September Morn

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This article is about the painting. For other uses, see September Morn (disambiguation).
September Morn
French: Matinée de Septembre
A nude woman standing along the beach
September Morn, a part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Artist Paul Émile Chabas
Year 1911 (1911)
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 163.8 cm × 216.5 cm (64.5 in × 85.2 in)
Location Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Accession 57.89

Matinée de Septembre (English: September Morn) is a controversial oil painting on canvas by the French artist Paul Émile Chabas completed in 1911. Painted over several summers, it depicts a nude girl or young woman standing in the shallow water of a lake, illuminated by a lighting which prominently interacts with the model and setting. She is leaning slightly forward in an ambiguous posture, which has been read variously as an attempt to protect the model's modesty, huddle against the cold, sponge bathe, or as a fetishization of innocence.

September Morn was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1912, and although the identity of its first owner is unclear, it is certain that Leon Mantashev acquired the painting by the end of 1913. It was taken to Russia, and and in the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1917 September Morn was feared lost. It resurfaced in 1935, in the collection of Calouste Gulbenkian, and after his death in 1955 the work was sold to a Philadelphia broker, who donated it anonymously to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in 1957. After fourteen years on display at the Met and other institutions, it was put into storage. As of 2014 it is not on display.

From 1913, reproductions of the painting caused in the United States. An art dealer in Chicago was charged with indecency and another in New York was targeted by anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, both after displaying September Morn. As censorship and art were debated in newspapers, and despite the threat of censure, over the next few years the work was reproduced in a variety of forms, including on pins and calendars. Chabas' painting inspired songs, stage shows, and films; eventually some 7 million reproductions were sold, although Chabas – who had not copyrighted September Morn – did not receive any royalties.

Although several women claimed to be the model for September Morn, Chabas never revealed her identity. He later described the work as "all I know of painting", and responded positively to statements that it was his masterpiece. Later writers, however, have described the painting as kitsch, valuable only as a historic artifact.

Description[edit]

A 1961 reproduction of the painting, showing the dominance of grays

September Morn depicts, from an oblique point of view, a naked blonde girl or young woman standing ankle-deep in the water near the shoreline of a tranquil lake surrounded by hills. The lone figure is backlit by the morning sun, but fully visible, if a little darker than her surroundings.[1][2] Her arms are folded about her body, her right arm passing below her breasts as she grasps her left elbow, while her left arm conceals her pubic area.[a][3] This pose has been variously interpreted as the subject protecting herself from the cold,[1] covering her modesty,[4] or sponge bathing,[5] or as the artist's "fetishisation of innocence".[6]

Reviews in 1912 noted that the painting was dominated by grays: the gray of the woman's shaded body, the blue-grays of the September water, the green-grays of the sky, and the pink-grays of the hills behind her.[1][7] The art critic François Thiébault-Sisson described this as evoking the morning, the young subject preparing to bathe while "light grey vapours are still floating over the lake".[8] This oil painting on canvas measures 163.8×216.5 centimetres (64.5×85.2 in),[9] and Chabas's signature is located in the lower left.[10]

Background[edit]

Chabas[edit]

The painter, Paul Émile Chabas, c. 1910

By the time he painted September Morn, Paul Émile Chabas (1869–1937) already had an established reputation as an academic artist. The painter regularly submitted his work to the Paris Salon, first participating in 1886.[11] He won a third class medal in the Salon of 1895,[12] and four years later his painting Joyeux ébats won the Prix National;[13] the work also earned him a gold medal at the 1900 Exposition Universelle and was acquired by the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes.[14][15] In subsequent years Chabas spent the winters working in Paris, while he passed his summers painting young women along the shores of rivers, lakes, and seas.[16] In 1902 he was made a Chevalier in the Legion of Honour.[b][13][17]

Chabas is cited as having studied under artists such as Tony Robert-Fleury, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, and Albert Maignan.[18] Although his earlier works were generally portraits, most of the painter's later production consisted of nude girls and young women.[1][17][19] The lakes and rivers of France were common settings for his paintings, which gave prominence to the interaction of light with the models and their surroundings.[20] September Morn is typical of his style.[10]

J. Valmy-Baysse, in a 1910 overview of the artist, attributes this style to the painter's time at the family summer home along the Erdre; he identifies the "grace of adolescence, its undefinable charm, [and] its chaste nudity" of the models with Chabas's reminiscences of his youth.[c][20] The art historian Bram Dijkstra has argued otherwise, stating that "no artist was more assiduous in exploiting the prurient possibilities of the woman-child" than Chabas, whom he considers to have "emphasized analogies of nude little girls and the familiar poses of vanity or physical arousal given to adult women".[21]

Nudity and art[edit]

Female nudes were the dominant subject of painting in French Salons at the end of the 19th century;[22] female models had become more common than male ones beginning in the early 19th century, first serving allegorical roles or as muses, but eventually becoming individuals "who could be classified and whose history could be written".[23] In academic art – such as that of Chabas – the models were not portrayed as they were, but as idealized nudes, based on classical ideals; the body hair of women models, for instance, would not be shown, and the pubic area was rendered smoothly.[24] The hostess Suzanne Delve, who later claimed to have stood for September Morn, said that models were willing to provide "service to art" by posing nude for such works.[25]

