Thursday, May 10, 2012

'Success' Has Many Fathers

Above the fold, pg. 7, Cincinnati Enquirer, March 31, 1918

“…The British convict ship Success, built 138 years ago in India of priceless teakwood, asserted by the British Museum authorities to have been growing in the forests before Christ, is anchored in Cincinnati at the foot of Vine street. She is the oldest ship in the world and is the last of England’s fleet of felon transports…The [story of the] Success is a most extraordinary one and is more remarkable than any that could be conceived in the imagination of the fiction writer…The Success was launched in 1790. She was constructed at Moulmein, British Burmah [sic], under the shadow of the old pagoda celebrated by Kipling.
Though built by coolie labor, her builders were the best of woodworkers for apart from her stanch construction there are still remains on board of really beautifully executed woodcraft…In 1802 the Success fell from caste and became an “ocean hell,” a devil ship, which, instead of harboring the high and mighty potentates of the gilded East, became the home and the scourge of England’s worst criminals, the born malefactors, as well as the unfortunate, whom a terrible penal system manufactured into a convict and an outcast.
It was then that these rows of gloomy, horror-haunted cells were built for the reception of her human freight to be carried in them without sunlight [and] ventilation, almost without food, with the scantiest of raiment and the utmost infliction of cruelties and depredation across the 16,000 miles that separated England from her colonies in Australia…The first actual record of convict transportation dates to James I, when convicts were brought to Maryland and Virginia. At that time His Majesty’s colonies and plantations in America needed laborers. It was decreed that prisoners nominally sentenced to death should be handed over to contractors, who transported them to America and sold them at public auction to plantation owners. This was before African slavery. Competition was keen and prices ruled high.
The War of American Independence closed our ports to Great Britain’s criminal sewage. It was then that Captain James Cook established for England, in Botany Bay, in the South Seas, a penal settlement…They described pestiferous dens, overcrowded, dark, dirty, illy ventilated and deprived of pure air. Idleness, drunkenness, vicious intercourse, slackness, starvation, squalor, cruelty, chains, awful oppression and everywhere culpable neglect…It was believed then that the transportation of convicts would correct abuses, but it proved a failure…[On the] initial trip 1,695 male convicts were taken, also 68 women convicts. One hundred and ninety-four of the men and five of the women died during the voyage, and 116 died soon after landing. The master of each ship was paid head money for each prisoner embarked, However, it paid them more to lose a prisoner owing to a saving in food. It is a fact that many convicts were purposely starved. A convict would not report a death for the reason that he and his survivors would share the allowance of the dead…In 1801 the discovery of gold in Australia attracted emigrants from all over the globe. Australia was the Mecca for specialized outlawry. Bush-ranging became a profession. There were no prisons in the newly created city of Melbourne and meanwhile the criminal element was coming in an endless stream. A call was sent to the master of the Success and others in the felon fleet at Van Dieman’s Land and Botany Bay to anchor off Williamstown, a few miles from Melbourne.

