Despite not being part of the elite Philadelphia society, her family could trace their routes back to an old New England lineage.  Jessie, like her siblings, were instructed in the conventional social graces which were considered a necessity for progression in Victorian society.   It should be noted that there were no artists within the family and so as a youngster, painting and drawing were not of great importance to her.  Instead her enjoyment was gained from music and reading.  Jessie attended the Quaker Friends Central School in Philadelphia and when she was sixteen, she was sent to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with her cousins and finish her education.

The Princess and the Goblin, by George McDonald, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith, (1920)

On completion of her education, instead of returning to the family in Philadelphia, she remained in Cincinnati to look for a job.  Jessie had always been fond of children and managed to secure a position as a kindergarten teacher which would fulfil her need for money whilst doing a job she loved.  However, the belief that all young children are angelic was soon dispelled and she found her charges obstreperous and ill-mannered and soon realised that teaching at a kindergarten was not for her.  One of her friends was interested in art and soon she had managed to inveigle Jessie into the pastime and soon she showed a certain amount of promise as a budding artist.  She remembered this change of direction writing:

“…I knew I wanted to do something with children but never thought of painting them, until an artist friend saw a sketch I had made and insisted I should stop teaching (at which I was an utter failure) and go to art school – which I did…”

John Rogers figurine

Jessie Smith returned to Philadelphia to look for some artistic training and initially wanted to study sculpture.  At the time there was a popular small table-top sculptures called Rogers Group which were relatively inexpensive, mass-produced figurines in the latter 19th which graced the parlours of homes in the United States.  These figurines, often selling for as little as $15 a piece were affordable to the middle class.  They were sculpted in more affordable plaster and painted the colour of putty to hide dust.  She did try her hand at sculpture but soon realised it needed a certain talent, one which she was lacking.  She wrote:

“…my career as a sculptor was brief for my clay had bubbles in it and burst when it was being fired. ‘Heavens’ I decided, ‘ being a sculptor is too expensive!  I will be a painter…’ ”

An illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith from A Child’s Garden of Verses is a book written by Robert Louis Stevenson

However, Jessie realised that to become a painter she needed formal artistic training and it was difficult for that to happen for a woman in 1884.  It was the age-old story.  Men who wanted to train to become professional artists had academies and teachers to support them but for women, up until the 1850’s, there were few institutions which catered for women and anyway, it was generally thought to be totally ill-advised for a woman to contemplate or prepare for a professional career, art or otherwise.  Life was mapped out for women.  Acquire certain accomplishments which would attract a man, marry that man and give him children, and then be educated at home in the skills needed to look after one’s husband and children.  For women of the middle and upper-class who were interested in art, then a private tutor could be hired but studying in mixed life-drawing classes was deemed unsuitable for women as was sketching nude statuary.

Edwin Forrest House, formerly the home of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.

Despite this, twenty-one-year-old Jessie Willcox Smith, on October 2nd 1884, enrolled at The Philadelphia School of Design for Women, which was housed in a fashionable Philadelphia neighbourhood in an imposing mansion that had once been the home of actor, Edwin Forrest.  The School had begun when Sarah Worthington King Peter, the wife of the British consul in Philadelphia, established an industrial arts school in her home in 1848 so as to teach a trade to women, who were without a means of supporting themselves.  It was not in direct competition with the Pennsylvania Academy as its emphasis was on decorative pattern and ornament and until 1886 steered clear of controversial life-drawing classes.  After a year at the School of Design, Jessie hankered for more than it could offer her.  She wanted to study the techniques associated with Fine Art and so decided that she had to enrol at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 

Thomas Eakins, circa 1882

She managed to persuade her parents to fund her tuition and in 1885 she enrolled in the class of the brilliant but controversial painter, Thomas Eakins.  Master and student were so different.  Jessie Willcox Smith was a conservative and shy young woman whilst her tutor was brash, carefree and provocative and cared little for the Academy’s attempt to reign him in.  Eakins represented an outrageous departure from the social norms which had structured Jessie Smith’s life.   Many complaints had been levelled at Eakins and his teaching methods especially those regarding female students.  The following year, 1886, forty-one-year-old Eakins was sacked by the Academy.   It is interesting to note that although there is no doubt her artistic ability flourished under the tutelage of Eakins she viewed him with disdain, once confiding in a friend that she thought he was a “madman”.  Jessie did attend Eakins’ life-drawing classes but of the life models used, once declared:

“…I always wished there were children in the life classes, the men and women were so flabby and fat…”

After Eakins was dismissed from the Academy, he held private classes at his studio and many of his former students attended them, but not Jessie.  She presumably did not agree with Eakins’ way of teaching and decided to remain at the Academy and study under Thomas Anshutz and James B. Kelly, two of Eakins’ former students.

Jessie Willcox Smith graduated from the Academy in June 1888.  She looked back on her time at the Academy with a certain amount of disappointment.  Although her technique had improved, she had hoped to be part of an artistic community in which artistic collaboration would be present but instead she found dissention, scandal and in the wake of the Eakins’ scandal, institutionalized isolation.  Jessie talked very little about her time at the Academy.  It had been a turbulent time and she had hated conflict as it unnerved her and made her extremely distressed.  This desperation to avoid any kind of conflict in her personal and professional life revealed itself in her idealistic and often blissful paintings.  Jessie wanted to believe life was just a period of happiness.

Illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith for the book of verse, The Seven Ages of Childhood

In 1909 a book of verse entitled The Seven Ages of Childhood by Carolyn Wells with accompanying  illustrations by Jessie Wilcox was published.

After graduation, Jessie became interested in illustration and in 1889 took a job with the advertising department of Ladies’ Home Journal, one of the leading American women’s magazines.   In 1894, nearly six years after graduating, she learned that Howard Pyle, the noted illustrator, was starting a School of Illustration at the Drexel Institute and she was accepted into the inaugural class along with Violet Oakley and Elizabeth Shippen Green.

Jessie Wilcox Smith, cover for Good Housekeeping Magazine. May 1921.

Her illustrations appeared on the covers of Good Housekeeping  resulting in most people becoming familiar with her art. For over 15 years she painted the covers for one of America’s most popular magazines. Month after month, from December of 1917 through March of 1933, a new Jessie Willcox Smith image was on the newsstands and in countless homes.

The Red Rose Girls were finally together.  In my next blog I will look at their time at the Drexel Institute with Howard Pyle and their life together.

……………………to be continued


Most of the information I used for this blog came from an excellent book by Alice A. Carter entitled The Red Rose Girls, An Uncommon Story of Art and Love.

The Red Rose Girls. Part 1. Elizabeth Shippen Green.

In my next series of blogs, I want to look at the lives of three talented women artists – Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley.  These three artists enchanted and fascinated early twentieth century Philadelphia with their brilliant careers and somewhat uncommon lifestyle.  At one time the three women lived together in The Red Rose Inn, a picturesque estate in the affluent Philadelphia suburb of Villanova, a respected area known as the Main Line, an historical and social region of suburban Philadelphia, which was situated along the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s once prestigious Main Line.  The three women were joined by their friend, Henrietta Cozens, who took on the responsibility of managing their communal household.  Their mentor and tutor at the time was the famous American illustrator, Howard Pyle, who, because of their residence, nicknamed them The Red Rose Girls.  The four women forged an intense and emotional bond and vowed to live together for the rest of their lives.  They even adopted and acronymic surname, wanting to be known as the Cogs family – C for Cozens, O for Oakley, G for Green and S for Smith.  In the following blogs, I want to delve into the life of these three women and look at their backgrounds, their works and how they fought their way through a male-orientated world of art.  These three women were to become renowned for their illustrative work.

Red Rose Girls, Pictured left are Violet Oakley, Jesse Willcox Smith and Elizabeth Shippen Green (with Henrietta Cozens).

In my next series of five blogs, I want to look at the lives of three talented women artists – Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley.  These three artists enchanted and fascinated early twentieth century Philadelphia with their brilliant careers and somewhat uncommon lifestyle.  At one time the three women lived together in The Red Rose Inn, a picturesque estate in the affluent Philadelphia suburb of Villanova, a respected area known as the Main Line, an historical and social region of suburban Philadelphia, which was situated along the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s once prestigious Main Line.  The three women were joined by their friend, Henrietta Cozens, who took on the responsibility of managing their communal household.  Their mentor and tutor at the time was the famous American illustrator, Howard Pyle, who, because of their residence, nicknamed them The Red Rose Girls.  The four women forged an intense and emotional bond and vowed to live together for the rest of their lives.  They even adopted and acronymic surname, wanting to be known as the Cogs family – C for Cozens, O for Oakley, G for Green and S for Smith.  In the following blogs, I want to delve into the life of these three women and look at their backgrounds, their works and how they fought their way through a male-orientated world of art.  The three women were to become renowned for their illustrative work.

Page from illuminated manuscript

Book illustrations can be traced back to the world of manuscript illuminations.  An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is accompanied with decoration as initials, borders known as marginalia, and miniature illustrations.  The term illumination originally denoted the embellishment of the text of handwritten books with gold or, more rarely, silver, giving the impression that the page had been literally illuminated. 

Biblia Pauperum or Bible of the Poor, woodcut illustrations with manuscript text

Fast forward to the 18th and 19th centuries and the literature of the Western World and the birth of what we now know as the novel, in the form of adult fiction.  

‘Mr Winkle Returns under Extraordinary Circumstances’, etched illustration by Hablot Knight Browne for The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Charles Dickens

An example of this are the novels of Charles Dickens and the way in which he would collaborate with book illustrators.  How it worked was Dickens would give the illustrator an outline of the story line before he wrote the text and he carefully scrutinised the drawings to ensure that they complemented his own ideas.  In the case of Dickens, his favoured illustrator was Hablot Knight Browne who worked under the pen name “Phiz”. 

By the end of the twentieth century, Elizabeth Shippen Green, was to become a leading American illustrator.

 Elizabeth Shippen Green

Elisabeth “Bessie” Shippen Green was born into an old well-to-do Philadelphia family, on September 1st 1871.  She was the third child of Jasper Green and Elizabeth Shippen Boude. Her eldest sister died when aged two and, Katherine, her middle sister, was born a year before Elizabeth.  The family lived near the centre of Philadelphia at 1320 Spruce Street.  Although not very wealthy, the Green family had impeccable “old Philadelphia” connections through both the Shippen and Green ancestors and as such Elizabeth was able to access the elite social circles throughout her life.  It was this advantageous aspect of Elizabeth’s life that led her to become easy going and self-confident.  Elizabeth’s parents were determined that their daughters had every possible social advantage in life and to ensure a good start to Elizabeth’s life journey she was sent to private Philadelphia schools.  Initially she was enrolled at Miss Mary Hough’s School and later Miss Gordon’s School.

