Connect with us

Arts & Culture

This was once a palace of minerals

Published

on

Colorado mineral palace 1910s
Colorado mineral palace

Exterior of the Colorado Mineral Palace, c. 1920. Photo c/o Pueblo City-County Library Special Collections.

In 1889, the future seemed bright for Pueblo, Colorado. With three smelters and one steel mill, the mining industry had brought wealth to the rough and rapidly growing city, which saw itself developing into a major urban center. Part of fulfilling that promise was creating a splendid tourist attraction that would cement both Pueblo’s and Colorado’s status as a world cultural center. That attraction was the Mineral Palace, which exists today as only a vague memory encapsulating the best and the worst of Victorian Pueblo.

On July 6th, 1889, twenty men from Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo met in secret in Manitou Springs to discuss forming a corporation. The corporation’s goal: to build a stunning exposition hall worthy of competition with London’s Crystal Palace. Who originally had the idea is unclear–some say it was General Robert A. Cameron, who founded Greeley Colony and Colorado Springs, and was one of the first wardens of Cañon City. But it was more likely William “Coin” Harvey who convinced the men to invest in the palace, whether it was his idea originally or not.

Harvey was an iconic western character who was always involved in shady enterprises. He moved to Pueblo in 1888, where he opened a real estate office–just one of a long line of businesses Harvey would start or get involved in during his lifetime. In addition to selling Pueblo real estate, he helped promote a sanatorium run by Dr. RW Corwin, whose claim to fame was “the elixir of life.”  This elixir was actually just water from Lake Minnequa, but Harvey claimed it could cure everything from chronic illness to psychosis (St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center now stands on the location of the former sanatorium).

colorado mineral palace interior

William Henry Jackson, one of the most famous photographers of the west, was either hired to photograph the Colorado Mineral Palace for promotional purposes, or came to Pueblo of his own accord. These photographs were likely taken shortly after the Palace opened in 1891. Photo c/o the Denver Public Library, Western History Collections.

Harvey believed Pueblo was going places–or, at the very least, he was going places and Pueblo could help him do it–and proposed to the twenty business men gathered on the neutral ground of Manitou that they should form a company for the building and management of a hall exhibiting all the treasures of Colorado–namely minerals pulled from mines. As several member of his audience were mine owners, this was sure to please. He suggested a budget of one hundred thousand dollars, and that the building be set on 40 acres north of Lake Minnequa (eventually the location was switched to a then-undeveloped part of town closer to the train depot, so as to make the Palace more accessible to tourists).

The original shareholders of the Palace were prominent businessmen, and not just on a local level. They included Benjamin Guggenheim, the father of Peggy Guggenheim who died aboard the RMS Titanic; the founder of the Rio Grande Railroad and the city of Colorado Springs, William Palmer; the original owner of the Brown Palace Hotel, Henry Brown; and Don Fletcher and “Chamberlain” from Denver. Other members included Harvey himself, of course; George Hobson; a Guggenheim mine manager by the name of CL Hill; George Parsons; Fred Barndollar; John Lavozey; and OHP Boxter and AJ McQuaid, who were both members of the socially prestigious Pueblo Club. Coincidentally, many of these men would start business or build in the area around Mineral Palace in the years to come.

Great building projects were hardly unusual in Pueblo at the time. Between 1888 and 1893, 3500 brick buildings were erected in Pueblo, and the city commissioned a number of nationally renowned architects to design them. These included the Pueblo Opera House, designed by Louis H. Sullivan, who is sometimes called the “father of modernism”; the Union Depot, designed by Frank V. Newell of Sprague & Newell; the Central Block, which was a five-story commercial building based on Chicago-style urban architecture; and the mansion of John Thatcher (now the Rosemount Museum), designed by Henry Hudson Holly and the largest home in Colorado at the time of its completion in 1893. Of all these buildings, however, the Colorado Mineral Palace was supposed to be the most impressive, garnering attention on a national level and promoting the riches of Colorado throughout the world.

colorado mineral palace interior

At its completion, the Colorado Mineral Palace was briefly the largest domed structure in the world. Photo c/o Pueblo City-County Library.

Thomas Nelson, the Colorado Mineral Palace Company’s secretary, put out a general call for Coloradoans to send samples of all the minerals in their areas so as to make the “collection as nearly exhaustive as possible.”  JP Morgan donated his entire personal collection of minerals for exhibition, and both Trinidad and Aspen promised to fund statues honoring coal and silver, respectively. These statues–King Coal and Queen Silver–would later be designed by Pueblo artist Hiram L. Johnson.