Anchored at the foot of Vine Street and next to the Suspension Bridge

Hobson’s Bay was then an open roadstead. There was no harbor accommodation. Convicts were taken off the ships to work in the quarries preparing stone to build a breakwater. They were also put to work erecting public buildings, including a prison. These men labored in chains during the day and at night went back to the Success and other ships to sleep in stifling cells. So much disorder arose that the convicts were useless as workmen and the ships were ordered out of commission, except as confinement hulls. It was in 1851 that the British Government declared that the Success should remain for all time in Melbourne as a confinement hull.
For her there was no peace in old age. She had on board 230 desperadoes. No ring of buoys around the vessel’s anchorage could prevent occasional wild rushes for escape and two sensational outbreaks on her attracted so much attention in 1857 that the end of the awful system was declared.
The first of these two exceptional outbreaks was inspired by one Captain Melville (real name Frank McCallum) who was a native of Paisley, Scotland. It was while serving time for stealing a pie from a baker’s cart that he made his escape and became the leader of a band of bush-rangers. He was recaptured and given a term of 32 years. Soon after he stabbed a guard to death on the Success, using a sharp spoon for a weapon. October 22, 1856, he assisted in killing two Success guards, Owen Owens and John Turner. When arraigned for trial he pleaded his own case, was sentenced to death, but his disclosures of the abuses of the system on the Success and her sister ships caused his conviction to be quashed. Again he went back to his cell. He was found dead. It was said that he killed himself, but it was generally understood that officers of the Success had ended his existence to stop his recital of tyranny and torture to the convicts.
In March of the next year Captain John Price, Inspector General of the Australian penal system, who originated the tortures to which the convicts on the ships were subjected, was beaten to death by prisoners. Seven convicts were hanged for this at Melbourne within a month following the tragedy. This wholesale execution put the finishing touch to the Success and other convict ships. Preachers and the press flamed into violent protests against the wrongs [perpetrated] in the name of justice. Prison reform doctrines in the novels of Dickens and Reade had penetrated Australia, with the result that a Select Committee on Penal Affairs made a report to Parliament…For some years later—from 1860 to 1868—the Success was used as a women’s prison; then she became successively a reformatory ship and an ammunition store. A little later all the prison hulks were ordered to be sold on the express condition that they were to be broken up, and their associations lost to recollection of the people of Australia. By clerical error, however, that condition did not appear upon the terms of sale of the Success. Hence she remains the only British convict ship afloat on the seven seas. In 1885 the old ship was scuttled and sunk in Sydney Harbor. She remained under the picturesque waters at Ft. Jackson for five years, and was then, at an enormous expense, raised to be exhibited to the present generation as an exceptional object lesson and a vivid reminder of an almost forgotten period in penal history. She has since then been on exhibition not only in the Australian colonies, but has twice circumnavigated Great Britain and Ireland. Her visitors have numbered over 15,000,000 people, including the late King Edward of England, the Prince of Wales, the Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg, and other members of the English Royal family, the German Emperor, Captain Dreyfuss of Devils Island, Lord Beresford, the late Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone and many other notables.

In 1912 she attempted what was perhaps the greatest feat in all her remarkable career—to make the passage across the Atlantic under her own sail, unaccompanied by tug or steamer. The shipping world was aghast when the voyage was projected. Impossible, said every man that ever sailed the seas in ships, that this century-and-a-quarter-old hulk could brave the spring hurricanes of the Western ocean. But a gallant crew of adventurous souls, under the command of Captain D. H. Smith, hoisted sail and took her out of Glasson Dock, near the port of Liverpool, on the very day that the ill-fated Titanic left the port of Southhampton. For 96 days she battled bravely, her stanch old hull defying the crashing gales and mountainous seas, and at length made port in Boston Harbor with a crew worn out and half-starved, but bravely triumphant.
Her arrival in Cincinnati is especially interesting for the reason she is the first foreign vessel that has ever entered this port. Her battles with the ice in the Ohio River this winter proved the most dangerous of all her experiences since leaving England on her memorable voyage in 1912. It was [thanks to her remarkable] construction that saved her from the fate of so many of our own river craft, which were crushed to pieces by the grinding ice.
No museum in the world contains the same relics as may be seen on the Success. Around the high bulwarks are suspended all of the agencies of tortures that human minds of a century ago could invent. In the “tiger’s den” is depicted the murder of Captain Price.
The “tiger’s den” derived the name from the ferocity of the convicts confined there. They are credited with fighting until all were hammered into helplessness. Order was restored again and again by guards firing through the bars and over their heads. There is the “black hole.” In it is a wax figure stooping in weariness. The ankles and wrists are chained. Men have been kept in that hole for 100 days.
In the cells on the middle deck may be seen wax figures of the “six men of Dorset.” These were the first trade union martyrists, not long ago honored in England by the erection of a marble shaft. The price of corn had risen, while that of wages had dropped. The “six men of Dorset” united to effect a raise of one shilling. For this the “six men of Dorset” were deported to Australia for seven years.
Ranged on the same deck with the martyrs of unionism are six wax figures of Dan Morgan, arch fiend of Australia, who killed 92 men; Captain Starlight, the man of mystery, who stole race horses, always hunted up an officer to dine with and who won one of Australia’s richest turf prizes with the thoroughbred Rainbow, which, of course, he stole; Frank Gardiner, after serving two terms on the Success for celebrated thefts, was liberated upon promise to leave the country, and ended his days in San Francisco as a hotel proprietor, and others of renown in Australia’s record.
On the lower deck, “the home of the bad men,” are the wax figures of Jacky Williams Hill, alias Burgess, whose blasphemous confession startled the world; Henry Garrett, who boasted of having spent 52 Christmeses in confinement; Owen Suffolk, the Australian poet, who stole 10 cents and whose poems of love and devotion won the admiration of Australians and the money prizes of magazine publishers; Daniel Donovan, who after serving 16 years on the Success, was released to die and immediately afterward it was ascertained that he was innocent; John Hefferman, the giant, who received a call from his mother, and as she slipped a ring on his finger fell lifeless at his [sic] feet; Frederick MacDonald, who flogged prisoners for 40 cents each, and after his release from the Success was shot dead in Melbourne by a former convict; the Kelly gang, shown as modern Australian outlaws, but they were never prisoners on the Success. The capture of [the gang] cost Australia more than a half million dollars [more than $7 million in 2012 dollars]. Kate Kelly was the spy from the days they first stole sheep until they murdered by wholesale.