Jasper Green, Elizabeth’s father at the Red Rose Inn (1904). Elizabeth Shippen Boude, Elizabeth’s mother (1903)

Elizabeth’s father imbued in his daughter a love of art as he was an amateur artist who had studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and during the American Civil War, worked as an illustrator/correspondent for the Harper’s Weekly, an American political magazine based in New York City.   It was said that during her early schooldays Elizabeth took pleasure in illustrating her school notebooks. 

Portrait of the Artist’s Father, Jasper Green by Elizabeth Shippen Green (c.1900)

Elizabeth Shippen Green, self portrait

In October 1889, a month after that first publication of her work she enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  She spent one year in the antique class, where she had to draw from plaster casts, and two years in the life class, working with live models.  During that period her teachers included Thomas Anshutz, Thomas Eakins, and Robert Vonnoh.  Elizabeth graduated from the Academy in 1893 and it was in that year that the Green family suffered a devastating loss.  Elizabeth’s sister, Katherine died on September 1st 1893, aged twenty-three.  This tragic death would haunt Elizabeth every year as it coincided with her birthday.  Elizabeth had now suffered the tragic loss of both of her sisters and one can only imagine the devastation felt by her parents.

Paper Doll Book #2 watercolour and charcoal by Elizabeth Shippen Green (1906)

Once her schooling was completed, eighteen-year-old Elizabeth enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1888.  For Elizabeth the Fine Arts path was not for her as she was interested in her father’s branch of art, that of illustration and, in her father, she had the best illustrations tutor possible.  By the time she was seventeen years-old she had turned a corner of her bedroom into her studio and produced a series of drawings which she managed to sell to the Philadelphia Times and the first of these were printed by the newspaper on her eighteenth birthday.  The drawings accompanied a short but charming rhyme about a child and her doll, entitled, Naughty Lady Jane.   Although this was the only work of prose which she had published, the Philadelphia Times editors recognised her immense talent as an illustrator and in the September 8th 1889 edition of the Philadelphia Times the editor inserted this extended by-line:

“…You will see in another column today some very pretty verses called Naughty Lady Jane accompanied by six exquisite illustrations.  They are the work of Miss Bessie S. Green of Philadelphia who is only eighteen years old.  The lines are unpretending, of course, yet admirably suited to their purpose; but the illustrations show wonderful talent.  Indeed, they would do credit to an artist much older and more experienced than Miss Green…”

Elizabeth (“Bessie”) must have been delighted to have her work published although the payment of 5o cents for a one-column drawing was hardly going to give her financial independence.

Philadelphia Public Ledger

Elizabeth continued working hard and would regularly submit her illustrations to the Philadelphia Public Ledger, a daily Philadelphia newspaper which was, at the time, owned by George William Childs and Anthony J. Drexel.  Elizabeth received many assignments for fashion illustrations from the newspaper.  In 1897, Elizabeth Shippen Green enrolled at the Drexel Institute which had been founded by Anthony J Drexel, a Philadelphia financier and philanthropist in 1891.   He envisioned an institution of higher learning uniquely suited to the needs of a rapidly growing industrial society and of the young men and women seeking their place in it.

Enter Howard Pyle the leading American illustrator of the time and the two other Red Rose Girls…………………………

………………………………to be continued.

 


The information I used for my five blogs about the Red Rose Girls was mostly collected from the excellent book entitled The Red Rose Girls.  An Uncommon Story of Art and Love by Alice A. Carter.  I can highly recommend this biography.  You will not be disappointed.

Gustave Doré, the book illustrator.

Gustave Doré and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Paul-Gustave Doré

The subject of my blog today reflects moments of my past life, from the days when I spent years journeying across the oceans and earlier when, at the age of sixteen,  I had to sit the national exam in English Literature.  The  examination was based on a book, a Shakespearian play, and a poem, all of which, we had to read, over and over again and dissect each into bits of minutiae. My classmates and I were delighted to find the book we had to read and digest was a novel by H.G.Wells. We had all heard of and/or read his Time Machine and War of the Worlds so we looked forward to the book set by the exam board.

Our hopes were soon dashed as we set about reading The History of Mr Polly which I remembered to be both turgid and depressing but there again I have to admit I was never an avid reader. The Shakespearean play was the Merchant of Venice which proved a lucky choice and one which I especially enjoyed when we looked at it in depth. Then came the poem. Poetry was anathema to sixteen year old boys and “boys don’t do poetry” was our class mantra and one needs to remember that our school was an all-boys one. Add to that the feeling of gloom about embarking on reading and learning lines of the poem for furthermore this chosen poem, which we had to study was not a short one with just a  few stanzas but an extremely long one. It was The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which was the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and one he completed and had published in 1798. Unbelievably it proved to be my favourite part of the English Literature exam syllabus.

Camden Lock Market at night.

I was in London last week and visited Camden Lock which has a great market and a plethora of “arty” shops including an excellent second-hand book shop where I found a number of books to buy, one of which was The Rime of The Ancient Mariner with forty-two illustrations by Gustave Doré. My blog today looks at Gustave Doré and some of the illustrations used in the book.

