What does The Park (Robert Allerton Park) and the Boston Public Library have in common? The answer: Puvis de Chavannes.
Have you visited the Boston Public LIbrary. The murals by the great French artist, Puvis de Chavannes were painted in his French studio on canvas to detailed measurements by the building’s architect, McKim (later McKim and White).
The panels were then installed by an assistant in 1895. The artist was 78 at the time of the creation of this mural masterpiece.
These are the only Puvisde Chavannes murals in the United States.
The Art Institute of Chicago owns the de Chavannes painting entitled “The Sacred Grove.” Although for an undetermined length of time, it was installed at Allerton House in the Pine Room.
The archives contain a 1955 letter written by Robert Allerton requesting an indefinite loan of this painting for Allerton House. it is difficult to imagine this masterpiece hanging in the paneled conference room subject to open windows and summer humidity, dry cigarette smoke, and all the unprotected people traffic that milled through the House during those years – Art Camps, 4-H, Home Extension, Garden Groups. At first reading of this archived letter, the reader can not conceive of the Art Institute granting this request. But the ephemera proves otherwise.
The Sacred Garden by Puvis de Chavannes is back at the AIC as part of its rotating collection. According to the oral biography of Richard Pratt, architect and colleague of John Gregg while employed with the architect David Adler, it was commonplace for Directors and Members of the Art Institute of Chicago Board to borrow items from the AIC stores. Adler borrowed many architectural pieces to have them copied in his workshop for future use in his interior design.
A visit to the Boston Public Library is well worth the time to visit. Not only are the de Chavannes spectacular visions to grace the grand entrance to the Library, but the library artwork in another wing includes equally spectacular murals by John Singer Sargent. But that’s for another posting, since there is a stretch of a connection between Robert Allerton and John Singer Sargent.