--Cincinnati Enquirer, March 31, 1918

Images: Cincinnati Public Library Newspaper Archive, Kentucky Historical Society, Ohio Memory Project

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Final Layer of Press

Shortly after the installation of the Western & Southern mural, Billy falls ill and Alza writes the CAA.

“What ever are you up to now, Billy Hentschel?
That’s what some of his friends might ask the widely known Cincinnati artist if they walked into his studio-workshop at his country home in Boone County, near Burlington, Ky.
For Mr. Hentschel, who is properly William E., might be pushing a little roller around on his drawing board, eyeling the edge of a huge stencil, or deep in thought over a partly finished work.
But Mr. Hentschel knows well what he is up to. He is “brayer” painting these days and he finds it fascinating, he said yesterday.
He started his new technique three years ago and has been experimenting and perfecting his idea ever since.
Now, he has 15 of his brayer (roller) works ready for a one-man showing October 29-November 10 at the Closson Galleries, 421 Race St.

An aging Billy, the stencil and 3 finished 'paintings'.

The idea for his new type of painting stemmed from the current designs of modern homes, he said.
He thought of all the young people moving into the present-day streamlined houses and realized, he said, that they should have the kind of art to go with those new homes.
Then came another thought one day as he was watching some fellow-artists doing some difficult work on woodblock.
How much easier it would be to apply the paint with a roller, the brayer type used by printers to ink type!
So Mr. Hentschel got some rollers in various sizes and set about making some stencils to try his talent and hand in another new field.
He cuts as many as 10 stencils in a series for one painting. Each stencil goes down in its turn on the fine artist paper on his drawing board to add its big or little part to the finished product. Some in the series may permit only a few little dots or a couple of lines.
This method of application, Mr. Hentschel said, makes for a clear, clean-cut job with delightfully jewel-toned overlays that have the very essence of modern life.
Although Mr. Hentschel can use the same set of stencils to make many copies of the same painting, no two ever are quite alike, he said.
That is because he may vary the depth of color the next time in one of the overlays or apply one a little sooner or later than previously, resulting in a change of tone and an individuality to that particular picture.
Oils are Mr. Hentschel’s medium for his breyer paintings with his gelatin rollers, which wouldn’t hold up against water, he said. Rubber rollers would have to be used for water colors, he explained.
A new field of art is really “old shoe” for Mr. Hentschel. He ventured into air brush work way back in 1928 and his stencils and series of aquatones in that technique have had a place in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington since 1935.
His drawings and paintings, in both oils and water colors, have traveled afar to Oxford, London, Paris and even to Australia for a show at Melbourne.
He has exhibited in virtually all the major museums in this country, including Carnegie Institute, Whitney Museum in New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and he has been represented in national circulating shows and in the Western Hemisphere Show of Ceramics.
At home, he is particularly outstanding for his excellent murals in the Carew Tower Arcade, Rookwood Room of the Cincinnati Union Terminal, Bell Telephone Co. building and Western & Southern Life Insurance Building. His initials mark many choice pieces of Rookwood, for he formerly was associated with the pottery for many years and has at least 4000 works there to his credit.
Mr. Hentschel is also a well-known figure and name to hundreds of students of art, for he has taught at the Cincinnati Art Academy since 1921.

