Deborah Pollack 2016-09-07 00:58:38
The Artistic Rise of a Florida Resort Fine art, illustration, crafts, and photography have been embraced in Palm Beach like no other international resort. A culmination of Palm Beach style and the quest for a tropical artistic civilization has created a heritage and legacy of excellence that continues to attract universal attention. Visual artists and art supporters have intertwined themselves with the island due to its beauty. Art lover Henry Morrison Flagler developed it into a resort. Queen Victoria’s photographer, Ernest Walter Histed established a studio in town and later photographers artistically depicted notables including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Barbara Hutton, George Hamilton, Gloria Vanderbilt, John Lennon, Sylvester Stallone, and Donald Trump. Painters Joseph Jefferson, Constantin Alajalov, Salvador Dali, and Sir John Lavery were among the many who created works inspired by Palm Beach and Dadaist Marcel Duchamp lounged poolside while talking art. Significant collectors Jules Bache, Otto Kahn, and Chester Dale wintered on the island and well known socialites such as Jayne Wrightsman, Mona Williams, sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Audrey Chadwick Berdeau, and Marjorie Merriweather Post enhanced the roster of art patrons. Other society doyennes, including Eva Stotesbury, Amy Phipps Guest, Mary Woodhouse, and Maud Howe Elliott helped found art organizations. The Medici-like Alice De Lamar supported the visual arts in several ways and influential art dealers Joseph Duveen and Mary Benson were as remarkable as the artists they handled. One of the first artists Palm Beach attracted was illustrator George Wells Potter (1851-1924) who arrived by 1881. In 1889 Hudson River School artist Laura Woodward (1834-1926) explored Palm Beach when it was still a hammock and swampfilled jungle. Known in St. Augustine for her works of Palm Beach’s “curious” royal poinciana trees, Woodward helped influence Henry Flagler to establish a hotel in Palm Beach, utilizing her paintings as evidence of its resort potential. As a result, Flagler established the Hotel Royal Poinciana with Woodward as its artist. Like Woodward, the hotel’s first photographer, Edward Ledyard Russell promoted Palm Beach for Flagler but with photogravures depicting visiting Seminoles and sporting amenities. Another early artist in Palm Beach was the acclaimed landscapist Hermann Herzog (1832-1932). Herzog’s student, George Cope joined his teacher in Palm Beach in 1898. By the 1910s Ohio born artist Daisy Erb (1875-1959) and Joseph J. Hollenbeck took the lead of Laura Woodward and set up their studios at Hotel Royal Poinciana where they, too sold paintings of the blossoms and jungle trails to the tourists. Ben Austrian (1870-1921), creator of the Bon Ami chick that “hasn’t scratched yet,” joined them. Artist/Architect Addison Mizner came to Palm Beach in 1918 and provided numerous job opportunities for the gifted. Hired to decorate the Mizner-built mansion Playa Riente, Clarence Percival Dietsch (1881-1961) portrayed Ponce de León claiming Florida for Spain. Painter/ sculptor Thomas Shields Clarke also wintered in Palm Beach and worked with Mizner and Florenz Ziegfeld in staging “tableaux vivants” (living paintings). Around 1918 an outdoor sketching group became structured by such artists as Daisy Erb and postimpressionist Jane Peterson (1876-1965) who organized a show at West Palm Beach’s Woman’s Club. The following year a Palm Beach exhibition held on a houseboat benefited a local African American hospital by raising funds to abolish its debt and supplement patients who could not afford medical care. An array of the finest New York painters and sculptors contributed. The cause of art continued to blossom when in February 1920 Palm Beach County artists and the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors exhibited at the Woman’s Club. The local group evolved into the Palm Beach County Art Club and by 1927 it became the Palm Beach Art League. Charles Bosseron Chambers (1883-1964) exhibited Scheherazade at Palm Beach’s Michaelyan Galleries around 1923. Chambers quipped, “I could take any quiet little homebody, give her a headdress like