Monday, April 15, 2019

Suzanne Hinman's "The Grandest Madison Square Garden"

Suzanne Hinman holds a Ph.D. in American art history and has been a curator, gallerist, museum director, professor, and an art model. She owned an art gallery in Santa Fe and then served as director of galleries at the Savannah College of Art and Design, the world's largest art school. Her interest in the artists and architects of the American Gilded Age and the famed Cornish Art Colony in New Hampshire grew while associate director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. The author continues to reside near Cornish as an independent scholar.

Hinman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, and Architecture in Gilded Age New York, and reported the following:
Page 99 occurs in the chapter “Continental Influences” and within Part Two, “Building a Palace of Pleasure.” The Palace of Pleasure was the name by which Stanford White’s fabulous 1890 Madison Square Garden was known, as America’s largest structure built primarily for entertainment, including two lavishly decorated theaters, a huge arena, banquet hall, restaurant, and eventually a roof garden where White would be murdered in the “crime of the century.”

The chapter title “Continental Influences” refers to a trip to Paris made by Stanford White and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1889, planned as an opportunity to explore European advances in architecture, technology, and perhaps even more importantly, nude female sculpture, for Saint-Gaudens had been commissioned to create such a piece of yet undetermined subject to top what would be America’s tallest tower.

In Paris the two men, dear friends as well as collaborators, would visit the Exposition Universelle for inspiration. The remarkable Palais des Machines, a very modern building of glass, wrought iron, and transverse steel trusses that enclosed the world’s largest interior space, would strongly influence the construction of the Garden. And among the fine arts on view at the Palais des Beaux-Arts was a life-sized plaster model of Diana, Roman goddess of the moon and the hunt--a sprightly nude by Saint-Gaudens’s old friend and former protégé, Frederick MacMonnies.

In turn, MacMonnies had been influenced by his teacher at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguiѐre:
Master Falguiѐre, known in France as the great sculptor of flesh, had himself already completed two well-known depictions of the goddess Diana. The first was a life-sized plaster for the Salon of 1882. Instead of the chaste young virgin of myth, it presented a rather coarse-faced, heavy-footed, stoutly middle-aged figure who seemed to critics to have just removed her corset. This Diana in all her very lifelike modernity garnered much notice and was popularly reproduced for parlor decoration as both a marble bust and as a full-figure bronze reduction just 18 inches high, while cheap plaster copies were sold to passers-by in the boulevards.
Saint-Gaudens would go on to create an 18-foot nude Diana for the Garden’s tower that would eventually reign over the World’s Columbian Exposition, a slightly smaller, more beautifully refined version for the tower in 1893, and within a few years 2-foot bronze reproductions sold to the upper-class public by Tiffany & Co.
Visit Suzanne Hinman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Grandest Madison Square Garden.

--Marshal Zeringue