ORIGIN STORIES

Gladys L. Bate and the Wichita Schools Collection

Early Collecting in Wichita Schools

The Wichita public school district’s art collecting was inspired by Progressive-Era education campaigns to expose American students to fine art by enhancing the school environment and providing “moral uplift” and better learning. From the late 1800s and into the 1910s, the district’s high school newspaper reported on classroom purchases of “pictures,” or reproductions of art, often noting their positive impact: “The good conduct of the pupils in Room 5 is accounted for by the sanctifying influence of most of the pictures” (1902).

 

Gladys Bate's Influence

The arrival in 1919 of a singular art teacher marked the beginning of a formal program of art collecting and exhibitions at Wichita High School. Gladys Bate was a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago who had taught in Manhattan, Kansas. In her first year she worked with the League of Women Voters to install art reproductions throughout the school. In 1921 she produced an exhibition that included WWI propaganda posters by Gerrit A. Beneker. Soon after, the student body purchased Beneker’s The Lumber Schooner (at right), believed to be the first original oil painting acquired by the Wichita schools.

"Better Homes Institute" Philosophy from Ross Crane

The high school students who raised money to buy this painting did so because of a challenge from Ross Crane of the Art Institute of Chicago. As part of the museum’s “Better Homes Institute,” Crane arrived in Wichita in 1919 to lecture on the merits of good design in homes and civic spaces. His circuit included Wichita High School, where he offered to donate an original painting if students would purchase another. Two years later WHS pupils had successfully raised funds for this oil, in part by giving up movie going, making instead “picture show pledges.” 

The pastel colors and calm waters in Beneker’s impressionistic view of a harbor belies some darker associations with the vessel he shows tied to a dock. The schooner carries a shipment of wood from a Northeast industry that at the time ravaged forests and polluted rivers. The milled wood was also playing a crucial part in the ongoing world war as a material for fighting vessels. “Our shipyards,” the artist wrote in 1919, “[were] perhaps the one industry on which, more than on any other, depended the rapid winning of the war.” 

ARTIST

Gerrit A. Beneker
Born 1882, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Died 1934, Truro, Massachusetts

OBJECT

The Lumber Schooner, 1916
Oil on canvas

15 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.

CREDITS

Wichita Public Schools, USD 259, East High School, on loan to the Wichita Art Museum

ARTIST

Gerrit A. Beneker
Born 1882, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Died 1934, Truro, Massachusetts

OBJECT

Sure! We’ll Finish the Job, 1918
Offset lithograph

36 x 24 ½ in.

CREDITS

Wichita Art Museum, C. A. Seward Memorial Collection, 2017.23.85

"Better Homes Institute" Philosophy from Ross Crane

Beneker evinced in his work and writings a strong sympathy for the American laborer. He believed factory workers and other Americans might benefit from exposure to the fine arts to soothe the “barbarian” effects of WWI. During the war Beneker earned attention for paintings used in military propaganda posters that celebrated workers’ indirect role in the fighting.

Gerrit A. Beneker, 1915, Gerrit A. Beneker papers, 1869–1972, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, item ID 3320

ARTIST

B. J. O. Nordfeldt
Born 1878, Tullstorp, Sweden
Died 1955, Henderson, Texas

OBJECT

Girl Holding a Flower, ca. 1930
Oil on canvas

31 ¾ x 25 ¾ in.

CREDITS

Wichita Public Schools, USD 259, East High School, on loan to the Wichita Art Museum

ARTIST

Kenneth Miller Adams
Born 1897, Topeka, Kansas
Died 1966, Albuquerque, New Mexico

OBJECT

Young Man with Straw Hat, ca. 1938–1950
Oil on canvas

30 1/8 x 24 1/8 in.

CREDITS

Wichita Public Schools, USD 259, East High School, on loan to the Wichita Art Museum

ARTIST

Walter Ufer
Born 1876, Louisville, Kentucky
Died 1936, Santa Fe, New Mexico

OBJECT

Two Girls, 1928
Oil on canvas

30 ¼ x 36 in.

