Editor's note: The following chapter (pp 53-67) text is from the book Art in Florida: 1564-1945, Copyright Maybelle Mann 1999. Used by permission of the publisher, Pineapple Press, Inc. http://www.pineapplepress.com If you have questions or comments regarding the book, or if you have interest in purchasing copies, please contact Pineapple Press, Inc. directly through their web address. The ISBN number for the 208 page illustrated book is 1561641715. The first edition was published in November 1999. References in the text to plate numbers of images in the book are deleted.



 

Chapter 5: After the Civil War

by Maybelle Mann

 

Had the Civil War not intervened, development of Florida probably would have continued at the same fast pace seen at Silver Springs. The end of the war brought the boomers back, and despite the hardships of Reconstruction, the attitudes of the pre-war white leadership remained. Advertisements sent North in the 1870s by Florida hotels and railroads were a clear invitation to visit a flower-strewn Eden for health and pleasure. The tourists, who returned in ever larger numbers, regarded Florida as one large sanitarium, though it should be noted that activity and growth were still centered in the northern part of the state. As people poured in, more money was available to support artists.

Inspired by the potential for even greater profits than before, Hubbard L. Hart, the steamboat developer, built his own hotel in Palatka and established a recruiting office in Boston for would-be tourists to Silver Springs. He widely advertised tours of his orange grove in Palatka. A painting by W. E. B. Hayman titled Hart's Hotel on the Boil at Silver Springs, 1889, depicts Hart's hotel. As a result of Hart's promotional efforts, thousands of people visited the springs each year.[1]

On April 3, 1869, Appleton's Journal, a weekly publication devoted to "Literature, Science and Art," made its debut. A statement to the public announced the publisher's intentions: "Omitting ordinary news, and avoiding partisan advocacy, both political and sectarian, the JOURNAL will be devoted to general literature, to science, art and education." In its December 18, 1869, issue, Appleton's Journal published a full-page engraving titled A Florida Scene, which was accompanied by an article about the Florida Everglades. Thus began the bimonthly publication of a series of forty-eight illustrated pieces, which later were bound into two large volumes as Picturesque America. Unfortunately, A Florida Scene was not included in those volumes. The second chapter in the first volume of Picturesque America was titled "St. John's and Oklawaha Rivers, Florida," indicating the intensity of the public's interest in this part of Florida at this time. The folios were fully illustrated, with many separate full-page pictures introducing each chapter. These included Harry Fenn's full-page engravings of the area: On the Coast of Florida; Bar Light-House, Mouth of St. John's River; and A Florida Swamp. Later in the same volume an entire chapter is devoted to St. Augustine, again illustrated by Fenn, and it includes many famous landmarks. Born in England, Fenn came to the United States in 1864 and was one of the founders of the American Water Color Society.

Not to be outdone, in 1873 Scribner's, a successful competitor of Appleton's, sent a writer, Edward King, along with an artist, James Wells Champney, to explore and report on the area for a series of articles later published in the book The Great South. Edward King wrote of Florida:

Yet, what of fiction could exceed in romantic interest the history of this venerable State? What poet's imagination, seven times heated could paint foliage whose splendors should surpass that of the virgin forests of the Oclawaha and Indian rivers? What "fountain of youth" could be imagined more redolent of enchantment than the "Silver Spring," now annually visited by 50,000 tourists?[2]

Champney provided the illustrations that brought King's words to life. Born in Boston, Champney had studied drawing at the Lowell Institute of Drawing and was apprenticed as a wood engraver at the age of sixteen. He joined the army at the start of the Civil War but was discharged after contracting malaria. He taught drawing for two years in Lexington, Massachusetts, before leaving for Europe in 1866. In 1874, Champney married Elizabeth Williams and illustrated the books and articles she wrote. By 1877, he was named professor of art at Smith College. Around 1880 he changed his media from oils and watercolors to pastels and began to produce pastel portraits.

Many of the drawings from King and Champney's trip to Florida, including a scene of the Jacksonville waterfront, were made on board the steamer that took them up the Oklawaha River. Other important sites on the St. Johns are depicted, along with a view of the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin. Profusely detailed, the drawings portray the state as a tropical paradise, in much the same way as later travel leaflets. Shown here is one of Champney's river steamer scenes richly surrounded with other Florida scenes. Compare it to the photograph of the steamboat Oklawaha at Silver Springs, taken about the same time.[3]