To house this grand collection, Pueblo needed an equally grand building, and put out a call to architects from all over the world. Yet the architect chosen was actually a resident of Pueblo. Otto Bulow, originally from Sweden, designed Routt Hall at Colorado State University, as well as other buildings in the state. Nothing he designed was as curiously fantastical as the Colorado Mineral Palace, however, which to modern eyes seems fascinatingly kitschy.

The exterior was “Egyptian” in style, surrounded by a colonnade and with four grand pillars at each corner, each holding a massive globe ten feet in diameter. The interior had an entrance hall that was 70 by 26 feet, which led into a formal interior 91 by 183 feet. Topped by a 72-foot tall dome, the Mineral Palace was the largest domed structure in the world at the time. Not content with just one large dome, however, there were 20 smaller domes as well, each 11 feet in diameter.

mineral palace stage

The stage of the Mineral Palace was designed to reflect “Rocky Mountain scenery.” Photo via the Colorado Historical Society.

To make the building even more grand, it was to be entirely coated, interior and exterior, in minerals. The interior was to be lit entirely by electric light and have 50 pillars that would double as viewing pilasters for the minerals. Finally, there was a stage with “appropriate Rocky Mountain scenery”–stalactites and stalagmites like a cave, with a small stream running behind. Beneath the great dome would be a “prismatic” fountain.

Why did Bulow choose such a complex design for the palace? Perhaps the mind behind the design wasn’t Bulow at all, but Harvey, who had a fondness for grandiose, ancient-style building projects. Later in his life, he built a resort in the Ozarks called Monte Ne, at the heart of which was a monumental pyramid commemorating–who else?–Harvey, as well as containing a library for the post-Apocalyptic generation. Fortunately, the Colorado Mineral Palace was simply overly ambitious and not as egomaniacal as Harvey’s pyramid. Not quite.

In any case, the project was quickly beset with problems. There was squabbling among the board members, and some suspicion that Secretary Nelson had “mishandled” the subscriptions. The company started to garner a bad reputation, so that many people–such as influential real estate developer SM Kirkland in Denver–denied involvement in the project.

king coal colorado mineral palace

King Coal as captured by William Henry Jackson, c. 1891. Photo c/o Denver Public Library, Western History Collections.

The anticipated date of completion came and went. The corporation had run through its money and, because of an economic downturn and the falling price of silver, raising more seemed impossible. After an infusion of cash from the city of Pueblo and a reorganization of the board with Benjamin Guggenheim as president, it was decided some serious cuts in the design of the building would have to be made: stone instead of brick, paint instead of minerals. The interior walls were painted terra cotta and gold, with “East Indian reliefs” (what this means is unclear) and a frieze of silver dollars surrounding the hall, along with coats of arms of all the US states and territories. 2200 electric lights burned in the hearts of painted flowers, and the smaller domes were painted with Colorado wildflowers and flowers from India. The great dome had putti figures and cameos of eight great Americans. No one knows who the eight great Americans were, but we do know they were nominated and selected by popular vote from across the country. Thomas Edison received the most nominations, but recused himself, saying he knew nothing about art.

But the real stars of the Mineral Palace were King Coal and Queen Silver. 14 feet high, dressed in a cloak of “dark minerals,” with “diamonds” (probably just glass) decorating his crown and coal topping his scepter, King Coal made his way into Trinidad cigar boxes but always played a dreary second to his glittering companion, Queen Silver.

According to legend, Queen Silver was made out of the largest nugget of silver ever pulled from the Gibson mine, which was made into her crown, her silver dollar-topped scepter, and her head with hair of white glass. Her gown was made of dark minerals, and she rode in a silver-covered combination chariot/barge. Her bust and arms were silver (or silver-coated, or tin coated), and she finished her ensemble with a scarf of blue crystal. After a brief appearance in the Mineral Palace for the grand opening, as seen in William Henry Jackson’s photographs, she traveled to Aspen. From there, she was sent to represent Colorado in the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, along with a jewel-encrusted miniature of the Mineral Palace created by Charles Otero.

queen silver colorado mineral palace

Queen Silver before she left Pueblo for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893. Photo c/o Denver Public Library, Western History Collections.

At the Columbian Exposition, the Silver Queen was more than just a pretty face—her real purpose in Chicago was revealed in the scroll in her lap that read, “Free Coinage,”  demonstrating a not-surprising loyalty to mine owners whose wealth was threatened by the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. The act required the Federal Government to buy a certain amount of silver for coinage. But due to the Panic of 1893, President Grover Cleveland repealed it–the beginning of the end of the silver mining boom, just as the Columbian Exposition was the beginning of the end for the Silver Queen.