Not all forms of nude imagery were acceptable in France. The end of the 19th century had seen the introduction of various laws against pornography, images of adults and children meant to "provoke, incite, or stimulate debauchery".[26] Works targeted were initially those meant for wide distribution (and thus, the lower class).[27] However, the Australian art historian Fae Brauer writes that the line between art and pornography was blurred by the early 1910s; even tighter laws, introduced in 1908, had resulted in censorship of modernist works. For instance, three paintings by Kees van Dongen (including two of his daughter) were rejected from the Salon d'Automne between 1911 and 1913 for being indecent.[26]

The United States had, since colonial times, generally been more puritan in terms of art than Europe. In the mid- and late-19th century the country's government implemented laws against obscenity, such as the Tariff of 1842 which banned imports of foreign works of art deemed to be obscene. By the end of the 19th century, an uneasy understanding had been reached: museums could hold works depicting nudity, but commercial works (including photographs of artwork) could be – and were – confiscated.[28][29] Tensions remained over the issue of whether nudes represented European-style sophistication (a trait important to the upper-class) or encouraged behaviors which threatened families and encouraged "impure imaginations".[30]

Creation; identity of model[edit]

According to Chabas, he began work on September Morn in mid-1910, at Talloires on the shores of Lake Annecy in Haute-Savoie, some 500 kilometres (310 mi) south-east of Paris.[31][32][33] The model, whom he never identified but referred to as "Marthe", was well known to his family. Owing to the financial situation of the sixteen-year-old's family, "Marthe" had to work to support her mother.[34] On the first day of painting, "Marthe" entered the morning water and instinctively recoiled at its chilliness. Chabas approved of this pose, saying that it was "perfect". Over the course of two summers he worked on the painting, half an hour every morning. The work was completed on a September morning in 1911,[d] giving the painting its name.[31] In 1935, responding to claims that "Marthe" was living in poverty, Chabas explained that she had continued posing for him until she was 28, when she married a rich industrialist, and that she was now aged 41, plump, and had three children.[35][36]

Numerous women have claimed or been claimed to be the model, some presenting different versions of events. In 1913, a Miss Louise Buckley, performing in Eugene, Oregon, claimed to have been the model, stating that she had been paid $1,000 and posed in the artist's studio.[37] The Paris-based artist Jules Pages, meanwhile, stated that the woman depicted in September Morn had been a 25-year-old of good character who earned her living as an artist's model, but had gone into hiding after the controversy over the painting.[38] Other claimants included a Swedish model named Gloria[39] and a variety actress named Irene Shannon;[40] the latter made the claim in the lead-up to a vaudeville skit called "November Mourning".[41]

Suzanne Delve
Irene Shannon
Suzanne Delve (left) and Irene Shannon both claimed to be the model for September Morn.

In 1937, twenty-four years after September Morn drew controversy in the United States, the Parisian hostess Suzanne Delve declared that she had been the model. In her version of events, Chabas – who had known her since she was an infant – had her pose nude in his studio and then later painted Lake Annecy without her. Delve described her nervousness at the first session, her mother chatting to her to distract her mind while Chabas's wife played soothing music on the piano. She said she took her pose "instinctively" and that the controversy over the painting had ruined her life, as no Frenchman would want to marry a woman marred by scandal.[25]

Yet another version is presented by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in their 1966 catalogue of French holdings, including September Morn. According to this telling, Chabas completed the painting over three summers at Lake Annecy, though his peasant model served only as the basis for the figure's body. The head was based on a sketch of a young American, Julie Phillips, which Chabas had completed upon observing her and her mother dining in Paris; finding her profile to his liking, he silently drew her, then introduced himself and "apologized for his presumption".[10]

History[edit]

Paris Salon and first sale[edit]

Chabas first exhibited September Morn in the Paris Salon of April 14 to June 30, 1912;[9] because he did not plan to sell it, he gave a price of 50,000 francs ($10,000) – more than he expected anybody to pay.[35][42] For the painting, and his Portrait of Mme. Aston Knight, Chabas won a Medal of Honor, receiving 220 of 359 possible votes.[43] At the Salon, the painting created no controversy,[44][45] and it was soon reprinted in American publications such as Town & Country[44] and The International Studio.[46]

Sources are unclear as to the provenance of the painting after the Salon. According to the Met, the New York-based Philip (or Philippe) Ortiz, manager of the New York Branch of Braun and Company, purchased the painting in late 1912.[9][47] According to a 1933 report in the Middletown Times Herald, he paid 12,000 francs ($2,400) for the work, but never brought the painting back to the United States.[48] However, Brauer suggests that Ortiz sent it to his gallery in New York, where it caused a controversy.[e][49] According to Time, the painting was acquired by Leon Mantashev c. 1913, after the painting was returned to Chabas.[50]