King and Champney also visited St. Augustine, Champney drawing such scenes as the horse-drawn trolley on its way to town, a picturesque street in the old town, and, of course, the historic city gate. A number of pictures of Fort Marion are also reproduced in the book. Although his work was exhibited fairly extensively at the National Academy of Design, Champney never offered the academy any Florida scenes. The original version of King and Champney's book, The Great South, published in 1879, includes a drawing titled Le Calle de la Merccd, St. Augustine, but this drawing was not included in the 1972 reprint. In his drawing, Champney created a scene of old St. Augustine imagined by King in a nostalgic paragraph:

The romance of the place is now gradually departing. The merry processions of the carnival, with mask, violin and guitar, are no longer kept up with the old taste; the rotund figure of the padre, the delicate form of the Spanish lady, clad in mantilla and basquina, and the tall, erect, brilliantly uniformed cavaliers are gone; the "posy dance," with its arbors and garlands, is forgotten; and the romantic suburbs are undergoing a complete transformation.[4]

The Great South chronicles the history of St. Augustine, just as Picturesque America did five years earlier, but the later book covers northern Florida much more completely. After describing Jacksonville and St. Augustine in great detail, King discussed the fertility of the land around Palatka, the orange culture, and the expense of building. Picturesque America was exactly what the title implies: a handsome coffee-table volume focusing on scenes of Florida, with a limited text. King and Champney's The Great South, on the other hand, reflects a greater interest in Florida's economic development as well as in the people of the region. While there are people represented in Picturesque America, it is in a more detached fashion than in The Great South. Champney's later oil painting of a young woman, Return from Harvesting, 1874, must have been developed from sketches made on the tour for the book. The painting tells us a great deal about the subject's daily life, from her bare feet, to the hoe on her shoulder, to the burden on her head, which she carries so jauntily.

The story of King and Champney's journey up the Oklawaha to Silver Springs includes scenes along the way to Lake Apopka. The boat passengers are shown shooting at alligators, with an account from an alligator hunter added for emphasis:

The 'gaiter, sir, is ez quick as lightning, and ez nasty. He kin outswim deer, and he hez dun it, too; he swims more'n two-thirds out o' water, and when he ketches you, sir, he jest wabbles you right over'n over, a hundred times or mo', sir, ez quick as the wind; and you're dead in no time, sir.[5]

Champney's wash drawing from The Great South, Colonel Hart's Orange Grove, demonstrates an important part of Florida's economy but conveys less information than Edwin Austin Abbey's Sketches in an Orange Grove, which was published in Harper's Weekly in 1875. Abbey, who was self-taught, began his art career in a wood engraver's shop. He went on to become a rather notable artist and won many awards.

In 1873, the year King and Champney traveled down the Oklawaha, William Cullen Bryant, an American poet and newspaper editor, traveled in Florida. Artist Asher B. Durand pictured Bryant and painter Thomas Cole together in his famous landscape Kindred Spirits, emphasizing Bryant's influential presence in the world of art and letters. During his Florida travels Bryant wrote a report for the New York Evening Post:

Palatka was still largely a forest, Jacksonville was thriving, with four thousand people and two new hotels, with orange trees growing everywhere. The northern invasion was under way. Invalids and idlers came by tramroad from Tocoi, south of Picolata, in carriages drawn by mules. He predicted that in time only the old fort would remain to remind one of the past. He visited Green Cove Springs and went up the Oklawaha to Silver Springs and Ocala. Two hotels at Silver Springs, one at Magnolia, and two at Palatka were full, and though the accommodations at St. Augustine had been doubled over the previous year, they were also full. He predicted a rosy future for the sunshine state.[6]

George F. Higgins depicted another part of Florida in his 1870 painting titled The Florida Keys. Ten years later he painted Fishin' at Sunset, which combines a warm and pleasant mood with a panoramic view. We know that Higgins contemplated issuing a set of graphics of scenes of the United States, similar to others being done at the time, but never realized his idea. A brief mention of Higgins ran in The TatIer in St. Augustine in 1896: "Mr. George F. Higgins ... Boston artist ... arrived at the Hotel Punta Gorda, Fla., on Monday Night. . . . A painting of the quaint dwelling of the oldest Punta Gorda inhabitant ... executed during the week." Punta Gorda Harbor apparently took his fancy, as shown in his agreeable painting. His landscape titled Palm Grove, Florida, circa 1875, shows a swamp with clouds at the beginning of sunset. Florida Cabin Scene, circa 1870s, is a fairly realistic view of the subject, unlike William Aiken Walker's cabin scenes designed for the tourist trade. Both Palm Grove and Florida Cabin Scene are at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia.

