Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Reader's Guide to Modern Art (1914)

We are coming upon the 2015 centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.  In 1914, a small printed guide to art of the Exposition was published, entitled A Reader's Guide To Modern Art.  It was a forty page bibliography to prepare visitors to the art galleries of the PPIE compiled by Robert Bartholow Harshe, an assistant chief in the fine arts department for the Exposition.

Robert B. Harshe, Assistant Chief of the Department of Fine Arts of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, has compiled in a systematized index the accessible bibliographical material dealing with modern art and artist. ¶ While this guide was put together primarily as an idnex to the artists represented in the Palace of Fine Arts and Exposition it is also a compact review of modern art.  A skeleton outline is sketched of the art epochs in each country, becoming broader and more detailed as the art of the last ten years is reached. ¶ This guide is indispensable to all libraries, and all clubs which study art.  It is also of the utmost interest and value to lovers of art, who wish to supplement their appreciation with a fund of knowledge.  It will be particularly useful to all those who are no studying the great exhibition in San Francisco. (source: A Brief Guide to the Department of Fine Arts by Michael Williams).

According to Edan Hughes' Artists in California, Harshe only lived in Northern California for a short time, from 1908 to 1916, but was an active figure while he was here.  We was the co-founder and first president of the California Society of Etchers the predecessor of the California Society of Printmakers) in 1913.  He also was an assistant professor of fine arts at Stanford University.  Who's Who In American Art also noted that he was director of the Oakland Museum during 1915-1916.  He finished his career at the Art Institute of Chicago where he was director from 1921 until his death in 1938.  In addition to work in art administration and education he was also a painter and etcher.

 "Dutch Cottage," an etching by Robert Bartholow Harshe (from Art and Progress vol. 4, no. 7 (May 1913))

From 1911 Robert B. Harshe served as a temporary director of the Fine Arts department of the PPIE.  He first secured loans of works from the East Coast museums and collectors.  That December he traveled to Europe where he visited art galleries and museums looking for contemporary art to exhibit in San Francisco.  It was recalled in his obituary that:
During the course of its assembling [the exhibit], Mr. Harshe visited Europe and in spite of tremendous problems which daily faced him in securing loans and in getting them transported to America, succeeded in bringing many of the finest contemporary European works to San Francisco.  For the same exposition he served as secretary of the International Jury of awards ... 
As an assistant chief of the Fine Arts Department he was responsible for the exhibition of Arts and Crafts at the PPIE.
Do you receive the publications of the Department of FIne Arts of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition?  If not, send your name to Dr. Robert B. Harshe, Exposition Building, San Francisco, Cal.  You ought to keep posted about what is taking place out there in the realm of arts and crafts. (The School Arts Magazine vol. 14, no. 4 (December 1914)
Even at one hundred years' old A Reader's Guide to Modern Art is more than a curiosity for us today.  For one thing, this thin reference predates the Art Index (first publishing in 1929).  Secondly, it helps the researcher of today understand how contemporary art was understood through popular books and periodicals of the time.

Nearly half of the book is devoted to artists and time periods of American art.  The rest of the book consists of citations to books and articles about art of Austria, Belgium, China and Japan, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.  The magazines indexed include Architectural Record, Arts and Decoration, Art Journal, The Century, Chautaquan, Delineator, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Weekly, Harper's Magazine, International Studio, Magazine of Art, New England Magazine, Review of Reviews, and Scribner's Monthly.

A Reader's Guide to Modern Art, compiled by Robert B. Harshe (The Wahlgreen company [official publishers to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition], 1914).

"Great Art Exhibit for Exposition: Professor Harshe to Go to Europe in Search of Treasures," San Francisco Chronicle (September 13, 1911). [in the San Francisco Chronicle Historical database].

Robert B. Harshe, "The California Society of Etchers," Art in California; Survey of American Art with Special Reference to Californian Painting, Sculpture and Architecture Past and Present, Particularly as Those Arts Were Represented at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (R. L. Bernier, 1916).

"Robert B. Harshe," Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vol. 32, No. 4, Part I (Apr.-May, 1938), 48-51. [in JStor]

Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940 by Edan Milton Hughes (Crocker Art Museum, 2002).

"The Panama Exposition," Art and Progress Vol. 2, No. 11 (September, 1911), 337-33.
Who's Who in American Art, volume 1 (R.R. Bowker, 1936-7). [in JStor].

Michael Williams, A Brief Guide to the Department of Fine Arts (Wahlgreen Co., 1915).

Michael Williams, "Arts and Crafts at the Panama-Pacific," Art and Progress Vol. 6, No. 10, Special Exposition Number (Aug., 1915), pp. 374-378. [In JStor].

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