"Braying" the paint...

Not the least the Bohemian artist type in appearance, Mr. Hentschel looks more like an easy-going business man or professor.
“I’ve never gone in for smocks” Mr. Hentschel said, “I just wear regular clothes like most other folks.”
He is always eager to take a good look at his latest product away from his studio. So he hangs his new brayer paintings in the living room at his farm home as soon as they are finished. Then he decides if they really are finished.
They provide a bit of an assortment there with the antique furniture which his wife, Alza, also an artist and former teacher at the Art Academy, has collected over the years.
But “the old and the new” are an all-right-combination with Mr. Hentschel. He’s of the opinion that the abstract symbols of his new brayer works are fundamentally “antique treasures.”

--May Dearness, Cincinnati Enquirer (B&W newsprint photos, Bob Free), October 14, 1956

Kakapo, brayer print, 2/25, 27" x 23", signed LR

"Admirers of William E. Hentschel, widely known Cincinnati painter and designer, wouldn’t be surprised if the moon appeared one night with its craters revamped and newly tinted with pastel shades…Bill’s newest projects, they’d remark.
Bill Hentschel’s imagination long monumentalized by murals in many important Queen City office buildings only surprises the neophyte. But even the verteran Hentschelian will be stopped in his tracks by the artist’s new brayer paintings now on view at Closson’s Gallery…a premere [sic], incidentally.
The printer’s breyer ink roller dipped in paint is used by the artist to create swathes, half-moons, waves of color.
Waves that surge across panels bearing on their crests exotic birds elliptical Etruscan warrior dancers, Nairobi medicine-men and even an occasional Arabian Nights “roc”.

Red Bird, breyer print, 165/447, 29" x 26", signed LL

The colors—and sometimes you wonder if Hentschel dips his brayer in vagrant rainbows—are never apologetic. Scarlets and greens jostle elbows, yellow-browns leer at inky blacks. Chromatic delirium, you might say.
But it is his birds that hold your attention the longest. No ordinary birds, of course, snared with Mayan hunters’ nets or wizards from the land of Exotique. My favorite is Ibis, or is it Ibises? These flame-red, long-legged birds could exist only in a dream aviary if Audobon had been captured by Barbary pirates and fed hasheesh he might have depicted such birds."

--Henry Humphries, Music and Art Critic, Cincinnati Times-Star, September 28, 1956.
[Text reconstructed from near illegible archival original.]

Images: Cincinnati Public Library Newspaper Archive, Cincinnati Modern 1930/90 CAG, 2000, Parade of Discovery, Duke Gallery, 1987

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Mural Vanishes

"Back in the seventies I helped Alza Stratton Hentschel move to Lexington Ky from Burlington Ky. and heard a few stories. There were boxes and boxes of Rookwood/ Kenton Hills Pottery and glazing information that I packed. I knew this info was extremely valuable but any time I inquired about [it] to Mrs.Hentschel she became guarded to the point of hostility. Her only relative I saw was her mother whom Alza called "bright eyes". She never spoke a word but had these very intense blue eyes. My three days with her proved ...different? She remained guarded during my employ…We talked of art mostly. She was indeed a wonderful painter as well as she showed me some of her work. I was working in ceramics at the time so we established rapport right away. Any discussion of Billy’s work brought an immediate change in her personality. I thought she may have had mental problems because of her swift changes in mood. Now I think she may have just been a lonely old woman with her memories and a genuine mistrust of everyone."

 —Email from an online reader, December 9, 2005

“In 1951, commissioned to create a mural for a three-story stairway in the Western and Southern Life Insurance Building, Billy painted the 20’ x 99’ work on canvas panels at home, with Alza’s assistance, and then installed it in the stairwell. Entitled “Joys of Living,” his only painted mural, the panels portrayed a surrealistic parade of dancers, musicians, acrobats, harlequins and other fantastic figures ascending toward a quiet garden where a solitary stone cherub perched on a pedestal, pouring an endless stream of water into a tranquil, flowing fountain…Billy wrote to a former pupil who had become an interior designer in New York City....”I painted seriously for a few years and exhibited here and there; but the conviction that a painting should be made available to a person who loved art through some other means than the icey [sic] gallery led me to make these new things...”