The statue remained in Chicago for a time after the World’s Fair closed, and when she finally came back to the Mineral Palace, the she was significantly altered. The stag on the prow of the Queen’s barge and the coins from the boys’ cornucopias were missing, and the Queen’s face and body didn’t look the same. Did the Silver Queen burn in one of the fires at the Columbian Exposition? Was she stolen, stripped for the silver? No one will ever know–the statue disappeared mysteriously after the Mineral Palace was destroyed, never to be seen again.

The fate of the Mineral Palace was no happier than that of the Silver Queen. Perhaps less, for there’s no mystery to add an air of intrigue to its inglorious demise. After a grand opening with parades, important guests, fireworks, and a fancy-dress ball that went on all night, financial troubles quickly revisited the company. The building had taken twice as long to complete and cost twice as much as originally anticipated. With the mining boom over, the optimism that had kept the Colorado Mineral Palace Company afloat was rapidly fading. Within a year the Palace was bought by the City of Pueblo at the company’s request, with a committee to direct it that read like a who’s who of Southern Colorado: William Palmer, Alva Adams, Andrew McClelland, and Mahlon Thatcher.

colorado mineral palace opening

Victorian Coloradoans turned out for an all-night-long grand opening and feast at the Palace in 1891. Photo c/o Pueblo City-County Library Special Collections.

For several years the Colorado Mineral Palace lured tourists to the city of Pueblo through the use of broadsheets and other promotional material. By 1927, however, the building was described as ramshackle. It was too expensive to keep up properly, or even heat (the designers had neglected to install windows, so it was always freezing). In 1938 and ’39, the WPA restored the building to its former glory, but by 1943 the city did a one-eighty and decided to tear it down completely for “the war effort” and public safety. All the minerals left in the building were liquidated for the sum total of eight hundred dollars, and the palace once called the eighth wonder of the world faded into memory.

The rise and fall of the Colorado Mineral Palace echoes the story of many Colorado towns that abruptly realized their limitations after a massive boom in the nineteenth century. What would we think of the Mineral Palace if it had survived the post-War boom? Would it be considered a monstrosity, or would it have fulfilled its promise as a treasure of Colorado, a monument to our state’s industrial roots and mining history? Perhaps the saddest thing about the Mineral Palace is that we’ll never know.

Continue Reading
2 Comments
  • Brad M Faix

    Great article! Just recently found out about this place and just how prominent Pueblo was and how rich of a society we were. Thanks for the research and time you put into this lost treasure we once had! I would love to see Mineral Palace park revitalized and the Palace rebuilt!

  • Malissa Ahlin

    Great article. I had no idea this building existed. I always knew there was more to Mineral Palace Park, but didn’t know of the actual Mineral Palace. I would LOVE to see more articles like this in reference to Pueblo’s historical buildings that no longer exist. Perhaps there is some research that can be done on the other “Thatcher mansion” which was catty-corner to where the Rosemount is now. I learned about it while on tour at the museum. Once it left the family I believe it became in possession of the Freemason fraternity, and then the Red Cross, only to be torn down when they built the hospital. I forget the formal name of the home or the exact name of who owned it but I know the docents at the Rosemount would know and I believe it was within the Thatcher family, or at least a close relative.

Beer

Fresh pressed: Cider comes to Colorado’s Apple Valley

Published

on

A long, winding drive through the mountains on the way back from Grand Junction gave Kevin Williams time to reflect and think about his future. Inspired by a brewery he had recently visited, Williams was racking his brain for a way to incorporate a location or aspect related to Pueblo into a nano brewery he had long planned to open. And as the winding roads continued to clear Williams’ thoughts, it hit him: Penrose is known as Apple Valley. Why not open a cidery there?

Kevin Williams, former brewmaster at Walter’s Brewery in Pueblo, wants to put Penrose on the beer map with his Apple Valley Cider.

A week later he mentioned the random idea to his dad, who a few days later had a building picked out for him just off of Highway 115 next door to Broadway’s Bar & Grill. Starting with a blank space, the building owner worked with Williams and has built the location to fit the needs of a cidery.

Floor drains have been installed, a large walk-in cooler has been constructed, and an office is in place. A few more finishing touches and Williams will begin making cider under the aptly named brand Apple Valley Cider. His current plan is to have bottles of his three ciders: a semi-sweet, peach, and black currant on store shelves near the beginning of February.