The work of John Douglas Woodward appeared in Picturesque America, The Art Journal, and The Aldine, among other publications.[7] In 1871 and 1872, while still in his twenties, Woodward completed a number of illustrations for Hearth and Home as part of his first major commission, a sketching tour of the South. He went to Key West, as can be seen in Cocoa-Nut Trees at Key West, Florida," August 12, 1871. Five drawings of Florida were included in an 1998 exhibition and catalog of Woodward's work by Sue Rainey.[9]

Landscape: Oklawahaw River, Florida, circa 1880, by Jules Gilmer Köerner Sr, exemplifies the work of the many artists who came to Florida at this time. Nothing is known of Köerner other than this painting. We know that another scenery painter, Granville Perkins, who was also a book illustrator, visited Florida many times because of the numerous paintings that document his visits. Shown here is Alligator [sie] Reef, Florida, a watercolor dated 1874, which depicts figures in a rowboat with a lighthouse in the background. His other Florida work includes The Escape of Contrabands to the U.S. Bark Kingfisher, Off the Coast of Florida, 1863. Florida Mangrove was done in 1888, and there is an undated work titled Florida Landscape. In 1892 he painted Sunset on the Oklawaha. Lighthouse, Alligator Reef, Florida, 1879, by Clement Drew, presents a ship in full sail with the lighthouse appearing as background (as it does in Perkins' painting). Born in Kingston, Massachusetts, in 1806, Drew sold art supplies before becoming an established artist. He is best known for his marine painting. The two pictures of Alligator Reef indicate that artists visited the Keys frequently.

Artists' fascination with alligators can be seen in a very large picture by Clara Mitchell Carter. The Mitchell family was one of the first to settle in Daytona Beach. Clara Mitchell married William Carter and together they published the Halifax Journal, the precursor of today's Daytona Beach News Journal. Clara's painting, done in 1887, shows her talent, though she was not a professional artist.

William Morris Hunt was Boston's leading portrait painter and teacher from 1850 to 1870. After studying at Harvard, he traveled to Europe, studying in Rome and then at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in Germany. Unhappy with the German emphasis on mechanical style, he left for Paris, where he developed a more spontaneous technique. In the winter of 1873-1874, Hunt visited Florida and completed a number of landscapes. Florida Landscape and St. Johns River, Florida, demonstrate his style, which was a change from the carefully thought-out landscapes of the period. Responsible for spreading the influence of Jean Francois Millet and the loose, sketchlike mode of the Barbizon School in the United States, he influenced many others, including Winslow Homer.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, of literary fame, first came to Florida in 1866, hoping to rehabilitate her son. She leased a cotton plantation on the St. Johns River, south of Jacksonville, for the young man to operate. A year or two later she purchased a cottage and grove for herself at Mandarin. In 1873 she published the book Palmetto Leaves, which described the routes to the South, the St. Johns River and its landing place, St. Augustine and other towns, and the facilities and opportunities available for tourists, settlers, and invalids. Her book is not the report of a casual visitor but of an enthusiastic resident. And many visitors from the North visited her Mandarin house. Another book promoting the state was Sidney Lanier's Florida: Its Scenery, Climate and History, 1875, a commissioned piece that exhibited some rather distinguished travel prose.

Such writers fired the imaginations of nineteenth-century artists, who were also infected with excitement by the prevalent theory of Manifest Destiny, which called for the United States to eventually control all of North America. Similarly, The Minorcans, 1870, by Edward Moran, reflects another little-known aspect of Florida's history and is also an early indication of the interest in post-Civil War Florida. People from the Mediterranean island of Minorca were persuaded to emigrate to Florida in 1768 by Colonel Andrew Turnbull. Following their abuse and a failed attempt to establish a plantation, the Minorcans fled to St. Augustine. Today these people, originally numbering fourteen hundred, have been assimilated into the local society. Attempts are being made to revive their culture and traditions.

Edward Moran was the eldest of three painter brothers, born in England, who emigrated to Maryland in 1844 and studied with Paul Weber and James Hamilton. By 1857 Edward and his brother Thomas had opened their own studio. Edward concentrated on marine painting; his other brother, Peter, painted figures.