--Parade of Discovery: The Works of William E. Hentschel 1892-1962, Don Wellman, 1987

The Western & Southern 'Temple' and Charles F. Williams

“Cincinnati friends of William Ernst Hentschel, long-time instructor at the Cincinnati Art Academy and Cincinnati pioneer in at least two media of artistic expression, learned just yesterday that their associate had died Monday at the Norton Infirmary, Louisville, after a long illness…Born in New York in 1892, Mr. Hentschel came to Cincinnati in his youth. He taught at the Art Academy from 1921 until his retirement in the mid-1950s. He had exhibited works in many places in this country and had done murals for the Carew Tower Arcade, the Rookwood Room of the Union Terminal, the Cincinnati & Suburban Bell Telephone Co. and the Western & Southern Life Insurance Co. buildings. He also had designed for Rookwood Pottery…”

--Cincinnati Enquirer, June 21, 1962

“Services for William E. Hentschel, 70, artist, designer and instructor at the Cincinnati Art Academy for 27 years, were held today at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home, Lexington. He died Tuesday in Louisville, Ky…During his stay in Cincinnati he painted the murals for the Carew Tower Arcade, the Rookwood Room of the Union Terminal, the Cincinnati and Suburban Bell Telephone Co. and the Western and Southern Life Insurance Co. He also was a designer for the Rookwood Pottery.
As a pioneer in cubist expression, he was one of the first to use the airbrush as an artist’s tool. Some of his airbrush work is exhibited in the Smithsonian Institute. He also developed multiple stencils as a mode of expression of modern feeling.
His last exhibition was in January 1962 at the Town Club.”

--Cincinnati Post and Times-Star, June 21, 1962

Detail, Joys of Living, photos of maquette, undated

Charles F. Williams, Chairman of the Board of the Western & Southern Life Insurance Co. and widely known philanthropist, died early yesterday at his home near Forestville…He assisted the late Archbishop John T. McNicholas in founding the Institutum Divi Thomae in 1935 and supplied funds necessary to put it into operation. He also was one of the organizers of Sperti, Inc., formed to manufacture products developed by the Institutum.
Mr. Williams was chairman of the 1932 Community Chest Campaign, general chairman of President Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration for Cincinnati and Hamilton County; a former President of the Cincinnati Property Owners Association; a trustee of the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts; director and trustee of Rookwood Pottery and a past President of the Civic Opera Association…”

--Cincinnati Enquirer, September 12, 1952

"It was said that Mrs. Williams, as executrix, would during her lifetime, indicate which institutions are to benefit from his estate. Williams has five children, Mrs. Elizabeth W. Kyte, Mrs. Margaret W. Herschede, Charles M. Williams, president of the insurance firm, William J. Williams and James R. Williams.”

--Cincinnati Times-Star, September 26, 1952

‘Charles F. Williams, noted Cincinnati philanthropist, didn’t leave an estate of millions as many persons believed, relatives said Tuesday.
Mr. Williams…had given away the bulk of his vast fortune to charities many years ago.
The $379,012 [or $3,280,842.29 in 2012 dollars] listed on his inventory was all he had left relatives said…

--Cincinnati Post, October 7, 1952

Hentschel's handwriting in pencil on reverse of maquette photos.

"Still checking at W&S regarding the mural you are asking about. W. J. Williams has no recollection of this mural. He is 93 years old and has been there many, many years. Can you tell me what the subject matter of the mural was. This may help jog someone's memory."

--Williams spokesperson replying to Blogger inquiry about mural, April 23, 2009

Another area of mural...