A 1935 article in the Montreal Gazette, meanwhile, stated that the original September Morn had yet to go to the United States, and that Chabas had sold it directly to Mantashev.[51] According to Chabas, this was after an American approached him to purchase the painting, but was unwilling to pay the asking price.[42] In her memoirs, the Vogue editor Edna Woolman Chase wrote that Ortiz had arranged for numerous reproductions of the painting to be made and sent to New York, and that – although he had been interested in acquiring the original – he had been unable to do so.[52] Although it is possible that the original painting did not cross the Atlantic by 1913, it is clear that reproductions did.[51]

Controversy and popularity[edit]

Chicago[edit]

In The Seattle Star
In The Leavenworth Times
Newspaper reproductions of the painting, censored with clothing

A full-size reproduction of September Morn was displayed in a window of Jackson and Semmelmeyer, a photography shop in Chicago, Illinois, in March 1913.[f][44] A passing police officer noticed the print and insisted that it was indecent and had to be taken down.[g] The mayor of the city, Carter Harrison, Jr., agreed with the policeman's decision, stating that the image could be sold, but should not be displayed in public as children could see it.[45] Fred Jackson, the owner, was charged with indecency,[53][54] and at his request the case was brought to trial on March 18.[55]

In front of a jury, the city's art censor Jeremiah O'Connor testified that September Morn was lewd and thus should not be displayed in public, but rather only in a museum exhibition.[h] W. W. Hallam of the Chicago Vice Committee agreed, arguing that, as the woman was committing the illegal act of bathing in public, September Morn had to be banned.[44][56] Other witnesses for the prosecution included censors, educators, and clergy, such as the superintendent Ella Flagg Young and the head of the Juvenile Protective Association Gertrude Howe Britton.[54][56][57]

Jackson, acting as his own lawyer, highlighted the hypocrisy of censoring the painting while a nude statue of Diana could be found in front of the Montgomery Ward Building. He called upon painters, poets, and sculptors as his witnesses, including the artist Oliver Grover and the art critic Walter Smith.[i][54][56] In his testimony, Grover stated "A nude woman is no more indecent than a bare tree. Men and women weren't born with overcoats on. Anyhow, indecency may be decidedly apart from nudity".[4]

After less than an hour of deliberations,[j] the jury found for Jackson, allowing him to reinstate the image in his display;[4][56][58] Jackson was so pleased that he promised a free copy of September Morn to each juror.[59] Ten days after the trial Mayor Harrison went to the city council and proposed stricter obscenity laws. The city government agreed, and imposed a $25–100 fine for displaying nude art along public roads and in places frequented by children.[58][60] By September Jackson (together with fellow art dealers Samuel Meyer and William Kuhl) had been found in violation of this law. Mayor Harrison later stated that he was "through" with the painting, saying "Chicago has been made the laughing stock of the whole country because of this bathing girl picture".[40]

New York[edit]

Anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock; his reaction to the painting promoted further controversy

Further controversy arose in New York in May 1913, two months after the conclusion of the Chicago trial. Anthony Comstock, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and nationally recognized for his campaigns against "smut",[k] saw September Morn[l] on display in the window of Braun and Company, an art dealership on West 46th Street.[47][61] Rushing inside, he raged "There's too little morn and too much maid! Take it out!".[m][5][31][53] A clerk, James Kelly, removed the painting, but Ortiz, the gallery's manager, reinstated it in the window after returning from his lunch break.[31][47]

Comstock threatened Ortiz with legal action, and Ortiz – unaware that Comstock could not arrest him, and fearful that he could cause trouble for the gallery – was initially frightened. He consulted with Arthur Brisbane of the New York Evening Journal, who told him he had nothing to fear, and sent some reporters to cover the story.[62] The following day, the controversy was highly covered in the press, who hailed Ortiz as "one art expert with the courage to stand up against Comstock and his dictatorship". Following Comstock's visit large crowds blocked the street outside Braun and Company, ogling September Morn. The gallery owner refused to sell his large print of September Morn, so that it could remain in his window.[47][63]

After two weeks, when the dealership had sold every print it had, Ortiz removed the painting.[61] In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, he accused Comstock of causing the controversy to earn greater publicity for himself, and stated that he wearied of crowds outside his shop, who blocked paying customers from entering it.[64] Ultimately, Comstock did not pursue legal action. The historian Walter M. Kendrick attributes this apparent leniency to September Morn '​s status as a work of art,[53] whereas Gerald Carson, writing in American Heritage, attributes it to a knowledge that no action could be taken against the painting.[65]

The controversy promoted polemics regarding the painting and censorship,[5] and multiple editorial cartoons; one depicted a young woman bathing, only her head showing, with a caption attributed to Comstock reading "Don't you suppose I can imagine what is UNDER the water?".[66] Comstock called the painting "demoralizing in the extreme and especially calculated to excite immodesty in the young", arguing that it must be suppressed in the interest of the children.[67] He emphasized that "the law is the law ... the picture will have to come out of the window".[47] Reverend Sydney Ussher of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church took a more moderate approach, explaining that "so vivid a display of nudity as September Morn" would best not be displayed in [the United States], owing to the people's relative lack of appreciation for art".[67]

Suffragist Inez Milholland defended the painting as "exquisite and delicate, depicting perfect youth and innocence".