that and a gilded robe to match and she would unconsciously imbibe some of the spirit of the country that costume represents.” Velma Glenn Hodges opened a gallery in the 1920s, hosting the work of her famous New York sculptor friends, including Jo Davidson who modeled the bust of Addison Mizner. Painters Cavalier Frederick Roscher and Frank C. von Hausen also portrayed the famed architect. Cecil Beaton, whom Vogue hired in the 1930s when he was destitute, sold his sketches at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club after raising their former New York prices. Beaton first came to the island in the 1920s with writer Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). With help from Loos, he quickly became part of the popular Addison Mizner crowd, and aside from photographing and painting the rich and famous, Beaton often touted Palm Beach’s allure. In the meantime, the Palm Beach Art Center, established in the early 1930s by Maine/Florida artist Nunzio Vayana, and The Society of the Four Arts, founded in 1936, kept art lovers fulfilled. Henry Strater (1896-1987) exhibited at both centers. An ardent lover of women, Strater roomed with F. Scott Fitzgerald at Princeton, dined with James Joyce (whom Strater called “henpecked”) in Paris, and fished with Ernest Hemingway in the Dry Tortugas. In 1941 The Palm Beach Art League joined with Ralph and Elizabeth Norton to form the Norton Gallery and School of Art, with the league designated as the museum’s owners and administrators. The following year Mary Benson, who lived with Alice De Lamar in Palm Beach, established the Worth Avenue Gallery, forever changing how the art world looked upon Palm Beach galleries. First owning the operation with her brother-in-law and later 100% by herself, Benson discovered and/or provided gallery space to artists including Keith Ingermann, Channing Hare, Franz Bueb, Jack Hawkins, Hopkins Hensel, Grover Hendricks, John Sharp, Paul Crosthwaite, Gertrude Schweitzer, Piero Aversa, Mary MacKinnon (aka McKinnon), Pavel Tchelitchew, Eugene Berman, and Ouida George. Benson gave Bernard Buffet his Palm Beach debut and showcased the work of Kentucky’s Henry Faulkner and Palm Beach’s most beloved artist Orville Bulman (1904-1978), who achieved international success. She also exhibited major paintings borrowed from distinguished New York galleries, initiated the annual clothesline shows, and started the trend of preview cocktail parties. The gallery’s patrons included the Kennedy family. Although the Palm Beach Art Center had closed in the 1930s, The Society of the Four Arts flourished. In the 1950s the Four Arts held the first major show of Vincent Van Gogh in the South and continued featuring paintings by Pissarro, Monet, Picasso, and other masters. In 1960 the Palm Beach Galleries exhibited neo-romantic realist Nicola Simbari’s works and later handled the marine paintings of Jack Lorimer Gray. Wally Findlay Galleries opened In town in 1961, exhibiting Dali’s jeweled works and paintings by Bernard Buffet. Simultaneously, the Thieme Gallery featured the work of Anthony Thieme (1888-1954) , the most famous member of St. Augustine’s “Lost Colony.” In this decade Portraitists Alejo Vidal- Quadras, whose subjects included Princess Grace of Monaco, and Kyril Vassilev wintered in the Palm Beaches. In 1976 Intetra by Isamu Noguchi touched down at The Society of the Four Arts. By that decade numerous galleries and artists were in town, such as Philip Standish Read and Edna Hibel. The Norton Gallery enhanced their important collection but discontinued its school in 1986 and became the Norton Museum of Art. Consequently, artists and art supporters established the Armory Art Center. By then, several other art-boosting organizations had been created. At the end of the twentieth century many artists had relocated to the Palm Beaches including Bruce Helander, Curtis Kelly, Sam Perry, Paul Aho, and Sandra Thompson. Today countless creative people share the color, light, and beauty of Palm Beach in the language of the visual arts. Because of past souls passing the torch of culture to present supporters who will carry it forth, this tropical artistic community will endure
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