No stranger to what it takes to come up with craft recipes, execute on the tasty ideas, and then market and sell, William’s started his professional brewing career at Walter’s Brewing in Pueblo. He has since moved on, citing the desire to move from employee to owner of his own business as the main reason.

Williams has been experimenting and making cider almost from day one of his homebrewing days, and has continued to do so even when he moved on to brewing professionally. It has been a learning process, but one that he feels has led up to the point where he’s ready to share with the outside world.

Brewing beer and making cider are similar in a few ways, namely starting with a sugary substance that you add yeast. However, the process is vastly different when it comes to the amount of labor required during the brewing process itself. Instead of long, hot, and heavy brewing sessions where larger burners and heavy bags of grain are required, making cider consists of mixing juice with water, adding some yeast, and waiting for nature to do its thing. That may be a bit simplified, but you get the point.

The more intense part of the process is going to be bottling and kegging cider for distribution. Currently, Williams plans to distribute everywhere he can within an hour drive of Penrose. So, that means Pueblo County, El Paso County, and Fremont County. Salida and Buena Vista will potentially be included in the first round of cities he will self-distribute in.

As a member of the Steel City Brewers homebrew club, I’ve known Williams for a couple of years now. During that time, I’ve had the chance to taste some of his ciders. More recently, he started asking the club to taste what (unknown to us at the time) would soon become his first three cider variations for Apple Valley Cidery. Over the course of several months and several iterations, I tasted ciders that went from decent to OMG YOU NEED TO SELL THIS.

Apple Valley Cider

The semi-sweet cider has plenty of apple flavor with a pleasant amount of sweetness. The peach cider is, in not so many words, delicious. It tastes exactly like the peach candy rings you can get from a convenience store—only better. It’s not overly sweet, and the peach is clearly present from start to finish. As for the black currant cider, there’s a notable tartness to the cider that’s rather enjoyable.

Apple Valley Cider won’t have a formal taproom. Instead, the Broadway’s Bar & Grill next door will serve as an informal taproom where you can try out any of the currently available ciders. Williams will have a grand opening party and special tastings as new flavors are released in the front room of Apple Valley Ciders.

Speaking of special tastings, Williams is working with Jenkins Farms to create a special release Apple Valley Cider made with apples from the Jenkins’ orchard. Exact details and timing are still being worked out, but I could tell by the excitement on his face that it’s going to be big.

If you want to keep tabs on Apple Valley Cider, like the Facebook page where Williams will post more details about his impending launch and release party.

Continue Reading

Books

Crouch’s ‘Dark Matter’ and our ever-present what ifs

Published

on

Colorado author, Blake Crouch, in his most recently published novel, “Dark Matter,” explores and aims to answer one of humanity’s most pressing existential questions: what if? Crouch writes on the dedication page of his newest novel, “For anyone who has wondered what their life might look like at the end of the road not taken.” And indeed it is.

The story follows the journey of a man named Jason Dessen – a brilliant physicist living in Chicago with his wife and son. Although Jason had the opportunity at one point in his life to achieve his career dreams and become a star in his field, he chose to lead a more family-focused life as a local community college professor.

One night, he is abducted and drugged while walking home. He awakes in a world where his wife doesn’t know him, his son doesn’t exist, and he has achieved that professional success that eluded him in his previous life. Jason’s quest to return to his reality leads him on a thrilling and psychologically probing goose chase through the multiverse that, as Crouch writes in an afterword of the novel, “forces him and the reader to reckon with the quantum-mechanics principles that make our universe tick.”

Science fiction is not uncharted territory for Crouch. He is most well known for his “Wayward Pines” trilogy, which was adapted for television and premiered on FOX in May of 2015. Like the “Wayward Pines” series, “Dark Matter” weaves elements of the fantastic and the actual, with themes of love and family truly making up the core of the story. Crouch is already working on the screenplay for the film adaptation of “Dark Matter” – this time on the big screen. Sony bought the movie rights for the film, and will begin production in the near future.

Crouch was inspired to write the novel by his interest in quantum mechanics, despite his limited scientific background. In an afterword of his book, Crouch writes: “I wrote ‘Dark Matter’ so if you’d never heard of quantum mechanics, it wouldn’t matter.” And he is true to his word. Crouch’s narration weaves in the scientific aspects nearly seamlessly, and makes even the more complicated points understandable to his readers by being concise with his language and clear in his analogies.

