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COMPARISON OF PENMANSHIP
Library of Congress at Washington. Hundreds daily visit its bronze and marble shrine, and look with eager interest at the parchment sheets on which are inscribed our principles of government; but though the name of the engrosser is nowhere to be found thereon and though he had no part in defining those principles, yet he was one of those young men who, as soldiers, gave freely of their youth, health, and strength that they and we might live in peace and safety protected by those principles. It seems then but just that the skill and exactitude with which the Constitution is so clearly recorded, should gain for Jacob Shallus a small, but honored, place among the memories that will forever cluster around that shrine of American Liberty.
The facsimiles given opposite of Jacob Shallus's ordinary writing and the engrossed hand he used when writing the Constitution may interest the curious. It is not always easy to reproduce enough samples of writing to show agreements in so limited a space, as pairs of words do not often occur in available lines or paragraphing; but the fundamental agreement in pen-swing and pen-holding is fully shown. Note particularly the consistent agreement in the bottom level of letter combinations, despite the extra care used in engrossing the Constitution. Individual words like "State,” “United States," "The," "Congress," "House," "of," and "and" show perfect agreement. Variations are more apparent than real, e.g., the closed loops of all the “l's” in the Constitution and the open loops in the Pennsylvania document seem contradictory until we examine the "l's" in Shallus's signature.
Catalogue of the Loan Exhibit
ONE OF the most important phases of the celebration of the Sesquicentennial of the Constitution was the loan exhibit assembled by the Commission and shown in the Corcoran Gallery of Art from November 27, 1937, to March 1, 1939. The exhibit included portraits not only of the deputies to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 and the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but also of members of their families and associates in their great task of the formation of the Union. A few articles connected with these men were also shown.
On previous occasions, notably during the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington as First President of the United States in 1889, and the George Washington Bicentennial Celebration in 1932, exhibits of portraits of George Washington were held in which portraits of his associates were included. However, this most recent exhibit was unique in that it was the first exhibit of a large group of persons associated in the formation of our government. It included nearly all of the men who, by their wisdom, courage, and foresight, left a political heritage unequalled in the annals of history; and it was particularly fitting that their portraits be assembled during the celebration of the 150th year of their great work.
The Commission directed a nation-wide celebration to inculcate in the minds of the people a knowledge of the Constitution of the United States and an appreciation of its fundamental law. It is hoped that no one left the Galleries without a more intense feeling of respect for the character and accomplishments of these distinguished men.
The biographies in the catalogue here are little more than identifying notes, but in the original catalogue they were more extended, giving some account of the personality, attainment, and history of the individual, and of the history and ownership of the
ORIGIN OF THE EXHIBIT
portrait. However, cuts of all of the portraits in the original catalogue are included in the following pages.
The exhibit was the result of over a year's painstaking work by the Portrait Committee and the Commission's staff. The Commission acknowledges its gratitude to the many individuals, museums, historical societies and patriotic organizations who have lent portraits, and to the Portrait Committee for its invaluable assistance. The Commission is especially grateful to Mrs. McCook Knox, Chairman of the Portrait Committee, for her time and indefatigable efforts. The Portrait Committee and its chairman served without remunertion. The Commission also tenders its thanks for the invaluable assistance given by Mr. John Hill Morgan, member of the Portrait Committee from New York, now a resident of Connecticut, and by Mr. David M. Matteson, the Commission's historian, who prepared the biographical notes. The Commission also expresses its gratitude to the Director and Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art for their hospitality in placing these pictures where the public could see them under the most favorable conditions.
. FOREWORD TO THE ORIGINAL CATALOGUE ANNIVERSARY celebrations of important events in our country's history not only refresh our knowledge on the subject but often bring together items of artistic value which have had much to do with stimulating interest in this side of our national life.
The Centennial of the Inauguration of Washington as First President of the United States, was observed in 1889 in New York City with much ceremony and, at that time, were brought together portraits of Washington, his Cabinet, the members of both houses of the First Congress, and those connected with the administration and with the inauguration ceremony itself. This was the first comprehensive assemblage of our early portraits and the illustrated record of this celebration, published in 1892, is one of the most valuable sources of information concerning American painting of the half century between 1775 and 1825. Each succeeding observance of important dates in our history has added something to our knowledge on this subject, and this exhibition, it is believed, will prove one of the most important ever held.
The Chairman of the Portrait Committee of the present celebration decided that it was not enough to show merely the portraits of the framers of the Constitution and the 'signers of the Declaration of Independence the Declaration being the first and the adoption of the Constitution the final step in establishing a stable form of republican government in this country—but that the portraits of the wives and families of these distinguished men should be displayed as well, to give color to the exhibit. To these have been added a few miscellaneous family belongings, such as articles of silver and pewter, silhouettes, snuff-boxes, needlework, etc., to give some slight background to the actors themselves.
It is, of course, true that all the portraits are not of the same quality. In fact as a whole the exhibit is uneven, but these paintings and personal articles are those with which these men and women lived and, when brought together in sufficient number, help to emphasize past conditions in a way that no amount of writing can make clear.
In examining any collection of early American portraits, the fact that they are uneven in quality is always evident, but it should not be forgotten that there was no school of art, as such, in North America until the Columbian Academy of Painting was opened in New York City in 1792 by Archibald Robertson and his brother; and our early painters were either visiting artists of mediocre abilities who had come to the Colonies to engage in painting as a livelihood, or were largely self-taught, or among that important group of men who studied under Benjamin West in London from 1764 almost to his death in 1820.
Of the well known artists, who came from other lands, represented in this exhibit the names of Gülager, Field, Kühn, Pelham, Pine, Ramage, Saint-Mémin, Sharples, Smibert, Theüs, Vallée, Wertmüller, and Wollaston appear.
The debt of American art to Benjamin West cannot be reiterated too often. West, born in Pennsylvania, studied in Rome and settled in England in 1763, never to return to his native land. It was to his studio that most of the young American artists of the day went for his sound instruction, and it is abundantly clear that from the return of Matthew Pratt to Philadelphia in 1766, West's influence on American art continued, through the work of his pupils, until the death of Thomas Sully in 1872.
Of the native-born who studied under West, examples of the work of Mather Brown, Ralph Earl, Malbone, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, Pratt, Savage, Stuart, Sully, Trumbull, and Wright are shown.
Of the native-born artists, concerning whose instruction we have little definite information, there is a portrait by Robert Feke, the most important artist born in New York. There is one by James Earl, who obtained his art education in London. There are several
CHARACTER OF THE EXHIBIT
by John Singleton Copley painted in this country before he went to study in Rome in 1774. John Hesselius was taught by his father, Gustavus; James Peale and Charles Peale Polk by C. W. Peale; John Wesley Jarvis was first an engraver and Ezra Ames started his artistic career as a coach painter, gilding frames, painting furniture, lettering clock faces, and decorating flags before he became a portrait painter. Chester Harding was entirely self-taught, and as to the remaining artists they received their training largely in this country.
The Director General and the Committee have exercised great care in the selection and authentication of these paintings, but have not felt it to be within their province to reject a portrait merely because there is a difference of opinion as to either subject or artist. However, in the few cases where a controversy exists, such has been generally indicated to stimulate further research.
This exhibit not only includes many famous portraits of many famous men and women, but is representative of the work of the artists of our colonial and early national periods as well.
JOHN HILL MORGAN.
Director-C. Powell Minnigerode