remnants of river culture made in Washington on display at the St. Louis Art Museum | Characteristics People

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In In the early 1900s, a corn cob pipe from the H. Tibbe & Son Co., later renamed the Missouri Meerschaum Co., would have been a practical and affordable item along the Missouri River in Washington and beyond .

The thousands of people, many of them working class, who smoked these pipes probably did not regard the instrument as a work of art. A century later, however, the object is on display in the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) alongside other relics of life at the confluence of North America’s two most powerful rivers, the Mississippi and Missouri, as well as the Illinois River. The special exhibit, titled “Art Along the Rivers,” is a celebration of 200 years of the state of Missouri and features more than 150 artefacts created and collected in the area – from Hannibal in the south to the old mines in County of Missouri. Washington and Hermann east to Cairo. , Carbondale and Alton, Illinois – over 1,000 years old. More than 50 museums across the country have loaned pieces for the event, which began on October 3 and will run until January 9.

Tickets for the exhibit can be purchased in person at the museum or through MetroTix, which charges a service fee. Regularly priced tickets are $ 12 for adults, $ 10 for seniors and students, and $ 6 for children 6 to 12 years old. Tickets for the exhibition are free for museum members and children under 5 years old. Entrance to the museum itself is free. The museum opens at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closes at 5 p.m. – or 9 p.m. on Friday. It is closed on Mondays. The last entry to the exhibition is one hour before the museum closes.

Among the objects included in the exhibition is a 1903 oil painting, “Mississippi to Elsah”, by American artist Frederick Oakes Sylvester, who has focused much of his work on the city. This is where art historians say he went beyond Impressionism and towards “the spiritual values ​​of nature”. As a city in Illinois, the entire village of Elsah was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.

Other notable items in the exhibition include a 1907 oil painting of “Marquette and Joliet on the Mississippi” by American artist Oscar Edward Berninghaus. The exhibition also includes a number of works by Western artists and photographers who worked with Native Americans and objects from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, including a ‘spectacular punch bowl created for the Exposition Universelle de Saint-Louis by Libbey Glass, ”according to museum curators.

Local pieces on display include corn on the cob pipes, an antique concert zither made by Franz Schwarzer – both on loan from the Washington Historical Society – and a portrait of Daniel Boone and carved wooden furniture of German immigrants near Marthasville and Hermann.

“By bringing together this seemingly disparate group of objects, the exhibition aims to amplify the many perspectives represented in these works of art,” said Amy Torbert, who helped organize this exhibition with Melissa Wolfe.

Officials said they organized the exhibition thematically rather than culturally or chronologically, as “the themes reveal how the geological and cultural confluence has shaped the content.”

The exhibition is divided into five themes: art at the confluence, art on display, art in production, artistic communities and art as advocate. Across the different time periods, people, perspectives and manufacturing goals of the included parts, rivers remain a common thread throughout.

Katie Dieckhaus, director of the Washington Historical Society Museum, said the zither and corn cob pipes both tell how Washington – with its access to the Missouri River making it easy to export – helped shape the region as a whole. .

“Schwarzer and Henry Tibbe (who started the corn-on-the-cob pipe industry in Washington) improved on what was already there,” said Dieckhaus. “Both have helped put Washington on the map internationally. “

Schwarzer once described himself as “the king of zither makers”, and rightly so. The Austrian native studied wood design and craftsmanship in Vienna before immigrating to America in 1864 with the dream of becoming a farmer. In 1867, however, he sold his farmland to Holstein and moved to Washington, where he began making zithers to meet the demand of the large German population. He quickly gained international recognition for the unique craftsmanship of his pieces, and in 1873 three concert zithers similar to the one on display in St. Louis won the Gold Medal for Progress at the Vienna International Exhibition.

At the same time, the Dutchman Tibbe hoped to make a cheaper but still durable version of the then popular Turkish pipes from meerschaum, the German word for meerschaum. He was granted a patent in 1878 for his method of coating his pipes. plaster to make them last longer and over time experimented with larger and more artistic designs. The pipes are still shipped internationally today.

Dieckhaus added that the two also embody the blend of immigrant traditions that helped create the region’s unique culture. The region’s proximity to the river made it a natural hub for westward expansion, and between the 1820s and 1880s nearly 600,000 people of mostly Western European descent migrated through the greater region of Saint-Louis. They brought with them skills in woodworking, glassblowing, painting, music and more which are explored in depth in the rooms on display, such as in an ornate cabinet made in the late 1880s by the jeweler Hermann Julius Hasenritter, on loan from the American Folk Art Museum. At New York.

As the Europeans arrived, the natives of the river region – members of the Osage Indian Nation and other indigenous groups – were being forcibly removed by the US government. While artefacts produced and preserved before colonization are included in the exhibit, pieces that respond to their interactions with the encroachment of people of European descent are also on display.

Despite policies preventing many people of Asian origin from immigrating to the United States in the 1800s, the first Chinese immigrant to St. Louis arrived in 1857, followed by several hundred in the 1860s. Fleeing violence , several communities of Jews from Eastern Europe have also made their home in the region.

The region also became home to many African Americans who left the South after the Civil War and later violence against them during the Jim Crow era. Between World War I and the 1930s, the population of African Americans in St. Louis doubled, according to SLAM, and the work done in response to the harsh environment they often faced figures prominently in the ‘exposure.

Immigration to the region continued throughout the second half of the 20th century, as people – including many refugee groups – arrived from Mexico, Vietnam, Somalia and Bosnia. And as recently as August 2021, Saint-Louis announced its intention to welcome more than 1,000 Afghan refugees.

All of these groups of people, and how they interacted with each other and with the river to form unique identities as a result, are explored in the exhibit.

“The works of Art Along the Rivers have all been made by artists who have experienced the blend of cultures, histories and heritages that reside in the Confluence region and have reacted creatively to make something their own. “, we read in the book accompanying the exhibition, written by the curators.

Washington-based artist Bryan Haynes said he understood the call perfectly. For him, as for countless other artists over the millennia, rivers have been a muse. The Kirkwood native said that after returning from California to the area, he began to see what artist Thomas Hart Benton once described as the “hollows and bumps” of the Missouri landscape.

“I saw the region in a whole new light,” he said. “The landscape was so beautiful in its own way. I never deliberately said, ‘Oh, I’m going to paint the river.’ It’s just such a big part of the landscape.

Haynes, who is a longtime illustrator and operates a gallery on Second Street in Washington, said he probably painted dozens of pieces showcasing the Missouri River and various people who have lived nearby during his career. .

“Everyone (in Washington) faces it. It’s like the city has a stage, ”he said. “I’m a storyteller, and the rivers are kind of the lifeline that runs through all of the stories here.”


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