Portland

Portland

If a $10,000 item in the Multnomah County budget destined for the Portland Art Museum had not been contested by those venerable gendarmes of decency in art, i.e., Mrs. C. G. Murphy’s “Citizens for Art” committee—the summer in the City of Roses would have been a torpid one, indeed.

However, Mrs. Murphy got her steam up earlier than usual this year—and when the members of the Multnomah County Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission met—not long ago—­they found themselves in the midst of a rousing traditionalist-abstractionist fracas.

The money is only part of the operat­ing wherewithall the museum receives from all agencies, but the Citizens pre­sent at the tax commission hearing thought that even that was too much.

Mrs. Murphy led the attack on the budget item by submitting a petition challenging the “right of the Portland Art Museum to be subsidized at tax expense.” She argued that the museum is a private organization and that it embraces a policy that is inimical to one segment of the population; that is, the traditional artist, and therefore should be denied public funds.

“After all,” said the principal protago­nist, “if you deny an artist a showcase, you deny him his livelihood.” Mrs. Betty Broadhagen, another Citizen, and also a mother and artist, said: “I don’t send my children to the art museum to learn the facts of life.” Mrs. Ruth Halvorsen, former art supervisor in the Portland Public Schools, and one of several who audibly represented The Other Side, hailed the museum for its constructive educational program and its bringing to the public good art that is not just abstractionist.

“$10,000 is not enough. . . . It should be 10 times $10,000” she concluded.

Dr. Francis J. Newton, museum direc­tor, countered the Citizens’ blasts by announcing: “I am not an abstractionist; I’m a medievalist.” And he summed up his comments with the statement: “I do not apologize for what we are doing.”

Elsewhere, foremost news this summer was the announcement of the construc­tion of a completely new wing on the site of the present Museum Art School adjoining Portland Art Museum. Pre­liminary plans by Pietro Belluschi, arch­itect who designed the museum in 1932, have been approved by the Portland Art Association board of trustees. The new structure will provide room for a larger auditorium which the museum has sorely needed, as well as many well­-lighted, versatile work areas.

Oddly enough, in spite of Mrs. Mur­phy’s claims, the galleries of the mu­seum this summer could not have been a better place to bring mother and the children.

On view were 17th and 18th Century Japanese prints from the Mary Andrews Ladd Collection, Contemporary Prints from Japan, American Paintings, and Sculpture from the 18th to the 20th Century; the museum’s collection of works by contemporary Northwest art­ists; Old Master prints; and upstairs, paintings by European Artists from the 13th to the 20th Century. Handsome re­cent additions to the last-named assem­blage included a splendid “Still Life of Flowers” by the 19th Century Dutch artist Wybrand Hendriks, a sensitive subdued “Portrait of a Man” by Antoine Isebrant, 16th Century Bruges master (both on indefinite loan from the collection of Justice George Rossman of Salem) and an outright acquisition—an untitled odalisque by Edvard Munch. The canvas, dated ca. 1920, is an example of the artist’s more lyrical works and is exe­cuted in light, clear colors and with a rapid brush.

This viewer’s estimate was that the show of antique prints, complemented by the addition of some stunning cer­amic pieces from the Griffith collection, were the summer’s best displays. In the exhibition were two woodblock prints by Moronobu (1625–1694)—one, hand colored, showing all the motley citizenry of old Edo; two by Kiyonobu I (1664–1729) who took Moronobu as his model but placed greater emphasis on action. His “Woman with a Book” strik­ingly displayed the roundness and solid power that distinguish Kiyonobu figures. Two works by Eishosai Choki, who worked from the 1760’s to the early 1800s also were memorable as were those by Utamaro.

Choki’s “A Woman Holding a Saki Cup” was a perfect print. This artist may not be ranked equally with such figures as Moronobu, Harunobu or Uta­maro, but in his best pictures he had the ability to surpass them all in crea­tion of an ideal of feminine beauty. One easily could say that the sum total of traditional Japanese culture was wrapped up within the confines of this offering of small prints.

Two long-time members of Oregon’s art colony—Albert and Arthur C. Run­quist—had a show of oils at the Image. Albert’s contribution was mainly very low-keyed seascapes; his brother pre­sented what were usually quite success­fully composed situation comedies.

At the Fountain Gallery a show cover­ing a 15-year span of the work of Jun’ichiro Sekino spoke well of the visiting Japanese artist’s knowledge and facility with the woodblock. However, there was seldom much in the content of the prints on view which held one’s undivided analytical attention for more than a few moments. The same, unfor­tunately, held true for the traveling exhibition of prints at the museum.

Andy Rocchia