Other, more positive, views were also expressed. The suffragist Inez Milholland defended the painting, stating that it was "exquisite and delicate, depicting perfect youth and innocence", and found it "funny, if it weren't so sad" that such a painting would be censored while more titillating film posters were left untouched.[67] The social activist Rose Pastor Stokes wrote that this "glorious work of art" was a "rare" depiction of "the loveliest dream that nature ever made real—the human Body Beautiful" and that shame over one's body should not be blamed on the painting, but on a failed education system.[67] The artist James Montgomery Flagg proclaimed "only a diseased mind can find anything immoral in September Morn".[67]

In his 1931 autobiography,[68] the public relations pioneer Harry Reichenbach claimed responsibility for the controversy surrounding September Morn – and the work's resulting popularity. He stated that Braun and Company had acquired some 2,000 reproductions of the painting which they could not sell, and then hired him for $45 so that he could unload the stock. They then paid for a large lithograph reproduction to be made and put on display.[69] Reichenbach, he stated, then contacted public figures to protest against the display. When there was no response, he accosted Comstock in his office and dragged him to the dealership, where some young children, whom Reichenbach had hired for fifty cents each, lusted over the painting. The public relations man then worked towards maintaining interest in the painting, prints of which had already increased in price – from 10 cents to a dollar.[69][70]

Wide-spread reproduction and imitation[edit]

A 1937 Salt Lake Tribune article stated that, after the 1913 controversies, reproductions of September Morn were shown "on the front page of every newspaper in the land".[25] Ortiz required these newspapers to pay a charge and mention his copyright, otherwise face a penalty of $500 to $1000; Chase recalled that Vogue had been one of those charged.[71] These newspaper reproductions, however, were sometimes censored. Fred L. Boalt of The Seattle Star, covering a local exhibit of a reproduction, explained his newspaper's rationale for such censorship: "For humane as well as other reasons, [...] the Star artist has painted in a short petticoat. He didn't want to do it. He suffered. But we made him do it".[58]

Lithograph copies of September Morn were popularly sold for over a decade, extending the success that followed the scandal, and were widely hung in private homes.[65] Reproductions were featured on a variety of products, including cigar bands, postcards, bottle openers, statuettes, watch fobs, and candy boxes;[5][65] the model was also popular as a tattoo.[72] According to a 1973 Associated Press report September Morn was the first nude used for calendars,[73] and by the late 1950s it had featured on millions.[74] A couplet referring to Chabas's work, "Please don't think I'm bad or bold, but where its deep it's awful cold", was also widely circulated.[5]

Allusions to the painting were common in vaudeville acts,[69] becoming stock gags in the Orpheum Circuit.[50] Stage imitations of the painting were also created. In 1913, for instance, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. cast Ann Pennington as the model as part of his Follies. In this successful version of September Morn, the subject bore a sheer cape, with leaves placed strategically over her body, and stood on a stage made-up as water.[5][75][76] A burlesque act, deeming itself the "September Morning Glories", was also created,[77] as was a three-act musical based on the painting. The latter – featuring a fifty-strong chorus line – was put on by Arthur Gillespie and Frank Tannehill, Jr. and debuted at the La Salle Theater.[15][78] In Milwaukee, a man wearing "little or no clothing" passed himself off as "September Morn" at the 1915 Wisconsin State Fair; he was brought to trial and fined $25.[79] Theatrical references to the painting continued into the 1950s. For instance, in Tennessee Williams's 1957 play Orpheus Descending, the character Val sees it hanging in his room and mentions he "might keep turning the light on to take another look at it".[80]

September Morn also inspired several films. A two-reel production by Pathé, titled September Morn, was released in February 1915 and followed the misadventures of a sailor who gets a tattoo of the model. After his girlfriend disapproves, he tries clothing the naked woman with a ripped skirt, but this fails to gain his lover's approval; ultimately, he ends up with a fully clothed nude and the text "Votes for Women" inked on his arm.[81][82] Meanwhile, September Mourning, a November 1915 release produced by L-KO, portrayed a pair of artists first vying for the attentions of a young woman in the park, then invading a school for girls.[81] Robert McElravy, reviewing for Moving Picture World, found the film funny, but considered it to lack plot.[83] A third film, Lois Weber's Hypocrites, portrayed "The Naked Truth" (an uncredited Margaret Edwards) in a manner similar to Chabas's model.[81]

I want that girl they call September Morn;
I'd like to meet her, I'd like to meet her!
Dress'd up like the day that she was born,
There's no one sweeter! there's no one sweeter!
Nothing 'round her but a cloud of mist.
She's a vision that I can't resist.
In my heart she's posing night and day,
I can't forget her, I can't forget her!
I want that girl they call September Morn;
I'd like to meet her. I'd like to meet her,
If you find her won't you please remind her that I'm oh, so lonely, lonely,
Oh so lonely! And I'm waiting for her only.
For that girl they call September Morn.