A common error among sci-fi stories is piling information on the reader to make the author sound more credible. Crouch avoids this error, striking the right balance of factual information that applies to the narrative with the more fictitious elements that are then bridged effortlessly in the reader’s mind.

While Crouch’s novel does dwell heavily in the science-fiction genre, it is a love story as much as it is an existential thriller. Rather than highlighting the ecstasy of being able to trade a life you’re dissatisfied with for another, Crouch’s approach is more to point out how shallow the reasons are that create that sense of dissatisfaction. His main character, Jason, is motivated throughout the story purely by the love he has for his wife and son – and the realization that his biggest mistake is taking that love for granted.

Detailing Jason’s grappling between his family life and his professional life is where Crouch really hits home with so many of his readers. Detailing that struggle on a larger existential scale where virtually every choice creates another competing life, and that these lives aren’t just possible separately, but also simultaneously, is what lends so much ingenuity to Crouch’s entire premise.

Every single one of us wonders what would have happened if we’d taken another job, gone to a different college, moved somewhere different, married someone different, didn’t marry at all; the list goes on and on. “Dark Matter” is an intelligent proposition of an answer to our ever-present what-ifs. Not to mention an altogether riveting and touching tale.

Originally from North Carolina, Crouch currently lives in Durango, Colorado and has ever since he received his Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina. When asked in an interview what drew him to Colorado, Crouch said: “I love everything about the West. The wide-open space. The history. The mentality. Rain curtains over the desert. How much deeper and more rattling thunder sounds as opposed to everywhere else. Sage brush. Mountains. Desert. Snow. But most important, a serene, contemplative place to write.”

Crouch is currently working on a new novel from his home in Durango. In addition to “Dark Matter” and the “Wayward Pines” trilogy, he has written more than a dozen other novels and short stories; most of which can be found for sale on his personal website: www.blakecrouch.com. His other television projects include the TNT television show “Good Behavior” starring Michelle Dockery, which is based off of a series of three interlinked novellas Crouch previously wrote and published.

Continue Reading

Arts & Culture

Her Paris

Published

on

When we open an art history book or go to a major art museum, male artists dominate the narrative. A woman may be represented here and there, but the overall impression given is that women were negligible players in the history of art, outliers and curiosities.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, especially in 19th-century Paris. From the French Revolution on, women were a major presence on the Parisian art scene. They may not have been allowed into l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, France’s largest art school, until 1897, but they were allowed to exhibit in the Paris Salon, Europe’s preeminent art exhibition–and did, in great numbers. Women studied art under private tutors or at smaller art academies like the Académie Julian, all while pushing for greater equality in the art world and, by extension, society as a whole. They were also major contributors to independent exhibitions, including those of the French Impressionists.

Her Paris goes a long way toward bringing more attention to these “forgotten” artists with an exhibit devoted entirely to women painters from the latter half of the 19th century. This huge exhibition is divided into seven sections covering portraiture, genre scenes, fashion, childhood, landscape, history painting, and “jeunes filles,” or young women.

The exhibit opens with portraiture, which seems a straightforward subject. But this section is more than just a series of portraits. It’s the perfect way to start the conversation about female artists in Paris because it demonstrates they weren’t a negligible presence on the Parisian art scene: they were part of an entire community. They were friends, sisters, roommates, neighbors, and rivals who lived, studied, socialized, and worked together to gain recognition for their artistic talents–not just individually, but as a group. From Berthe Morisot and her sister, Edna; once-famous Marie Bashkirtseff and the only person she considered her artistic equal, Louise Breslau; to Anna Elizabeth Klumpke, an American painter who was friends with Rosa Bonheur and later wrote her biography. These portraits show that women artists didn’t just come to Paris because it was the epicenter of European art; they came because in Paris they could find encouragement and support amongst other women.


The next section of Her Paris continues that theme, with scenes from everyday life, also known as genre. The theme may seem innocuous at first, until one looks closer. Between moments of eating dinner and pouring tea are women smoking (scandalous!), reading–which for a woman at the time was still a revolutionary act, underscoring they were human beings with an intellect and interior “life of the mind,” as the exhibition puts it–and performing the commonplace tasks and chores that formed the underpinning of Parisian society.

The grandest painting in this section is Lunch in the Greenhouse by Louise Abbéma, which dominates the wall at the far end of the gallery. When it was first exhibited in public, it was criticized for being “flat” and “emotionless.” But its rich color and high level of detail make it nearly irresistible: you feel like you can step right into the piece and sit down at the table.