Journal pour rire

Paul-Gustave Doré was an Alsatian, born on January 6th, 1832, in Strasbourg. He became known as one of the most prolific and successful book illustrators of the late 19th century, whose high-spirited and somewhat strange fantasy-fashioned sizeable dreamlike scenes were widely loved during the Victorian period.

Doré was considered by many as a child genius when it came to his artistic ability. By age five, he was creating drawings that were mature beyond his years. In his late teenage years, he created several text comics, like his 1847 “comic” Les Travaux d’Hercule. Others followed and so well-liked were his works that he won a commission to illustrate books by Cervantes, Milton, and Dante.

Honoré de Balzac’s Les Contes drolatiques (Droll Stories) were illustrated by Gustave Doré

In 1848, when he was fifteen years old, Doré, went to Paris and began working as a caricaturist for the French paper Le Journal pour rire (Journal for laughs) as well as producing, over the next six years, several albums containing his lithographs.

Oeuvres de Rabelais, illustrated by Gustave Doré

His most accomplished work could be seen in his illustrations in such books as the 1854 edition of the Oeuvres de Rabelais, the 1855 edition of Honoré de Balzac’s Les Contes drolatiques (Droll Stories), and the 1861 edition of Inferno of Dante.

Andromeda by Gustave Doré (1869)

He also painted many large compositions of a religious, mythological, or historical character such as his 1869 work, Andromeda. The painting depicts Andromeda, the daughter of the Aethiopian king Cepheus and his wife Cassiopeia. When Cassiopeia’s boasts that Andromeda is more beautiful than the Nereids, the sea nymphs, Poseidon sends the sea monster Cetus to ravage Andromeda as divine punishment. Andromeda is stripped and chained naked to a rock as a sacrifice to sate the monster but is saved from death by Perseus.

Glen Massan by Gustave Doré

One of my favourite paintings by Doré was his spectacular landscape scene entitled Glen Massan. Doré first visited the Scottish Highlands in 1873 on a salmon fishing trip with his good friend Colonel Teesdale. However, it turned out that Doré preferred to paint rather than fish and was inspired by the beauty of the Highland landscape, so much so, he returned to northern Scotland the following year. This painting, of Glen Massan near Dunoon, is a large canvas painted in a romantic Victorian style. I like the way Doré has depicted shafts of light penetrating the billowing clouds and lighting up parts of the valley.

And so to the Samuel Coleridge Taylor poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  Doré was excited about illustrating the poem, so much so he had completed the designs for the illustrations before a deal had been struck with the publisher.  The wooden blocks he used for the illustrations were very large and cost Doré a lot of money and unlike previous engravings he took control of the supervision of them.  Doré believed that this was his greatest work but unfortunately for him, its sales recouped him only slowly for his large initial outlay.  It was first published in England and soon editions appeared in France, Germany and America.

Samuel Coleridge Taylor did not set his poem in any one period but as an illustrator, Doré had to be more precise and he chose a medieval setting for the wedding feast  at the start of the poem.

The opening setting for the poem is a path leading to a church where three of wedding party are heading. An elderly man with a grey beard, the Ancient Mariner, halts them to tell his tale. Two escape his clutches but the third is trapped and made to listen. It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
“By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?
“The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May’st hear the merry din.”

The old sailor recounts how the sea voyage had started well but soon the ship was being drawn southward by a storm and the men had lost control of the vessel.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

Soon the Ancient Mariner’s ship was trapped in the Antarctic ice with no hope for survival.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken —
The ice was all between.
The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

The Ancient Mariner recalls how the sailors believed they were doomed and all hope had gone – until the arrival of an albatross, which came each day and was fed by the sailors.  The bird then led the ship and the sailors away from their icy prison and all aboard celebrated their good fortune.

At length did cross an Albatross:
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.
It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!
And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariners’ hollo!

However for some unknown reason the Ancient Mariner shot the albatross with his crossbow.

“God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus! —
Why look’st thou so?”— With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.

At first the sailors, despite condemning the old mariner for his action, seemed to be pleased that the south wind which had been mustered up by the albatross was still with them and they had left the cold waters of Antarctica and approached the warm waters of the Equator. All was good with the crew and their ship, but then the wind dropped and the ship was becalmed.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
’Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!
All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean. 

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

The becalmed ship was surrounded by evil creatures of the sea and soon the blame for their misfortune fell on the Ancient Mariner for killing the albatross.  Close to death they suddenly spot a shape on the horizon – could it have come to their rescue?

There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye,
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.
At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist:
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.

The ghostly hulk approaches their ship and on board are two figures, a skeletal Death and a deathly pale female, Night-mare Life-in-Death and the two are playing dice for the souls of the crew members. Death wins the lives of all the crew members, all except for the Ancient Mariner, whose life is won by Night-mare Life-in-Death. It is the name of this character that allows us to know the fate of the Ancient Mariner – a fate worse than death, a living death, was to be his punishment for killing the albatross.

The Ancient Mariner is the sole survivor of the ill-fated crew.  The bodies of the dead crew members lay around the deck with their eyes staring at the Ancient Mariner. The Ancient Mariner recounts how he felt, how he wanted to die but was not allowed that luxury.

I looked to Heaven, and tried to pray:
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
my heart as dry as dust.
I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.
But the curse liveth for him in the eye of the dead men.
The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away.
An orphan’s curse would drag to Hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is a curse in a dead man’s eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.