 —Chorus to "September Morn (I'd Like to Meet Her)", by Stanley Murphy

Several songs inspired by September Morn were likewise released. Musicians Frank Black and Bobby Heath penned a song, "September Morn", based on the painting,[69] and Aubrey Stauffer of Chicago published sheet music (for voice and piano) of "Oh, You September Morn", from Gillespie and Tannehill's musical.[84] At Tin Pan Alley, Henry I. Marshall composed two works, a waltz for piano titled "Matin de Septembre (September Morn)", and a piece for voice and piano titled "September Morn (I'd Like to Meet Her)". Both were published through Jerome H. Remick & Co. in 1913, and the latter featured lyrics by Stanley Murphy.[65][85][86]

As interest grew, purity societies attempted to ban reproductions of September Morn,[5] and people in possession of them ran the risk of confiscation and fines.[15] Postcards bearing the painting were banned from the postal system.[5] Harold Marx, a New Orleans art dealer who displayed a reproduction, was arrested a month after being told to take the painting down;[44][87] displays of reproductions were also forcibly removed in Miami and Atlanta.[88] In Chicago, a man was charged with disorderly conduct after bringing home a reproduction.[40] Irene Deal, who dressed in a union suit and posed as "Miss September Morn" in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as a publicity stunt, was controversially fined $50 for disorderly conduct.[89][90] In 1914, students at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, burned a copy of the painting for being against their religious beliefs.[91]

Ultimately some 7 million reproductions of September Morn, the production of which continued into the 1930s, were sold;[44][92] as late as the 1960s prints remained popular.[93] Reichenbach characterized this popularity as a "laugh on the overzealous guardians of virtue" in which the entire American populace participated.[68] Inspired by the commercial success of September Morn, displays of images of nude women became more common; a New York Times reader wrote that they had become "increasingly vulgar and suggestive".[94]

In 1937 Life deemed September Morn "one of the most familiar paintings in the world",[92] and a retrospective Toledo Blade article characterized the model as having become America's number one pin-up girl.[77] Writing in 1957, Considine declared September Morn to be "the most controversial painting in the history of [the United States]",[69] and the New York Post declared it "the most famous nude till the Marilyn Monroe calendar".[95] Carson wrote in 1961 that September Morn had caused "the most heated controversy over nudity, art, and morals" in the United States since Hiram Powers' statue The Greek Slave in the 1840s.[65]

Russia and Paris[edit]

The oil baron Leon Mantashev[n] acquired the original September Morn in c. 1913, for a price of $10,000.[31] He brought it with him to Russia, and after the outbreak of the October Revolution the painting was feared destroyed;[96] following Mantashev's escape from Russia, pieces of his sizeable collection that were considered to have artistic value were sent to museums, but there was no information regarding works such as September Morn.[97] By 1933 Chabas was seeking information regarding his work's fate, which The Milwaukee Journal suggested was "hanging in some crowded Russian room, its owner perhaps completely ignorant of its world fame".[97] At the time several American galleries had copies purported to be the original.[51]

The painting, however, was safe; Mantashev had smuggled it out of the country,[98] reportedly "rip[ping] it out of its frame" when the revolution broke out.[51] In the early 1930s, in desperate need of funds, he sold September Morn to the Armenian art collector and philanthropist Calouste Gulbenkian for $30,000;[o][9] it was the last painting he owned.[99] A United Press reporter discovered the painting, which was framed as a tondo, in Gulbenkian's Paris home in 1935.[10][51][74] There it hung with works by artists such as Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne.[65] By 1937 September Morn was on display in the Musée du Luxembourg, hung between works by Jean-François Raffaëlli and Eugène Carrière.[98] After Gulbenkian's death in 1955, the painting was acquired by Wildenstein and Company of New York.[10]

Acquisition by the Metropolitan Museum of Art[edit]

September Morn was purchased by the Philadelphia broker and sportsman William Coxe Wright for $22,000 in 1957.[9][31] In April of that year he offered it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but the painting was rejected for having "no relation to the stream of 20th century art".[100] Eventually he anonymously donated the work – valued at an estimated $30,000 – to the Met in New York City.[31] Speaking for the museum, Dudley T. Easby explained that, although the painting could not be classified as a masterpiece, it was nevertheless "a part of art history in view of the controversy that raged around the picture in earlier years".[96]

September Morn on display in the Toledo Museum of Art, 1958

After acquisition, in September 1957 the painting was displayed near the Met's front entrance, taking a place previously occupied by the Pérussis Altarpiece.[96] This position of honor was held for several weeks.[101] Hughes reported a "veritable pilgrimage" of visitors came to see the painting, which she considered to add a "fresh, popular appeal" to the Met which had drawn museum-goers who would never have come otherwise.[102] By then, the earlier scandal of the model's nudity had lessened;[102] discussing an exhibit of the painting in Toledo, Ohio, Alan Schoedel of the Toledo Blade quoted a viewer as saying that 1950s America was so inundated with racy calendar art that the painting "couldn't stand the competition".[103]

