Category: Art

  • Domestic Stained Glass in Beechview

    A stained-glass window in an early-twentieth-century house in Beechview. Stained glass like this was especially popular between about 1890 and 1920, just when the streetcar suburbs that later became city neighborhoods were mushrooming. These windows are often stolen if the house is vacant for a while, but even so thousands still decorate houses all around the city.

  • A Medieval Fantasy

    A little experiment in digital art. It began with a photograph of one of the Gothic gateposts outside the chancery behind St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oakland. That was made black and white, and then put through a multiple-layer “etching” filter, and then every detail that looked at all modern was scribbled over. This is the result. Was it worth the work? Probably not, but one can always learn something from these experiments.

  • Dressing for the Masquerade, by Edward Trumbull

    Here is another illustration by the talented painter Edward Trumbull from an advertisement for the Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co. of Pittsburgh. Trumbull’s thought seems to have been that he didn’t need to render the bathroom itself appealing to sell plumbing fixtures; in fact, the bathroom is seen only through a curtained doorway. Instead, his pictures suggest that the plumbing fixtures are an essential part of a life that is much more colorful and exciting than the life you live, and perhaps your life could be just as delightful if you only had “Standard” plumbing fixtures.

  • Unloading at Cape Town, by Edward Trumbull

    “A series of unusually artistic mural paintings by Trumbull always interests visitors to ‘The Home of the 57,’ ” says a 1924 Heinz advertisement in The Delineator. For many years the Heinz factory tour was one of Pittsburgh’s chief attractions, and Edward Trumbull’s murals in the headquarters building were much admired. The tour is no longer offered, but this advertisement reproduces one of Trumbull’s famous murals: “Scene at Capetown, South Africa. A symbol of Heinz world-wide distribution.”

  • The Modern Bathroom, by Edward Trumbull

    Edward Trumbull is remembered primarily for his murals today. He did a number of famous ones for Pittsburgh; his work can still be seen on the ceiling of the Supreme Court Room in the City-County Building. (His most famous work in Pittsburgh, the ceiling of the Grant Building lobby, was either covered or destroyed—we hope the former—in the ill-conceived 1980s redesign of that lobby.)

    Trumbull lived in Pittsburgh for a couple of years and continued to work for many prominent Pittsburghers for years afterward. Here we have an illustration he made for a 1924 advertisement for “Standard” plumbing fixtures. The Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co. of Pittsburgh had a lot to do with the shape of the modern bathroom. It later merged with American Radiator to form American-Standard, which still dominates the toilet trade today.

  • The News Boys, by David Gilmour Blythe

    If you had bought a newspaper in Pittsburgh in about 1850, you probably would have bought it from a child like these. David Gilmour Blythe, Pittsburgh’s master caricaturist, produced a small masterpiece of a character study here. It hangs on a whole wall of David Gilmour Blythe paintings in the Carnegie Museum of Art; the curators date it to some time from 1846 to 1852.

  • Two by David Gilmour Blythe

    Because we cannot get to the museum right now, old Pa Pitt is bringing the museum to you. Here are two by Pittsburgh’s great satirical painter David Gilmour Blythe. Above, Good Times (c. 1854-1858). Below, Temperance Pledge (c. 1856-1860). They make a good pair. Both are in the Carnegie Museum of Art.

  • Pittsburgh Piety, by David Gilmour Blythe

    Old Pa Pitt does not know what church this is meant to represent, but he suspects a Presbyterian church: the preacher is clearly the main attraction, but the Gothic details suggest the commercial wealth that Pittsburgh Presbyterians have traditionally been known for. This painting hangs on the wall of Blythe paintings at the Carnegie; the curators date it 1860-1862.

  • Post Office, by David Gilmour Blythe

    This is probably David Gilmour Blythe’s masterpiece, although old Pa Pitt would certainly listen to arguments in favor of The Coal Carrier. It has all the comical details you expect from one of his larger paintings, perfectly executed and worked into an overall composition that is also just about perfect. And yet there is perhaps a whiff of tragedy in the midst of the comedy: this was probably painted during the Civil War (Blythe didn’t date most of his paintings, so we’re just guessing), when you would have seen a crush at the General Delivery window every time the mail came in, because hundreds of people were waiting to hear whether their sons and brothers and husbands were still alive.

    The strange power of Blythe is that he paints humanity at its worst, and yet we come away thinking that humanity is worth saving after all.

  • The Great Fire of Pittsburgh, 1845

    View of the Great Fire of Pittsburgh, by William C. Wall (1846)

    In 1845 a catastrophic fire swept through the booming Western city of Pittsburgh. Much of the city was destroyed, including the covered wooden Monongahela bridge, where the Smithfield Street Bridge is now. William C. Wall, a local painter of some skill, saw an artistic and financial opportunity and painted small views of the destruction, which seem to have been reproduced as prints (prints of great catastrophes being very popular among some of the more morose and sentimental Victorians). The next year he created a larger painting with a view of the fire; though he obviously did not have the fire in front of him as he painted, he seems to have depicted fairly accurately the extent of the conflagration—note the area to the west of the bridge that was spared the flames, an area that included the Burke Building, which still stands today.

    These three paintings hang together in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s gallery of “European and American Art ca. 1820-1860.” Finding that there seemed to be no good reproductions of them on the Internet, old Pa Pitt took these, which give a fair impression of the pictures as they appear on the wall.

    Pittsburgh After the Fire from Birmingham, by William C. Wall (1845)

    Pittsburgh After the Fire from Boyd’s Hill, by William C. Wall (1845)