I suppose you may curse me, like the curse put on the Ancient Mariner, but I am not going to tell you the end of the story in the hope that you will go out and get yourself a copy of the epic poem, and if possible, a copy with the Gustave Doré’s woodblock illustrations.  You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

John Bauer and Ester Ellqvist

John Bauer Self Portrait (1908 – Volterra, Italy)

I suppose everybody at some time or other has read or had read to them a children’s fable or fairy tale. As a child we would have been fascinated by these stories, but the enchantment was enhanced by the illustrations which were set alongside the printed stories. My blog today is about an artist who was the master of book illustrations which often sat alongside stories about enchanted woods and fairy princesses. Let me introduce you to John Albert Bauer, the Swedish painter and illustrator.

Stackars lilla Basse! (Poor Little Bear) by John Bauer (1912)

John Bauer’s father, Joseph Bauer, came to Sweden from Ebenhausen in Bavaria as a young orphaned teenager in 1863. He eventually settled down in Jönköping, which is situated at the southern end of Sweden’s second largest lake, Vättern, a lake, which would play a fateful part of his son, John’s life. In the early 1870’s Joseph married Emma Charlotta Wadell, whose parents belonged to a farming community in Rogberga, a rural area, eight kilometres south-east of Jönköping.

Villa Sjovik

Joseph Bauer and his family lived in an apartment above their charcuterie shop in the bustling East Square in Jönköping. The family business was a very profitable venture, so much so that Joseph Bauer was able to afford to buy a summer residence, Villa Sjövik, which was built in 1881 and was situated on the west shore of the Rocksjö, a lake close to Jönköping. It was a rural location, surrounded by almost untouched nature. Looking back from the lake, forests could be seen straddling the mountains which bordered the city of Jönköping. Alas, Villa Sjövik was demolished in the 1960’s but in its place today, there is the JOHN BAUERSGATAN (John Bauers Park) bearing the artist’s name. It is now a small area of tranquillity in the middle of the bustling city and there is a sign marking the place where Villa Sjövik once lay.

Eight year old John Bauer

John Bauer was born on June 4th, 1882. He was the third of four children having an elder brother and sister, Hjalmar and Anna and a younger brother Ernst. When John Bauer grew up he spent much time exploring the woods and the nearby fields. Nature to him was his friend. Villa Sjövik was a beautiful residence with a large verdant garden and leading from it was a long jetty which led to the lake which made for an ideal bathing spot. The Bauer family enjoyed their time at their summer residence, away from their town apartment, and after a time, they decided to live permanently at Villa Sjövik.

John Bauer at work

The Bauer family happiness ended abruptly in 1889 when John was seven years old. His sister Anna died suddenly at the tender age of thirteen and this death had an overwhelming effect on John and his family. Living in an apartment situated above their father’s charcuterie, he was always given to sketching and drawing. During his time at Villa Sjövik, he would spend time walking through the Småland forest, always with his sketchbook. It was probably during these teenage years that he began to draw images of the imaginary creatures which he believed inhabited the woods, such as forest trolls and it could be the time that his imaginary fairy-tale world evolved. Another reason for John’s fascination with the world of fairy tales came from the numerous stories he and his siblings were told by their maternal grandmother Johanna Ellqvist. In these recounted myths and legends, she would tell her grandchildren about superstitions and the powers and the secrets of nature which undoubtedly remained in John Bauer’s mind and would play such a big part of his artistic life.

An Old Mountain Troll by John Bauer (1904)

His initial schooling was at Jonkopings Hogre Allmana Laroverk, the Jönköping Public School of Higher Education and then from the age of ten to sixteen he attended the Jonkopings Tekniska Skola, the Jönköping Technical School. John’s passage through school was undistinguished. He was, at best, a mediocre student who lacked any interest in his studies and during lessons would often be lost in his daydreams and doodling on his books and composing caricatures of his teachers. However, one thing was certain, his ability to draw and his interest in art was undeniable. His interest in art was lost on his parents who were too occupied with their own life. They understood he did not like school and showed no interest in getting a job so were supportive when their sixteen-year-old son told them he wanted his future life to be centred around art.

Princess Daga by John Bauer (1907)

At the age of sixteen John left home and moved to Stockholm to study art. Although his parents showed little interest in his artistic ambition they did support him financially, enabling him to pursue his future plans. It must have been a difficult time for the teenager as although he was immersed in his chosen life of art he must overcome his doubts about his own ability. At sixteen years of age Bauer was too young to enrol at the Stockholm’s Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts and so became a student at the Kaleb Ahltins school for painters for the next two years.

Troll by John Bauer (1912)

In 1900, aged 18, Bauer was accepted into the Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. He studied traditional illustrations and made drawings of plants, medieval costumes and croquis, which is the quick and sketchy drawing of a live model. There were Classical Art classes, classes which looked at anatomy, perspective, and he would also be expected to attend lectures on the History of Art. When he got home he would also be expected to complete drawing assignments. All of this was to serve him well in his later work. He did well at the Academy and in his 1991 biography of John Bauer, the author Gunnar Lundqvist quotes a comment of one of Bauer’s tutors, the noted historic painter, Gustaf Cederström, who had this to say about Bauer’s work:

“…His art is what I would call great art, in his almost miniaturized works he gives an impression of something much more powerful than many monumental artists can accomplice on acres of canvas. It is not size that matters but content…”

Söndags-Nisse magazine

Whilst a student at the Academy he supplemented the money he received from his parents by working as an illustrator for various magazines. One of the greatest influences on him was the fellow illustrator Albert Engström, who was one of the most influential journalists in Sweden. He was a humourist and cartoonist with a great European reputation, and in America he was referred to as the “European Mark Twain”. John Bauer sold his first illustrations to the Söndags-Nisse, which was a light-hearted Swedish magazine. He continued to earn money with his illustrations for this journal and they even offered him a permanent job, which he turned down.