After September Morn was acquired by the Met, it was displayed at several venues, including the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in 1958, the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio (also 1958), and by the Municipal Art Commission of Los Angeles in 1959.[9] Six years later it was again exhibited at Palace of the Legion of Honor, as part of an exhibition of works collected by the Wrights.[10] In 1971, the Met removed September Morn from display and placed it in storage; Walter Monfried of The Milwaukee Journal wrote that the once-racy painting was now considered "too tame and banal".[31] In September 2014, the Met's website listed the painting as not on display,[9] though it had been hung in the museum around 2011.[104]

Reception[edit]

In 1913, Chabas stated that he was "pained and humiliated" by the controversy over September Morn,[38] though he later expressed more positive views. He described the work as "all I know of painting", and responded positively to statements that it was his masterpiece.[31] In a 1914 interview, he explained that he had not meant to sell the painting, as it "was [his] wife's favorite picture".[42] At the time of his death in 1937, Chabas had only a single picture in his room: a reproduction of the painting, completed from memory;[31] he had boasted "If I had never seen it from the day I put down my brushes after painting it, I could make a perfect copy".[32] However, not having copyrighted the work, he did not receive any royalties from the marketing frenzy in the United States; he recalled, "Nobody was thoughtful enough even to send me a box of cigars".[31][102]

Reviewing the painting after the Salon, Tr.L. in the Larousse Mensuel illustré (fr) praised Chabas's technique as drawing "of a rare purity", and modeling "of a remarkable delicacy".[p][1] Henri Frantz, reviewing the Paris Salon for The International Studio, described September Morn as "one of the [Salon]'s most remarkable figure subjects", highlighting the nude's "graceful form".[105] In Le Temps, François Thiébault-Sisson found that, despite an "excessively translucent technique", the painting had "indisputable charm" and included "superior, very artistic, and delicately composed" imagery.[8] A 1913 article in the Oregon Daily Journal described the model as "beautifully drawn", and suggested that "it requires a powerful imagination to find anything suggestive in the work".[67]

Later reviews were less positive. The director of the Met, James Rorimer, wrote in 1957 that September Morn stood at "different ends of a wide spectrum" than the works of Old Masters and "modern giants", but was important in helping viewers "realize the full benefit of our heritage" in their explorations of past and present art.[106] That year, the Montreal Gazette '​s art critic opined that the painting was banal and unacceptable for display in the Met's main hall. The reviewer suggested that September Morn, with its "delicate, pearly tonality and simple, sparse, airy composition", would be best served by being displayed among works considered better by early 20th-century collectors but since reviewed poorly, to "dramatiz[e] for the public the danger of too-hasty judgments".[q][107]

In 1958, Blake-More Godwin of the Toledo Museum of Art stated that, although September Morn was certainly art, it was not "great art" and overshadowed by the controversy it had created; the painting, he said, "bears the same relationship to art as a minor poem does to the classic and the imperishable".[77] Three years later, in an article in The Kenyon Review, Alfred Werner described September Morn as a "classic of kitsch" and "the 'idealized' nude at its worst": "without a wrinkle of the skin, without any breathing of the flesh ... pink, soft, spineless".[93] This classification of kitsch has been applied by several further writers, including Kendrick[53] and the film scholar Norman Taylor.[108]

Several writers have included September Morn in lists of works depicting children with erotic or pornographic subtexts.[109] Brauer argues that although the nude "seems to embody the moral purity at puberty", this innocence is actually a fetishistic mechanism which both allowed the work to pass the censors and be eroticised.[r][110] She concludes that the painting is "paedophilically provocative", and that Chabas was protected from censure by his status as an established artist and father.[111] Such views have not been universally held. For instance, the historian Paul S. Boyer describes September Morn as "charmingly innocent",[112] and the art writer Elizabeth Lunday finds the painting to be "offensive only on the grounds of blandness".[113]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ The pose assumed by the model in September Morn is similar to the one taken by the model of Au crépuscule (At Twilight), a painting Chabas completed in c. 1905 (Musée d'Orsay, Au crépuscule), which was acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg in 1909 (Valmy-Baysse 1910, p. 10). A 1913 Milwaukee Sentinel article described the only difference being that the girl in Au crépuscule had long, straight hair, and that she clasped her right elbow with her left hand (The Milwaukee Sentinel 1913).
  2. ^ Chabas would later go on to head the Société des Artistes Français (Kingsport Times-News 1957).
  3. ^ Original: "Toute la gracilité de l'adolescence, son charme indéfinissable, sa nudité chaste..."
  4. ^ Some sources erroneously give 1912 (such as Time 1957); this would have been impossible, as the painting was displayed at the Salon in May 1912.
  5. ^ This is also corroborated by a 1935 Time piece (Time 1935).
  6. ^ The store was located at 44 Wabash Avenue (Chicago Daily Tribune 1913).
  7. ^ Sources disagree as to the name of this policeman. Boalt (1913, p. 1) gives "Jerry Sullivan", while The Milwaukee Journal gives "Fred Rirsch" (The Milwaukee Journal 1913, Paris).
  8. ^ In an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune, O'Connor stated that he personally liked the painting, but considered it "embarrassing for women to look at" and thought displays would have a negative impact on young boys. He drew a comparison with the Bible, explaining that it "may be good reading for people who understand it, but some chapters are not intended for young folks" (Chicago Daily Tribune 1913).
  9. ^ The Milwaukee Journal reprinted one poem in defense of the painting, as follows (The Milwaukee Journal 1913, Beautiful):

    Sometime, glad time, in Arcady, I want
      to live a day
    With Joy's slim daughter of the dawn
      to teach my love the way;
    To live a day without the clothes, the
      coin, the masquerade
    That burden so the struggle here—of
      hypocrites afraid.

