Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa

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.

Stockman Beekman Colt [1863-1937]

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

COLT, Stockman Beekman (1863–1937)

Paying Homage to Architecture

ink drawing on paper / 4.75 inches by 7 inches

ca1880

Colt was born in Paterson, New Jersey. Following study at the Paris Ecole des Beaux Arts (popular name for the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts) and the requisite European Grand Tour, Colt returned to America and joined the Architectural League of New York in 1889. From 1894 to 1897 he was a partner in the firm of Trowbridge, Colt, and Livingston. From 1897 until his retirement he was in independent architectural practice on Fifth Avenue. It is thought that this drawing dates from his student days in Europe.

Though the drawing is on permanent loan to the collection, it hangs in the former architectural office of Anson Curtiss Tennant, a space which has been the meeting place for Agincourt’s Arts & Crafts movement since 1915. It was a gift in 1912 from A. James Tennant to celebrate the beginning of his son’s architectural practice.

Mariko Yoshioka Nutt [born 1930]

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

NUTT, Mariko (née Yoshioka) (born 1930)

“Drawing Desk I”

oil on canvas / 37 inches by 29 inches

1985

“Drawing Desk II”

oil on canvas / 37 inches by 29 inches

1984

Mariko Yoshioka was born in Osaka, Japan in 1930 and married SFC Walter James Nutt in 1952 during his tour of duty there; she emigrated to the United States shortly after. Following her husband’s retirement from the military, the Nutts settled in suburban St Louis, Missouri by the 1980s, where she exhibited at the Wittenberg Gallery on a regular basis. It was through those exhibitions that her work came to the attention of Maureen and William Bendix, Agincourt’s collectors of Mid-century Modernity.

Ruth Kerkovius [1921-2007]

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

KERKOVIUS, Ruth (1921-2007)

“Page from a Fable”

color lithograph / 13 inches by 10 inches (image) / #4 of 27

1970

Two recent additions bring the number of Kerkovius works to five, only one of them a painting. “Page from a Fable” suggests an adult, rather than juvenile, story being told — something from the mysterious East involving birds rising miraculously from their own ash. If she were inspired by an actual fable or one of the artist’s own invention, we’re unlikely to know.

The 1960s were a particularly fruitful for the artist, with exhibits in several cities through out the Midwest. One of those was at the Wasserman Gallery at Northwest Iowa Normal School in the Fall of 1968, though this work was no part of that exhibit.

Elizabeth Oppenheim [1907-1993]

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

OPPENHEIM, Elizabeth (1907–1993; née Munk)

“Hyde Park Rooftops”

oil on canvas / 17.5 inches by 23.5 inches

ca1960

“Hyde Park Rooftops” was executed by holocaust survivor and artist Elizabeth Oppenheim, who was born in Austria in 1907 and passed away in Berkeley, California in 1993. “Lilly” as she was known to her friends, was married to A. Leo Oppenheim, a scholar and distinguished assyriologist at the University of Chicago and Oriental Institute in the mid twentieth century. It can be argued that her artistic ability, in particular with greeting cards, wrapping paper, and textiles, enabled her to survive after she fled Nazi occupied Austria to France, and subsequently Portugal before emigrating to the US. She continued to thrive as a textile designer during her first years in New York. When her husband Leo was offered a position at the University of Chicago in 1947, the economic pressure for creating art for economic purposes relented and she was able to pursue her long held passion for painting.

Oppenheim’s painting is one of two perspective views of Chicago rooftops in the collection. It is on loan from Temple Emanu-El.

Eliot Candee Clark [1883-1980]

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

CLARK, Eliot Candee (1883–1980)

Country Road

oil on panel / 8.75 inches by 10.5 inches

ca1930

Son of landscape painter Walter Clark and Jennifer Woodruff Clark, a student of psychic phenomena, Eliot Clark was a precocious artist who became a landscape painter in the late American Impressionist style.  Moving to Albemarle, Virginia in 1932, he was one of the few Impressionist* artists of the Southern states.  Likely this was a result of his association with James Whistler and his painting in 1900 at Gloucester, Massachusetts with John Twachtman, a family friend.  Showing his obvious interest in Impressionism, he wrote a book about its exponents including Twachtman, Theodore Robinson, Childe Hassam, Julian Weir, and Robert Vonnoh.

The lesser known Clark is in the good company of early giants in the American Impressionist style, John Henry Twachtman and Childe Hassam — though artists of that calibre are collected by major urban institutions.