Laplanders in snowstorm by John Bauer (1904)

The far north of Sweden, Norway and Finland was the land of the Sami people but with the discovery of vast amounts of iron ore in that region much of their lands were taken over by large mining companies. In 1904 Carl Adam Victor Lundholm planned to publish a book, Lappland, det stora svenska framtidslandet (Lappland, the great Swedish land of the future) which was all about the beauty of this area known as Lapland and to focus on the native Sami people who lived in this wintry region. To make the book complete Lundholm wanted it to be illustrated. Established artists were commissioned.  Bauer applied but as he was only young and inexperienced he was asked to prove his abilities by going to Skansen and sketch the Sami people.

Model Village at Skansen

Skansen was the first open-air museum and zoo in Sweden which is located on the island Djurgården in Stockholm. It had been in existence since October 1891 and revealed the way of life in the different parts of Sweden prior to the industrial era. This open-air museum atop the hill dominates the island and the site includes a full replica of an average 19th-century town, in which craftsmen in traditional dress such as tanners, shoemakers, silversmiths, bakers and glass-blowers demonstrate their skills in period surroundings. There is also an open-air zoo containing a wide range of Scandinavian animals including the bison, brown bear, moose, grey seal, lynx, otter, red fox, reindeer, wolf, and wolverine (as well as some non-Scandinavian animals because of their popularity). There are also farmsteads where rare breeds of farm animals can be seen.

Lundholm was pleased with what Bauer produced after his visits to Skansen and commissioned him to provide some of the book illustrations, and so in July 1904 Bauer travelled to Lappland, staying there a month, sketching, and photographing the area, its people, and their way of life. The book was eventually published in 1908 and eleven of Bauer’s watercolours graced the book. Bauer also turned many of his sketches and photographs into paintings.

Self portrait by Ester Ellqvist

A fellow first-year student of John Bauer was Ester Ellqvist. Ester was born in Ausås in southern Sweden on October 4th, 1880. She was the youngest of seven children of Karl Kristersson Ellqvist and Johanna Nilsdotter. Ester had three older brothers, Carl, Oscar, and Ernst and three older sisters, Selma, Hilda and Gerda. A couple of years after Esther was born, the Ellqvist family moved to Stockholm, where Esther went to the technical school and amongst other things learnt to draw perspective, which was one of the requirements for being admitted into Stockholm’s art academy. One of her sister, Gerda, became an art and needlework teacher, and two of her brothers, Oscar and Ernst made their living as photographers.

John and Ester

John and Ester never studied together as at that time males and females were not allowed to attend the same classes for the men and their artistic education was conducted differently. This was problematic for women such as Ester as although she had the artistic talent and the ambition to succeed she did not have the same opportunities as her fellow male students.

Dubbelporträtt av barn (Double portrait of children) by Ester Ellqvist

John and Ester began seriously courting around 1903 but it was not a close courtship as they were apart most of the time, and their courtship often just existed as an exchange of letters. But these letters were important as each told the other about their loves, their worries and their hopes for the future

Ester photographed by her brother Oscar.

For John, blonde-haired Ester was the personification of a beautiful fairy tale princess and she would be his great inspiration when he started to concentrate on his illustrations for fairy tale books. John and Ester were engaged in 1903, much to Bauer’s family dismay for they believed their son was too young to marry and had yet to establish himself as a professional artist or illustrator.

The Fairy Princess, 1904, oil sketch by John Bauer

However, a year after the couple completed their Academy course they were married on December 18th, 1906. Whether it was just marriage jitters but before the wedding Ester was beginning to have doubts about her relationship with John and their future together. One must remember that the two had vastly different upbringings. Ester, except for her first couple of years, lived in the city of Stockholm and was used to all the things cities could offer. She was a lively vivacious person who had many friends and for her, life in the city was exciting and offered up many social events. John Bauer on the other hand was a solitary person who was brought up in a small town and spent much of his life alone or with his brothers wandering around the nearby forests of South Vätterbygden where he gained inspiration for his paintings. The other problem for the newly-weds was that Ester, like John, was an aspiring artist but now, after marriage, she was expected to give up her art and concentrate on her husband, their home, and the family.

The Königsberg by John Bauer

The turning point in John Bauer’s artistic career came in 1907 when the publishers, Åhlén & Åkerlund, asked him, to provide illustrations for their newly launched Bland tomtar og troll, (Among Gnomes and Trolls) which was a popular Swedish annual which was full of folklore stories and fairy tales written by various authors.  The first edition was published in 1907. Except for 1911 issue, Bauer’s illustrations appeared in the first nine publications. The reason that the 1911 edition of the annual did not contain his illustrations was due to Bauer and the publisher falling out about who owned the watercolours Bauer had given the publisher for the books. He wanted them, they refused saying his material belonged to them and so he declined to supply any material for the 1911 issue. The result was a disaster for the publisher as sales of that year’s annual slumped. The publisher caved in. Bauer was granted the copyright of his paintings which were all returned to him and he resumed producing paintings for their annuals and sales of the annual rose.  Many of the illustrations would be of blonde-haired princesses for which Ester was his ideal muse.

