Catalogue of Expressionist Pictures

Catalogue of Expressionist Pictures

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Excerpt from Catalogue of Expressionist Pictures: By Members of the Chicago Literary Club Exposed in the Club Rooms, Monday Evening, February 28, 1898 and Not to Be Spoken of Elsewhere Lest the Dignity of the Club Be Derogated

Away with them all. Oblivion yawns for them, and because of them we also yawn. Sic Hamlin Garland - "our Ham," as Armour fondly calls him. Has not his voice once and for all told us that here in this new world we are to find our own subject-matter for literature? Not outworn myths, not fantastic romances, but themes from the life about us. That the "salt estranging sea" has freed us from the old world; and not merely this, but that the Alleghany Mountains have cut the west off from the east, that we of the middle west are to grow our own literature on our prairies, to find it in the cottages of our western towns, to discover it germinating in Chicago's streets, plethoric of plot and more prolific of incident than our lake is of bacteria. And the summation of this doctrine is that poetry is the idealization of the actual (i.e., of the commonplace), and that literature is the offspring of the local. Wherein "our Ham" treads very close on the heels of Mr. Matthew Arnold, who said, "Literature is the criticism of life." But Ham would rather be switched than be told this, for, if there is one thing that he despises more than another, it is such second-hand and fossilized culture as is cherished at Rugby and Oxford.

Nor is it less true that sculpture and painting are proper media for the expression of the commonplace and the local. To the spiritually initiate the good is seen beneath the uncouth, and beauty coyly walks in homely garb. The new world hath her own charms awaiting only the anointed eye. Oh, most sapient Teufelsdrockh! Here or nowhere is our America, if we could but see! If Italy has her Tiber, has not Chicago also her perfumed river? If Rome has the ruins of her Colosseum, has not Chicago the fresher ruins of its own? If Athens has its crumbling Parthenon, has not Chicago its county building?

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