Artistic interest in Florida prompted continued attention from magazine publishers, notably Scribner's. Thomas Moran, who already had achieved a reputation as an artist, first became involved with Florida as a result of James Wells Champney's sketches. Moran reworked a number of Champney's drawings, making woodcuts on boxwood blocks for Scribner's magazine. According to one study of Moran's interpretation of Champney's sketches, " ... it is immediately clear how much Moran altered the views to conform to picturesque conventions.... "[10]

In early February 1877, Thomas and Mollie Moran (Thomas' wife, later a well-known artist who used the name Mary Nimmo Moran) had an opportunity to go south. Scribner's was planning an article about Fort George Island, at the mouth of the St. Johns River.[11] By the time of Washington's birthday, the Morans were sketching at St. Augustine, Thomas teaching Mollie. Thomas' imagination was captured by Ponce de León's association with the town. Several of the scenes for Scribner's appeared in an article by Julia E. Dodge.[12] The paintings, made in Moran's studio from sketches at St. Augustine, while realistic, have romantic overtones and convey the cultural isolation that still existed in Florida. A typical example is Florida Landscape, which may be seen at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

Moran was impressed with the forests of Florida, which, when he first went to the state, were virtually impassable south of St. Augustine. An original sketch for De Soto in Florida dramatizes the dark and brooding trees which greeted the early explorers. We now call Florida the "Sunshine State," but both Moran's de Soto sketch and his 1878 painting, Ponce de León in Florida, 1513 emphasize overwhelming primeval forests. In the de Soto sketch, Moran chose to dwell on the effects of Spanish moss hanging from the trees while not neglecting the massive trees themselves. Moran lightened the sky considerably and gave it more space in the Ponce de León work, in which the party are seen meeting with the Native Americans in a forest clearing rendered in a panoramic view.

Ponce de León in Florida, 1513, 1878, a very large canvas, was a major effort based on Moran's Florida experience. He hoped the painting would be purchased for the House of Representatives in the nation's capitol and be mounted behind the Speaker's desk. However, the theory is that it was rejected because of the claim by a Mr. Worthington of Georgetown, "an old resident of Florida," that Moran's trees were " ... utterly unlike the timber of that State."[13] We know that these trees did exist if one was willing to explore the territory sufficiently. In the Ponce de León painting the Spanish moss can be seen in the distance, but the ponderous trees get more attention in the foreground. Politics also entered the picture. Congress chose instead Albert Bierstadt's picture, The Discovery of California. Robert Wilson Torchia's excellent catalog detailing the history of the Moran painting spells out the reasons for its rejection. As Torchia theorizes, the specters of the Civil War and Reconstruction hung heavily over the former secessionist states and Florida was no exception. Senator Howe of Wisconsin, who was on the art committee, judged that the Bierstadt picture was more positive because it was brighter and more clearly demonstrated the theory of Manifest Destiny.

Torchia carefully details the travels of Moran's Ponce de León painting through the years. For a long time the work actually remained in Florida but went unrecognized. Purchased by Henry Morrison Flagler, probably through the New York art dealer Knoedler & Company, for a while it was displayed in the Hotel Ponce de León in St. Augustine, where its presence was documented in 1892. No other painting could have been more suited to the Spanish Renaissance theme of the hotel. Later Flagler transferred the picture to his home, Whitehall, in Palm Beach. After his death it resumed its travels, some of which are unknown. For a while it was out West at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Through the actions of public-minded citizens and art collectors, the painting was brought back to Florida in 1996, where it is on permanent exhibition at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville.

Oscar Berninghaus painted quite a different version of Ponce de León in Florida Everglades, Ponce de León Expedition. Here, Ponce de León is seen on a horse, dispirited and discouraged. This picture was made as part of a 1914 commission Berninghaus received from the Anheuser-Busch Company to show the history of America. A comparison of the two pictures indicates the waning of the influence and acceptance of Manifest Destiny. After the turn of the century, it was no longer popular.

Mary Nimmo Moran, whose formidable talent as an etcher was recognized even then, produced five prints of Florida in 1887. She signed her name "M. N. Moran" in order to avoid being recognized as a woman.'" Sylvester Koehler explains that during the late nineteenth century, she reflected American artistic taste, attracting more attention than any other female etcher and most male etchers as well. Mary Moran was singled out and praised for the strength and experimental quality of her work. In London, she and her husband, Thomas Moran, met the distinguished critic and essayist John Ruskin, who purchased many of their etchings. Ruskin's rule that a good etching must make dramatic use of light and shade influenced Mary Moran's work.[15]

Writing of Mary Moran, Koehler said in part: "She treats her subjects with poetical disdain of detail, but with a firm grasp of the leading truths that give force and character to her work."[16] Others praised her work for its "masculine" qualities, which some printers thought would help sell her work. Point Isabel, Coast of Florida, 1887 -- which can be seen at the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York -- was done on the Morans' second trip to the state.

Albert Bierstadt was one of the outstanding landscape painters of the nineteenth century. Several of his paintings are titled as Florida landscapes, but there is some question about whether they represent Florida or the Bahamas. It is doubtful that this issue will ever be resolved. Regardless, Bierstadt's Florida Landscape, circa 1870-1875, is included here because of his status in American art.