Lucia by John Bauer

One can imagine how excited Bauer was to produce the illustrations. As a child he would walk through the woods close to Villa Sjövik and daydream about the trolls and fairy princess he imagined lived in the woods and now he could convert his dreams into pictorial reality. His illustrations depicted the beauty of Swedish nature with its dense forests pierced by sunlight as it penetrated the gigantic tree canopy. There is a mysticism about his forest illustrations which may sound a chord to those who have ever explored the dark world of a forest.

Ännu sitter Tuvstarr kvar och ser ner i vattnet (Still, Tuvstarr sits and gazes down into the water) by John Bauer (1913)

Due to the restrictions of the technology available to his printers, the 1907to 1910 editions were produced in just two colours: black and yellow even though the watercolour paintings he had given the publisher were in full colour. Things changed with printing techniques in 1912, and the pictures could then be printed in three colours: black, yellow, and blue which were now closer to Bauer’s original paintings. In 1914, following his return from Italy, his illustrations started to be influenced by the Italian Renaissance. However, after eight years of supplying paintings for the annuals, Bauer had had enough and wanted to move on with his art and 1915 marked the last year he provided material for the annuals.

In 1931 a book was published which had extracts from the original volumes illustrated by John Bauer and the proceeds from its sales went to raise money for a memorial honouring Bauer.  One of the most memorable illustrations from these annuals was his 1913 picture, Ännu sitter Tuvstarr kvar och ser ner i vattnet. (Still, Tuvstarr sits and gazes down into the water).

Ester in Italy

In Gunnar Lindqvist’s 1991 biography of John Bauer he states that in the Spring of 1908, John’s father financed his son and daughter-in-law’s trip to Southern Germany and Italy. John and his father Joseph had visited Germany in 1902. John and Ester’s journey lasted for almost two years during which they studied art, visiting museums and churches as well as sketching and painting. The couple visited Verona, Florence, and Siena.  Whilst in Tuscany they spent two months in Volterra, a walled mountain top town of which its history dates to before the 7th century BC. They continued through Naples and Capri, constantly writing home to their families, telling them about all they had seen and done.

The Root Trolls by John Bauer (1917)

It was on their return to Sweden in 2010 that they first got sight of Villa Björkudden on the shores of Lake Bunn, a few miles south east of Gränna. They fell in love with the house and in 1914 they bought it.  The following year in the autumn Ester gives birth to their first child, a boy named Bengt, but always referred to as Putte. The nickname may have derived from the Italian word putti, a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child – a cherub! Bengt actually appeared in a painting by his father entitled The Root Trolls, which Bauer completed in 1917.

Ester Bauer and her son Bengt

The marriage of John and Ester Bauer was failing. Ester saw herself and her life being taken away from her. She had wanted to be a portrait artist but instead she was simply a lonely housewife married to an artist. She believed she had nothing to show for herself. Again, another underlying cause for the unhappy marriage was Ester’s discontent about where she lived. Ester had always wanted the city life and John was content with his countryside home on the bank of Lake Brunn. They did return to Stockholm during the winter but that was never enough for Ester. Whether the decision to buy a new house, a permanent home in Stockholm was John’s attempt to save their marriage, we will never know but it sadly ended in the death of the family.

Train accident at Getå on October 1st 1918

On October 1st, 1918 there occurred the worst train disaster in Swedish history caused by a landslide at Getå.  Forty-two people died when the train de-railed due to the collapse of the track after the landslide. The train jumped the embankment, landing on the road below. The tragedy was well-publicized and it was to lead to a fateful decision by Bauer.

The ferry, Per Brahe

Seven weeks later, on November 19th, 1918 John, Ester and two-year-old Bengt had to go to Stockholm to their new home but because of all the media reports about the Getå train disaster John took the  decision to take the  ferry Per Brahe from Granna to Stockholm instead of going by train. The small steamer carried eight passengers and sixteen crew and was fully loaded with iron stoves, agricultural equipment, sewing machines and barrels of produce. All the cargo did not fit into the steamer’s hold and thus a significant portion had to be stored, unsecured, on deck, making the ship top-heavy. The weather was bad, and the ferry sailed into a raging storm. The violent rolling of the vessel in the big swell caused the deck cargo to shift, and some of it went overboard which destabilized the vessel. The ship foundered and capsized, sinking stern first, just 500 metres from its next port of call, Hastholmen.

Bauer’s Obituary notice
“…The artist John Albert Bauer, his wife Ester-Lisa Bauer nee Ellqvist and son John Beng Olof passed away at sea and leave us, siblings, relatives and friends sorrowful and lamented…”

All twenty-four people on board, including the Bauers, drowned. John Bauer was thirty-six, Ester, thirty-eight and their son Bengt was just three years old when they perished that night in Lake Vättern.

The Bauer Family grave

The Bauers were buried at the Östra cemetery in Jönköping.

Who knows what would have become of the Bauer family if they had not died on that fateful night. Would their marriage have survived? Would John Bauer change his artistic style? Would Ester start painting again? We will never know.