There’s also a very modern rejection of narrative or moralizing in Lunch in the Greenhouse; it’s merely a snapshot of a moment, although Abbéma couldn’t resist adding the charm of the little girl with the big pink bow or the dog beside her. The other figures are friends and family of Abbéma, most notably the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt, with whom Abbéma is rumored to have had an affair. If true that makes Abbéma’s expression in the painting as she reclines behind Bernhardt all the more intriguing.

Abbéma also painted one of the stand-out pieces in the next section, devoted to fashion. Among the Flowers shows a woman in a gorgeous flower-printed white dress, whose form is mirrored by the black urn overflowing with flowers beside her. Abbéma’s association of a woman with a decorative object (indeed, the woman seems to be greeting the plant as if it were a person) sums up the theme of this section: that by focusing on fashion, these female artists weren’t just conflating fashion with art, but rejecting the idea that decoration of themselves and their homes should be their only creative outlet.

The next section focuses on paintings of children. While the idea that women artists are innately better able to depict children is patently stupid (men had been doing it perfectly well since the Renaissance), it can perhaps be said that women had greater access to child models. In fact, female artists of the 19th century usually used friends and family as models exclusively, since models for hire tended to have unsavory backgrounds (cough prostitutes cough).

The childhood section introduces the most unique artist by far included in Her Paris, German painter Paula Mendersohn-Becker. One of the earliest expressionist painters, Mendersohn-Becker is frequently referred to as the first female modernist and with good reason. Her paintings look like something out of the 1930s rather than the 19th century. Becker’s figures are flatly modeled, with a limited palette and expressive facial features. Far from pretty, there’s no denying the irresistible charm of Becker’s work in her use of line and her focus on the emotions, rather than the appearance, of her sitters.

The landscape section serves as the lynchpin of the whole exhibition because it’s here where you can really see how 19th-century women were pushing painting forward in new directions.

One of the most unique pieces is Waterfall by Fanny Churberg, which was described as abnormal and “strange” by contemporaries. It is unusual, but in an intriguing way. Churberg’s painting is highly naturalistic and textured, almost as if one is looking at it through a stereoscope (a way to combine two images into one to create a 3D effect). Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz’s atmospheric Unter den Linden in Berlin is another standout piece, as is Helen Schjerfbeck’s The Door, which captures a church door in Brittany. It’s a landscape, but could just as easily be called a still life, one that uses light and color to suggest a spiritual and symbolic component.

The last two sections of Her Paris–history painting and jeunes filles–are not as tightly themed as the previous sections, although they contain some of the exhibition’s best pieces. One of these is Plowing in the Nivernais by Rosa Bonheur, by far the most famous female painter of the 19th century, or any century before it. A child prodigy, she was the first woman to be awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest artistic award, which the Empress Eugenie herself pinned to Bonheur’s breast at her chateau outside of Paris.

Plowing in the Nivernais is one of Bonheur’s most well-known works, painted just after the 1848 Revolution that instituted the Second Republic. The stars of the painting are the Nivernais oxen clomping across the canvas, rendered in exquisite and loving detail. But Plowing in the Nivernais doesn’t just demonstrate Bonheur’s skill as an animal painter: her treatment of the soil, atmosphere, and sunlight is the height of realism. You can almost feel the heat of the sun, smell the turned earth, and feel the soft ground beneath your feet. Indeed, the very solidity of the oxen and landscape conveys a sense of permanence and on the grand scale of a history painting. Bonheur may not have been painting history as such, but she was undoubtedly commenting on the endurance of France, despite the ups and downs of political changes.

Other artists of note include Anna Archer, whose paintings are quiet, yet luminous; Eva Gonzalès, the only pupil of Edouard Manet, who has several charming pieces; Marianne Stokes, with gorgeously rich canvases inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites; and Julie Delance-Feurgard, whose Le marriage exudes an intense feeling of movement and suspense, despite the rather staid subject matter.

Her Paris is an extraordinary exhibition that introduces art lovers to the best painters they’ve never heard of. The sheer volume of work in this exhibit is staggering, especially when one considers it covers just 35 female painters who trod Paris’ cobblestoned streets for a mere fifty years. Her Paris, along with The Women of Abstract Expressionism that took place earlier this year, marks the DAM as an institutional leader and innovator. This show is definitely not one to be missed.

Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism will be on view through January 14th, 2018. Advanced tickets are highly recommended. For more information, visit denverartmuseum.org.

Continue Reading

Trending