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Monthly Archives: October 2019

Odin J. Oyen [1865-1926]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

OYEN, Odin J. (1865–1926)

Study for Courthouse Mural

watercolor on paper / 27.5 inches by 36.5 inches


About 1900, the LaCrosse, Wisconsin interior designer and painter Odin J. Oyen submitted sketches to decorate the Fennimore County courthouse. Oyen’s scheme was decidedly “Classical” in spirit and contrasted with the earlier Richardsonian Romanesque character of the 1888-1889 building. It is remarkable how twelve years can can shift architectural style so dramatically. The murals were lost in the fire of 1966, so this is the only substantial artifact of that project.

Norwegian-born and educated at the Art Institute of Chicago, Oyen was renowned throughout the Upper Midwest for the interior decor produced by his firm, with examples in Wisconsin, Minnesota, both Dakotas, and Iowa. the Odin Oyen Collection is housed at the University of Wisconsin—LaCrosse.

An Invitation

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
Ray Bradbury

man wondering

For no particularly good reason, I made some mention of the Agincourt Project in my architectural history class this morning. It took a little over twenty minutes our of seventy-five and meant I got two thirds of the way through the Romanesque lecture Part One. Guess I’ll just have to talk faster on Thursday.

The episode grew from some small point, I don’t recall what, and went a bit farther than I’d intended. But the upshot was a standard open invitation to come play in the sandbox with the rest of those who have created Agincourt over the years. One good sign: the website had three visitors who looked at nearly a dozen pages. Somebody took the hint.

Eddlison/Eddleson/Eddelson [active 1890s]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]


Mediæval City Gate


watercolor / 7.7 inches by 10.9 inches

In this era of the selfie, the notion of being a slow and deliberate tourist might seem quaint. Recording your experience in watercolor (or should that be “watercolour”?) requires time and careful observation; it is the artistic counterpart of ‘stopping to smell the roses”. The signature is indistinct, but the subject is undoubtedly British, though many cities of Mediæval origin are likely candidates, possibly Yorkshire where the name “Eddleson” is quite common.

An early acquisition, the source is unrecorded.

David Walling Humphrey [1872-1950]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

HUMPHREY, David Walling (1872–1950)

“Faun Serenading Nymph”

color monoprint / 9 inches by 6 7/8 inches


David Walling Humphrey was born in February 28, 1872 in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, the fourth child of Benjamin Blodgett and Mary Jane Walling Humphrey. His mother died just 41 days after he was born. Humphrey was educated in Elkhorn public schools in the southeast Wisconsin community.  On November 18,1889 a Warranty Deed (Vol. 102, p 49) was recorded for $1,000 from David to his sister Hattie on a piece of jointly-owned property inherited from their father Benjamin Humphrey. He could then afford to study at the Art Institute of Chicago which was called the ‘Art Mecca of the Middle West’ at that time. As an honor student in Chicago and a serious student of contemporary art, he worked hard to establish himself in the art community. David chose for his subjects, figures, genre (human activities) and nude figures and mythology.

He concentrated on monotypes, a technique that creates a unique original print with each impression. This is a slow, labor-intensive process that produces perfection rather than quantity. Frequently, he went to the countryside and did sketches with pastels, then returned to his studio to create the monotype metal plate. Monotypes were a spontaneous approach developed soon after the etching revival of the late 1870s. Although monotypes are classed with graphic arts, Humphrey’s work was superior in quality and was referred to more often as a painting.

David Humphrey continued to study at the Academie Julian and with J.A.M. Whistler for two years in Paris.

E. A. Alford [active 1890s]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

ALFORD, E. A. (active 1890s)

The Daily Inter-Ocean

oil on canvas / 18 inches by 22 inches


Trompe L’Oeil is a genre in art which attempt to replicate reality; it means “to fool the eye”. Examples can be found from the Renaissance to the present, but this particular example depicts a copy of the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean for December 1st, 1892, wrapped around red roses. The artist E. A. Alford is unknown and thus far has defied identification through standard on-line sources.

The front page found at newspapers.com for that date is the morning edition and differs somewhat from the page illustrated here. though the price is still Two Cents.

Writing Lives

Willa Cather warns us that “[t]here are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” If that’s true, will the person who had mine please write to say how it all turned out?

Rummaging through a pile of books slumped by my bedside, I found a paperback copy (bought to replace the hardback version I can’t seem to locate) of John Howland Spyker’s Little Lives, a 1979 title that has kept my attention for lo these forty years. It’s one of those chance encounters that I’ve passed along to friends. For a quick orientation, look for it on NeglectedBooks.com or GoodReads. You’ll thank me.

To say that Spyker (pseudonym of Richard Elman) attempts what Edgar Lee Masters had accomplished in Spoon River Anthology sixty years earlier is to diminish each of those works. For me they were instructive, offering lessons that I’m still learning fourteen years into this project.


Carton Moore-Park [1877-1956]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

MOORE-PARK, Carton (1877–1956)

Old Friends and New Fables

1916 (first edition)

book with twenty-two tipped-in illustrations / Blackie & Sons, Ltd., publishers

British illustration during the Arts & Crafts period took on the character of woodcuts and, along with that, characteristics which can only be called Japanese. Edwin Noble and Carton Moore-Park are only two of a substantial school of designers who particularly applied their talents to children’s books. Old Friends and New Fables pair brief moralizing texts by Alice Talwin Morris with a single charming illustration such as “The Cat and the Puppy” and “The Deceitful Fox”. Coincidentally, the author was herself a talented illustrator and the wife of book designer Talwin Morris.

This book is part of the special collection of illustrated children’s books given in 2012 in memory of Mary-Grace Bernhard.