CREDITS

Wichita Public Schools, USD 259, North High School, on loan to the Wichita Art Museum

ARTIST

William Dickerson
Born 1904, El Dorado, Kansas
Died 1972, Wichita, Kansas

OBJECT

A Road in the Country, 1947
Lithograph

7 ½ x 10 in.

CREDITS

Wichita Public Schools, USD 259, East High School

Dickerson is known for his quiet Kansas landscapes, though in this road scene dark clouds encroach. A farmhouse seems to hunker down in anticipation of inclement weather. 

 Dickerson graduated from Wichita High School during the early 1920s. He drew cartoons for the school publications. The “In Ten Years from Now” section of the 1924 yearbook noted: “William Dickerson lists that his favorite distraction is drawing, and he hopes to be an artist.” 

 As an established artist in Wichita, Dickerson hosted high school students in his studio and introduced them to lithographic printmaking. He served as an instructor of printmaking at the School of the Wichita Art Association and later became the institution’s director. 

ARTIST

C. A. Seward
Born 1884, Chase, Kansas
Died 1939, Wichita, Kansas

OBJECT

Harvest Afternoon, 1924
Lithograph

9 x 12 1/8 in.

CREDITS

Wichita Public Schools, USD 259, East High School

Seward displays his skilled use of darks and lights to bring forth a landscape. The medium is lithography, which allows one to draw freely with crayons, brushes, or other tools on the plate. Seward wrote a guide on the method, which he practiced as a commercial and studio artist.

 Seward engaged schools throughout his career as an officer of organizations that circulated art to educational institutions. He co-founded the Prairie Print Makers with a group of Kansans that included Birger Sandzén, Arthur W. Hall, and Norma Bassett Hall. Seward also revived the Kansas Federation of Art in 1932 with artists Paul Weigel and John Helm, Jr., both faculty at K-State.

 Seward collaborated with Wichita High School art instructor Gladys Bate on programs and exhibitions for the city’s schools. He appears to have brokered the high school’s purchase of Gerrit Beneker’s The Lumber Schooner, as well as the school’s acquisition of works by Walter Ufer of Taos, New Mexico, and Benjamin C. Brown of Pasadena, California.

ARTIST

Gustave Baumann
Born 1881, Magdeburg, Germany
Died 1971, Santa Fe, New Mexico

OBJECT

The Day of the Deer Dance, 1919
Woodcut

19 ¼ x 21 ¾ in.

CREDITS

Wichita Public Schools, USD 259, East High School

ARTIST

After Harunobu Suzuki
Born 1724, Edo, Japan
Died 1770, Tokyo, Japan

OBJECT

Osen of the Kagiya, re-carved 1900–1930, after original of ca. 1769
Woodcut

10 3/16 x 7 5/16 in.

CREDITS

Wichita Public Schools, USD 259, Robinson Middle School

Japanese color woodblock prints of the Edo period (1600-1860) are generally categorized as ukiyo-e, or “Pictures of the Floating World.” These prints feature actors, courtesans, geisha, teahouse waitresses, and other denizens of the leisure quarters popular with the merchant classes. The waitress Osen was a recognized beauty (bijin) who could be found at the Kagiya teahouse near the Kasamori Inari Shrine in Edo, the capital city now known as Tokyo.  

 This example is a re-carved copy of the original Harunobu woodblock, which had included the name of the teahouse, the waitress, and a sign that indicated this tea shop was a refreshment stop convenient to the pilgrimage site. The twentieth-century copy may have been distributed by New York’s Shima Art Company, which loaned exhibitions of ukiyo-e prints and modern re-creations to educational institutions. If visitors wanted to purchase works from the exhibition, the host institution earned a 25% commission.

Advertisement for traveling exhibition of Shima Art Company prints, ca. 1939  

http://shotei.com/publishers/shima/history.htm 

Kansas Participants for To the Stars Through Art kansasparticipants