It's been nearly a month since a February diversion to Ivan Mestrovic (and Notre Dame) and an image by Horace Spenser Fiske distracted me from Henry Hering's work at the Michigan Avenue Bridgetowers. This time it will be Fiske that brings me back. Below is Ralph Fletcher Seymour's drawing of the personification of Chicago from Fiske's "Chicago in Picture and Poetry. "

Anyone, in 1929, crossing the Chicago River would have immediately recognized Hering's "Regeneration" as a reinterpretation of flames, surrounding the personification of Chicago. Seymour's drawing would have been part of a common language. As easily recognized as the "Progress" that topped Ward's headquarters. And the Railway Exchange's references to the Word's Fair. Five women at the Art Institute, each pouring water to the next, were the living face of the Great Lakes. Lions were power. Y was the junction of the Chicago Rivers. Oak leaves. Dragons. Grotesques. Unspoken, understood. Universal code.

We need to be kinder to our history. How do we criticize the art of men whose language we neither speak nor remember?


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