    Sometime, dear time, in Arcady, im-
      mune from 'pure' police
    I hope to find the picture true, that
      caught its light from Greece;
    To be as true to life, dear life, as is the
      painter's dream
    Within the dawning of the day where
      new ideals gleam.

  10. ^ Sources differ as to the exact length of deliberations. The San Francisco Call gives 20 minutes (San Francisco Call 1913), while the Escanaba Morning Press gives 45 (Escanaba Morning Press 1913).
  11. ^ Comstock had spearheaded laws at the end of the 19th century which prohibited the inter-state commerce of material deemed indecent or pornographic. Though he had wide popular support, he also had numerous detractors. Comstock boasted that he had seized more than 160 tons of indecent material during his career (Healion 1964, p. 42). He was not averse to arresting art dealers he considered to be peddling reproductions of obscene works; in 1887, for instance, he had arrested Roland Knoedler of the Knoedler Gallery for selling nudes painted by artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Jules Joseph Lefebvre (Beisel 1998, p. 109).
  12. ^ Sources differ on whether it was the original (as in Brauer (2011, p. 124) and The Tuscaloosa News 1937) or a print (as in Taylor (2012, p. 166)). A contemporary report describes the controversial image as "grac[ing] a frame less than a foot high" (The Sun 1913, Nude Maid), and in 1933 Ortiz stated that it was a print (Middletown Times Herald 1933).
  13. ^ Other versions are phrased "There's too little morning and too much maid!" (Monfried 1971, p. 9), or include further lines such as "It ought to have been pitch dark for a girl to go wading like that" (The Tuscaloosa News 1937). The version told by Monfried (1971, p. 9) includes Comstock commenting on Jean-François Millet's The Goose Girl while leaving. Yet another quote is given by Ellis (1975, p. 92): "That is not a proper picture to be shown to boys and girls! There is nothing more sacred than the form of a woman, but it must not be denuded. I think everyone will agree with me that such pictures should not be displayed where school children passing through the streets can see them."
  14. ^ Also Mantacheff (MET, September Morn). The son of Armenian oil magnate Alexander Mantashev, Leon was known for his extravagant lifestyle. Robert W. Tolf, in his history of the Russian oil industry, describes him as "Russia's greatest gambler, a collector of paintings, race horses, and beautiful women" (Tolf 1976, p. 100).
  15. ^ The Met gives 1931 (MET, September Morn) while a 1935 Montreal Gazette article states that the sale happened the preceding year (The Montreal Gazette 1935)
  16. ^ Original: "le dessin ... d'une rare pureté, et le modelé d'une finesse remarquable"
  17. ^ The critic gave several examples of such works: the paintings of the Barbizon school, the mother and child paintings of George de Forest Brush, and the nudes of William-Adolphe Bouguereau (The Montreal Gazette 1957).
  18. ^ Brauer highlights the "voyeuristic" view of the model and her pose, arguing that, although the young woman seems to stand as if embarrassed at being "caught in compromising circumstances", her right arm underscores the model's "bud-stage" breasts while the left directs the viewer's eye to her pubic region (Brauer 2011, pp. 130–31, 136–39). She argues that the model was aged 13 when the painting was completed; the age of consent in France at the time was 16 (Brauer 2011, p. 123). She has elsewhere questioned whether works such as September Morn can continue to be exhibited "innocent of paedophilic dimension", or whether they must be recontextualised as "awkward, anomalous and aberrant" (Brauer 2001).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Tr.L 1912, p. 465.
  2. ^ The Nineteenth Century and After, p. 1207.
  3. ^ Brauer 2011, p. 136.
  4. ^ a b c San Francisco Call 1913.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Shteir 2004, p. 59.
  6. ^ Brauer 2011, p. 122.
  7. ^ Pattison 1913, p. 243.
