While Eugen Neuhaus’s Art of the Exposition viewed the Panama-Pacific International Exposition as a whole, in his companion volume Galleries of the Exposition, he focused on the paintings in the Palace of Fine Arts. Neuhaus’s goal is nothing less than a comprehensive guide to the galleries:
It is certainly no small task to enjoy a large exhibit like ours and to preserve one’s peace of mind. The purpose of these pages is to assist in guiding the uninitiated, in the his visit and in retrospect, without depriving him of the pleasure of personal observation and investigation. It is not to be expected that all pictures exhibited should be of a superior kind. If so, we should never be able to learn the recognize the good among the bad.
Unlike museums today, it would seem there was little or no interpretive material in the galleries themselves, else guides like Neuhaus’s would hardly be necessary. Neuhaus moves from the European galleries, organized by country, into the American ones, each devoted to a particular artist. He likes the Impressionists (“According to the form of their colour dots they were called pointillistes… The service of these men to art can never be estimated too highly.”) but not the modern Japanese artists (“Why they want to divorce themselves from the traditions of their forefathers seems incomprehensible.”).
Neuhaus reserves his highest praise for James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and William Keith (“some of his best things are gems in easy-flowing methods of painting which the best men of the Barbizon school seldom approached”).
Eugen Neuhaus called his book The Art of the Exposition, but it might more accurately be titled The Art Critic Goes to the Fair. Neuhaus walks through the whole complex, giving us his impressions.
The following pages have grown out of many talks given during the year by Mr. Neuhaus to his students at the University of California. Presented to the public in the form of a series of evening lectures at the University, and repeated before many other organizations through California, his interpretation of the Art of the Exposition roused a demand for its repetition so widespread as only to be met by the aid of the printing press.
The book’s main sections are: Architecture, Sculpture, Color Scheme and the Landscape Gardening, Mural Decorations, and Illumination (i.e. lighting). While electricity was no longer a novelty, the PPIE’s buildings were elegantly lit at night with a huge number of electric lights:
The first half hour after the close of day, as enjoyed around the lagoon, with the Fine Arts Building in the background, reflected in the waters, will linger forever in the minds of all who are privileged to see it. Such blues I have seen only in pictures by Maxfield Parrish. Combined with the rich gold of the colonnade, they are almost supernatural. The whole effect, as relfected in the placid surface o the lagoon, occasionally broken here and there by a slowly moving waterfowl … is inspiring, and must awaken an aesthetic response in the soul of the most ordinary mortal.
Neuhaus saves his greatest disdain for the midway, or as it was called at the PPIE, “The Zone”:
[The Zone] is invaluable, however, as an object lesson in showing the fatal results of the utter disregard of all those fundamental laws of balance, harmony, and unity so uniformly and persistently applied through the seriously designed main body of the Exposition. There is no harmony whatever in the Zone anywhere, either in the form, style, or color, unless it be the harmony of ugliness which is carried through this riotous mêlée of flimsiness and sham.
Karl Eugen Neuhaus was born in Barmen (now Wuppertal), Germany on 18 September 1879. He studied at the Royal Art School in Kassel and the Berlin Royal Institute for Applied Arts, and came to San Francisco in 1904, where he setup a studio across the corridor from William Keith. After being burned out by the earthquake and fire in 1906, he lived in Monterey and helped found the Del Monte Art Gallery.
In 1908, Neuhaus became head of the Art department at University of California, Berkeley, a post he would hold for over forty years. At the PPIE he was Chairman of the Western Advisory Committee and was a member of the San Francisco Jury of the Department of Fine Arts; he exhibited six entries. He was a popular public speaker and wrote many books on art history. Neuhaus died in Berkeley, California on 29 October 1963.
In addition, there was a special issue of Art of the Exposition from the Victor Talking Machine Company (famous for the dog Nipper and the slogan “His Master’s Voice”), consisting of a modified cover and a sixteen-page insert opposite page 1. The insert commemorates a meeting of the National Association of Talking Machine Jobbers and guests of the Victor Talking Machine Company, held on Saturday 24 July 1915 at the Victor Temple at the PPIE, then the next day at Muir Woods on Mt Tamalpais.
One hundred years ago today, on 20 February 1915, San Francisco opened its doors to the world. The sparkling Panama-Pacific International Exposition was laid out on 625 acres on the northern shore of San Francisco, what is now the Marina district. Officially, the Exposition celebrated the recent opening of the Panama Canal, but everyone knew that it was really San Francisco’s way of showing that it had recovered from the catastrophic 1906 earthquake and fire.
Some fairs call their grand buildings ‘pavilions,’ but at the PPIE they were called ‘palaces.’ There was a Palace of Agriculture, a Palace of Liberal Arts, a Palace of Transportation, a Palace of Mines and Metallurgy, and several other palaces, including, of course, architect Bernard Maybeck’s masterpiece (and one of the few surviving relics of the PPIE), the Palace of Fine Arts.
Second, Elder had ready ‘in the can’ a dozen new titles specifically related to the PPIE. Most of them sold well, and several went into multiple printings.
The grandest and most elegant of those titles was the Catalog Deluxe of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a two-volume limited edition of 1000 copies with vellum spines and copious photographs. The Catalog Deluxe contains a complete listing of everything that was displayed in the Palace of Fine Arts, along with where they could be found for viewing. There is not much text for reading; most is in Volume I in the form of profiles of genres and famous artists.
John Ellingwood Donnell Trask (1871–16 Apr 1926) was Chief of the Department of Fine Arts at the PPIE. Previously he had been Secretary and Manager of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1905–1913), the United States Commissioner General to the Exposicion Internacional de Arte del Centenario at Buenos Aires, Argentina, and to the Exposicion Internacional de Bellas Artes at Santiago, Chile, as well as to a special art exhibition at Montevideo. He also wrote a short poem printed on the frontispiece tissue guard of Bernard Maybeck’s Palace of Fine Arts and Lagoon.
John Nilsen Laurvik (1877-1953) had a huge impact on international art at the PPIE. Through the contacts of his Hungarian wife Elma Palos, he arranged for the exhibition of hundreds of paintings despite the ravages of World War I that was affecting Europe.
After Paul Elder opened his bookshop in 1898, it is perhaps surprising that he waited fourteen years to publish a book about San Francisco. Maybe it just took him that long to find the right author. Helen Throop Purdy’s comprehensive guide to the City, San Francisco — As It Was, As It Is, And How To See It, was published in September 1912 and remains a useful reference to post-earthquake San Francisco.
The book is profusely illustrated: almost every page has a photograph. Also included are maps, an index, and the layout of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, still three years in the future.
Not surprisingly, Purdy takes time to describe her publisher’s shop in glowing terms: “The same atmosphere [that of Vickers, Atkinson & Torrey] pervades Paul Elder’s beautiful shop on Grant Avenue, between Post & Sutter streets. The artistically arranged window is sure to attract you. From the size of the front, you would never guess the number of beautiful things within.”
Helen Price Throop (2 May 1856–19 January 1945) was born in Palmyra, New York, a descendant of American colonists. She graduated from Elmira College in 1876, and married William Edgar Purdy in 1879. In 1901 they and their three children came to San Francisco, and after the 1906 earthquake they purchased a home 2737 Alcatraz St. in Berkeley, where Helen lived for the rest of her life. She was a member of the California Writers Club, the Stevenson Club and the Historical Society of America. She also belonged to the Mayflower Society, the Founders and Patriots, the Colonial Dames of America and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
After William Purdy’s death in 1927, she married Ransom Pratt; he died in 1932. Helen, William and Ransom are all buried in their family plots in the Palmyra Cemetery in New York.