John Bauer and the Mountain King film poster (2017)

A film about the life of John and Ester Bauer was made in 2017 and can be downloaded free at:

http://www.4kmoviehub.com/watch-john-bauer-and-the-mountain-king-2018-online-free


A great deal of information for this blog was gleaned from:

Jönköpings läns museum website

Out flew the web and floated wide blog

Akbar’s Adventure with the Elephant Hawa’i in 1561 by Basawan and Chetar Munti

Akbar’s Adventure with the Elephant Hawa’i in 1561
by Basawan and Chetar Munti (1590-95)

My Daily Art Display today features a famous 16th century painting from the Indian sub-continent.  The painting is an allegorical tale about an incident in the life of one of the greatest emperor’s in the history of the sub-continent, Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar or Akbar the Great, who was the third Mughal Emperor.

Akbar was born around 1543. He was of Timurid descent; the son of Emperor Humayun and the grandson of the Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler who founded the Mughal dynasty in India.  As a child he was brought up by the army chief, Bairam, his mother and foster-mother.  His childhood was difficult as he had to endure a life of strict discipline.   Although he never learned to read or write, he was noted as being a very clever child.  In 1556, a nobleman named Hemu rebelled and declared himself ruler in Delhi. His forces were defeated by Bairam at the Second Battle of Panipat, and Hemu, dying from an arrow wound, was brought to the young Akbar.  Akbar, who was only thirteen years of age, was made to kill him with his sword to show he had legally won the crown.  Akbar was proclaimed the new emperor.

Early on in his reign as ruler Akbar showed signs of his future reforms by marrying a Rajput (Hindu) princess.  At the age of 18, Akbar was more and more frustrated by the strict control imposed on him by his mother, foster-mother and her son, Adham Khan.  In 1560, the young Akbar dismissed Bairam, ordering him to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. On his way there Bairam was murdered by an enemy, but in remembrance of him, Akbar made his son one of the chief nobles in his empire.  A more serious threat to Akbar came from his foster-mother and her son, Adham. When Akbar chose his new prime minister, Adham murdered him in the royal palace. He then tried to kill Akbar himself, but the emperor was stronger and threw Adham to the ground. Akbar ordered Adham to be thrown down the stairs to his death.

Akbar reigned until his death in 1605.  At the end of his reign the Mughal Empire covered most of northern and central India.  He is most appreciated for having a liberal outlook on all faiths and beliefs and during his era, culture and art reached a high-point compared to his predecessors.

 The opaque watercolour painting I am featuring today is entitled Akbar’s Adventure with the Elephant Hawa’i in 1561 and was collaboratively painted by two artists, Basawan and Chetar Munti between 1590 and 1595.  Basawan first drew the outline of the picture and his assistant, Chetar Munti, added the colour work later.     It is an excellent example of richly detailed Mughal paintings and depicts animals under the control of man. What we see before us is a depiction of an allegorical tale of Akbar.   This work was one of a hundred and sixteen miniatures that were made by almost fifty different artists to be included in an illustrated book of Akbar’s life, entitled Akbarnama (Book of Akbar), which chronicled his reign as the Munghal emperor.

Akbar had recounted his life to the writer and historian, Abu’l Fazl, who wrote the book.  The entry written by Fazl, which went alongside this picture,  was a story told to him by Akbar.   The ruler recounted what seemed a somewhat foolhardy and impetuous act of his but was based on his belief and trust in God.  For Akbar fervently believed that if God was not on his side he would have been killed.  The depicted scene celebrates Akbar’s bravery and masterfulness.  The painting portrays an episode in Akbar’s life when he pitted two elephants against each other.  The rampaging huge beasts, in full flight, are seen careering across and almost collapsing a pontoon bridge which rested and was supported by a flotilla of small boats.  It is a story of Akbar, portrayed as a brave young emperor, who has mounted the ferocious elephant known as Hawa’i and the two of them battle it out with another large and terrifying creature, the elephant, Ran Bagha.  Although being asked to stop this dangerous ride, Akbar ignores the warnings and continues with no care for his own personal safety.  The rogue elephant, Ran Bagha is finally defeated and is being chased off across a rickety pontoon bridge of boats, which straddles the River Jumna, towards Agra Fort by Akbar and Hawa’i.

It is a scene of total chaos.  We see the pontoon bridge almost collapsing under the weight of the two wildly charging elephants.  A man, with an unwound turban lying at his side, is seen prone on the ground having been trampled underfoot.  In the foreground we see men in the water desperately trying to steady the collapsing pontoon bridge.  On the other side of the bridge we catch a glimpse of fisherman in their boat frantically trying to get to the shore in the turbulent waters caused by the violent movement of the pontoon bridge.    The size of the figures in the distance help to give a depth to the painting, and the artists, through the use of his vibrant colours and two strong diagonal lines: the bridge and the shore, have effectively added energy to the painting.  I like the way in which the artist has spent time on the detail of all the characters in this painting.   The elephants are seen as being wild and charging but the evil one is defeated and forced to retreat whilst Akbar controls his animal and this portrayal symbolises Akbar’s perception of his rule: a steady power over an unruly populace.

After Akbar’s death in 1605, the Akbarnama manuscript remained in the library of his son, Jahangir and later Shah Jahan. Today, the illustrated manuscript of Akbarnama, with its 116 miniature paintings, is held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.   It was bought by the South Kensington Museum, which is now the V&A, in 1896 from Mrs Frances Clarke.  The manuscript was acquired by her husband upon his retirement from serving as Commissioner of Oudh,  Central India.  Later the paintings and illuminated frontispiece were removed from the volume and were mounted and framed for display.