"The Cincinnati Art Museum’s archives have several black and white photographs of what I imagine is a study (maquette) for the work…Pencil notations on the photos’ reverse sides in Hentschel’s hand ID the images as photos of his mural for Western & Southern.
An obscure but detailed biography of Hentschel published in an exhibition catalog by a defunct Michigan art gallery in the late 80s (Parade of Discovery) contains the best print description of the mural and its installation by Billy and his wife, Alza...The artwork is credited on Hentschel's undated resumes and in a dated brochure for Hentschel's November 30 to December 30, 1951 retrospective exhibition at the J. B. Speed Art Museum in Louisville, documents held in the CAM’s archive are also mentioned in Mr. Hentschel’s June 21, 1962 obituary in the Cincinnati Enquirer and an October 14, 1956 Enquirer feature story.
It is my belief that the mural was commissioned by Charles F. Williams and its installation and/or lifespan inside the 4th & Broadway building could have been hampered or halted altogether by the death of Mr. Williams on September 11, 1952…I have talked with a custodian, however, who says he remembers another older coworker talking about the mural and the special tiles in the staircase that connected the lobby with an employee lounge/cafeteria on the 3rd floor.
I cannot imagine the mural was destroyed but, of course, the possibility in 58 years of time exists…If the mural is not still stored in some W&S property it could have been donated to a group or institution or it could have been cut down into smaller and more manageable sizes and sold or distributed.
I’d be grateful for any scrap of information no matter how small regarding this painting.
I look forward to further emails. I’m always available to answer any question you may have…"

--Blogger to Williams spokesperson, April 26, 2009, 10:40 PM

Contradictory statement in an undated, handwritten resume...

"We have checked with all the older guards at W&S that do all the rounds and no one recalls the mural. We have checked with the individual that stores all furniture, etc. and he has no recollection. I'm sorry but we cannot be of any further help."

—Williams spokesperson, April 28, 2009, 11:47 AM

The fountain goal in Joys of Life...

"I appreciate your efforts in pursuing this matter with current W&S employees and simply responding to my inquiries.
My goal is not to be a burden.
Among the small group of people interested in the history, artifacts and people associated with Cincinnati’s Rookwood Pottery, the fact of a Western & Southern mural by William Hentschel is taken for granted as an element of the published record even if no one, it appears, has ever laid eyeballs on it.
The mural’s fate, or its lack of one, will, I assure you, be news to these people.
I talked with a man described to me as a “custodian” who reported having a conversation with “an older custodian” who remembered the stairway and painting.
However, I’ve also talked with a few other older, long-term W&S employees and these people had no memories of stairway or mural.
I perfectly understand that 58 years can be an eternity.
However, the intersection between Cincinnati’s business community and its artistic one over the latter 19th and entire 20th century is of tremendous interest to historians.
Certainly everything I’ve read and heard about Charles F. Williams suggests a man deserving of a wider historical recognition.
An impartial read of the limited public record and a basic knowledge of human motivation suggests the mural commission within a year of Mr. Williams' death was an attempt to leave a more lasting public cultural imprint to survive the unforeseen social, political and business convolutions of the 1950s and 60s…Certainly, Mr. Hentschel felt this way.
I was hoping, with the images I sent, that, in addition to present day employees, you might be able to make inquiries or point me toward younger members of the Williams family who may have some recollection of family lore and artwork…I didn’t expect present day employees to relate in any way to the Art Museum archive images I transmitted to provoke, or “jog” as you wrote, memories in Williams family members or ancient, retired employees or executives.
Additionally, I would be very grateful for access to any material related to the relationship between Mr. Williams and Mr. Hentschel that may still exist in family or company files.
Also, as annual reports tend to showcase artwork and or styles favored by company leaders, I’d be interested in looking at any such material produced by W&S from the 1951 and 52 time periods.
The present published record, while limited, includes Hentschel’s W&S mural among Cincinnati’s artistic treasures.
The mural’s fate, lost or found, for good or ill, should, without speculation, be a part of that record.

—Blogger to Williams spokesperson, April 28, 2009, 2:24 PM, No reply

NOTE--The existance of the Cincinnati Bell mural, identified in news accounts from the 1950s as ceramic, is also in doubt. The mural would have been installed in the 7th Street HQ in downtown Cincinnati. All requests and contact efforts over many years have been rebuffed by Bell company employees with one exception. This employee was happy to assist and volunteered the information that a book had been assembled of Cincinnati Bell's art collection and "given to just about everyone". This employee promised to send a copy of the book to me, he said, "plenty of extra copies" exist but a copy was never forthcoming and repeated calls to this person were not returned.

Images: Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Public Library Newspaper Archive, Flickr, Rachel Davis Fine Arts