The growing popularity of northern Florida was also recorded by painter and printmaker George Henry Smillie, who visited the St. Augustine area in 1874 and 1875 to study and sketch the scenery. Smillie was the son of engraver James Smillie. He began studying with his father as a young boy and later studied with the landscape painter James McDougal Hart. By the time he was twenty-four, he was elected an associate
member of both the National Academy of Design and the American Water Color Society. Market and Bay St. Augustine, Florida, 1874, shows the artist's unusual approach to his subject, the old slave market.

Three more painters of this era should be mentioned, even though samples of their work are not shown here. Edwin Lord Weeks' painting, In the Everglades of Florida, 1873, shows the natural beauty of the area. Weeks, who was born in Boston, studied extensively in Paris and won international prizes for his art, specializing in a North African oriental genre. Edwin D. White was noted for his historical paintings. There is no written record of his ever coming to Florida, but he painted The Landing of the Huguenots at the Mouth of the St. Johns River in 1564, which may be seen at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. It was painted sometime before 1867 because a record of the work exists in Book of the Artists by Henry Tuckerman, published that year. For Protestants, the painting depicted a notable historic event comparable to the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.[17] Finally, Alexander Helwig Wyant is documented as a visitor to Florida in two landscapes, one of which, View Down the St. John's River from Magnolia Point, is dated 1871. Wyant began as a harnessmaker but at twenty-one decided to become a painter. On the advice of landscape painter George Inness, he solicited the patronage of Nicholas Longworth of Cincinnati, whose support enabled him to study at the National Academy of Design and in Düsseldorf.

America's painter-etcher movement began about 1878 and flourished throughout the 1880s. Many notable artists experimented with the etching medium. The Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York, has a collection which includes Florida scenes by John Whetton Ehninger, Mary Nimmo Moran, and Stephen Parrish. Etchings by Ehninger and Parrish appear in chapter six.

 

Footnotes

1. Hart's hotel identified as Brown Hotel by Steve Hess, owner of painting.

2. Edward King, The Great South (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1972, reprint), p. 378.

3. Ruth Beesch (Introduction), Florida Visionaries 1870-1930, University of Florida, University Gallery, College of Fine Arts (February 19-March 26, 1989). Refer to Carol Jentsch's essay, "James Wells Champney (1843-1903)," p. 56.

4. King, p. 393.

5. Ibid, p. 415.

6. Tebeau, p. 271.

7. A more detailed view of both approaches can be seen in the following: Sue Rainey, "Images of the South in Picturesque America and The Great South" Edited by Judy L. Larson (Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press, 1993).

8. Sue Rainey and Roger B. Stein, Shaping the Landscape Image, 1865-1910. University of Virginia, Bayley Art Museum (April-May 1996), p. 23.

9. Sue Rainey, guest curator of Woodward Exhibition at the Bayley Art Museum, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1996-1997.

10. Rainey, "Images of the South," p. 206.

11. Thurman Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountain (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966), p. 108.

12. Julia E. Dodge, "An Island of the Sea," Scribner's Monthly, vol. XIV, no. 5 (September 1877), p. 653.

13. Ibid, p. 111. See footnote no. 6.

14. Prints of Nature: Poetic Etching of Mary Nimmo Moran. Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American Art (September 7-December 2, 1984).

15. Phyllis Peet, American Women of the Etching Revival. High Museum of Art (February 9-May 9, 1988), p. 32.

16 Sylvester R. Koehler, "The Work of the American Etchers: Mrs. M. Nimmo Moran," American Art Review vol. XX, fig. 2, pt. 1881, p. 31.

17. Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists: American Artist Life (New York: James E Carr, 1967 (second printing of reprint edition), p. 438.

 

About the author

Maybelle Mann is the author of numerous books and articles relating to American art history. Her other books include Francis William Edmonds, Mammon and Art, Walter Launt Palmer: Poetic Reality, and The American Art-Union, which is a history and description of this ground-breaking institution, founded in 1839 as the Apollo Association. Articles include "The New-York Gallery of Fine Arts: 'A Source of Refinement,'" American Art Journal 11 (January 1979): 76 -86, "Augustus Kollner." Imprint Vol. 6, no. 1 (Spring 1981), 19-22, "The Arts in Banknote Engraving, 1836-1864." Imprint Vol. 4, no. 1 (Apr. 1979), 29-30, 35-36.and an article in Jewish World on Mel and Dorothy Tanner. Dr. Mann received a PhD from New York University in American Civilization with a specialization in Art History.


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