  8. ^ a b quoted in Brauer 2011, p. 123; translation by Brauer
  9. ^ a b c d e f g MET, September Morn.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Sterling & Salinger 1966, pp. 222–23.
  11. ^ Valmy-Baysse 1910, p. 6.
  12. ^ Valmy-Baysse 1910, p. 7.
  13. ^ a b Kingsport Times-News 1957.
  14. ^ Valmy-Baysse 1910, p. 13.
  15. ^ a b c Brauer 2011, p. 124.
  16. ^ Valmy-Baysse 1910, p. 11.
  17. ^ a b Logansport Pharos-Tribune 1937.
  18. ^ Sterling & Salinger 1966, p. 221.
  19. ^ Stratton 1914, p. 421.
  20. ^ a b Valmy-Baysse 1910, pp. 4–5.
  21. ^ Quoted in Witchard 2009, pp. 126, 186
  22. ^ Rosenfeld.
  23. ^ Lathers 2001, p. 24.
  24. ^ Failing 2003, p. 175.
  25. ^ a b c Salt Lake Tribune 1937.
  26. ^ a b Brauer 2011, p. 128.
  27. ^ Failing 2003, p. 176.
  28. ^ Cornog & Perper 1994, pp. 98–99.
  29. ^ Beisel 1998, p. 109.
  30. ^ Beisel 1998, pp. 112, 119.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Monfried 1971, p. 9.
  32. ^ a b The Gazette and Daily 1937.
  33. ^ Porter & Prince 2004, p. 452.
  34. ^ The Indiana Gazette 1933.
  35. ^ a b The San Bernardino County Sun 1935.
  36. ^ Time 1935.
  37. ^ Daily Guard 1913.
  38. ^ a b The Oregon Daily Journal 1913, 'September Morn'.
  39. ^ The Milwaukee Journal 1921.
  40. ^ a b c The Pittsburgh Press 1913.
  41. ^ The Leavenworth Times 1913.
  42. ^ a b c Oakland Tribune 1914.
  43. ^ The International Studio 1912, p. 223.
  44. ^ a b c d e f Green & Karolides 2009, p. 506.
  45. ^ a b Pattison 1913, p. 244.
  46. ^ Frantz 1912, p. 107.
  47. ^ a b c d e The Sun 1913, Nude Maid.
  48. ^ Middletown Times Herald 1933.
  49. ^ Brauer 2011, pp. 123–24.
  50. ^ a b Time 1957.
  51. ^ a b c d e The Montreal Gazette 1935.
  52. ^ Chase & Chase 1954, p. 64.
  53. ^ a b c d Kendrick 1996, p. 147.
  54. ^ a b c The Milwaukee Journal 1913, Beautiful.
  55. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune 1913.
  56. ^ a b c d The Spokesman-Review 1913.
  57. ^ The Milwaukee Journal 1913, Don't be Afraid.
  58. ^ a b c Boalt 1913, p. 1.
  59. ^ Escanaba Morning Press 1913.
  60. ^ Garvey 1988, p. 158.
  61. ^ a b The Sun 1913, Chabas's Picture.
  62. ^ Chase & Chase 1954, pp. 64–65.
  63. ^ Taylor 2012, p. 166.
  64. ^ The New York Times 1913, Wearies.
  65. ^ a b c d e f Carson 1961.
  66. ^ Healion 1964, p. 42.
  67. ^ a b c d e f Oregon Daily Journal 1913, September Morn.
  68. ^ a b Reichenbach & Freedman 1931, pp. 104–05.
  69. ^ a b c d e Considine 1957, p. 3.
  70. ^ Ellis 1975, pp. 91–92.
  71. ^ Chase & Chase 1954, p. 66.
  72. ^ Ellis 1975, p. 92.
  73. ^ Sarasota Herald-Tribune 1973.
  74. ^ a b The Berkshire County Eagle 1957.
  75. ^ Vallillo 1981, p. 27.
  76. ^ Adams, Keene & Koella 2012, p. 75.
  77. ^ a b c Toledo Blade 1958.
  78. ^ The Charlotte News 1915.
  79. ^ The Milwaukee Sentinel 1915.
  80. ^ Williams 1971, p. 296.
  81. ^ a b c Taylor 2012, pp. 166–67.
  82. ^ Moving Picture World 1914, September Morn.
  83. ^ McElravy 1915, p. 1319.
  84. ^ WorldCat, Oh You September Morn.
  85. ^ WorldCat, Matin de Septembre.
  86. ^ WorldCat, September Morn.
  87. ^ The Indianapolis Star 1913.
  88. ^ The Miami News 1983.
  89. ^ Variety 1913, Ideal's 'Morn'.
  90. ^ Variety 1913, Ideal is Fined.
  91. ^ The Washington Post.
  92. ^ a b Life 1937, Painter.
  93. ^ a b Werner 1961, pp. 219–20.
  94. ^ The New York Times 1915.
  95. ^ quoted in Brauer 2011, p. 124
  96. ^ a b c Toledo Blade 1957.
  97. ^ a b The Milwaukee Journal 1933.
  98. ^ a b The Milwaukee Journal 1937.
  99. ^ Levine 2007, p. 48.
  100. ^ Beaver Valley Times 1957.
  101. ^ Werner 1961, p. 219.
  102. ^ a b c Hughes 1957, p. 15.
  103. ^ Schoedel 1958, p. 1.
  104. ^ Brauer 2011, p. 139.
  105. ^ Frantz 1912, p. 102.
  106. ^ Rorimer 1957, p. 1.
  107. ^ The Montreal Gazette 1957.
  108. ^ Taylor 2012, p. 221.
  109. ^ Witchard 2009, pp. 126, 186; Wasserman & Rosenfeld 2014, pp. 56
  110. ^ Brauer 2011, pp. 130–31, 136–39.
  111. ^ Brauer 2011, pp. 131, 139.
  112. ^ Boyer 2002, p. 3.
  113. ^ Lunday 2013, p. 96.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]