PICTURE STUDY

Old Master Reproductions and the Picture Study Movement in Kansas

The Beginning of Picture Study

Reproductions played an important role in art collecting by Kansas schools. From the 1870s through the late 1920s, copies of artworks by figures such as Jean-François Millet, Rosa Bonheur, and George Inness were an integral part of school enhancement and teaching.

Described initially as “Picture Decoration,” the movement began to be referred to in the 1890s as “Picture Study,” or “art appreciation,” to highlight its emphasis on integrating art into curriculums. Historic Western art by the European “Old Masters” dominated acquisitions, with a handful of American figures, such as landscape painter Inness, recommended to teachers by education theorists.

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Kansas was particularly influenced by Picture Study. Publishing houses persuaded numerous schools, from Meade in the southwest to Marysville in the northeast, to stage “picture” exhibitions and use entrance fees to acquire reproductions for classrooms.

When McPherson’s inaugural exhibition was organized in 1911, it relied on reproductions. But Birger Sandzén, Carl Smalley, and, later, New Deal art project administrators, believed that children should also have access to “originals,” in part to encourage them to become patrons of contemporary American art.

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Bonheur’s The Horse Fair teems with energy. The animals for sale move along Paris’s tree-lined Boulevard de l’Hôpital amid groomers, dealers, and prospective buyers. The artist spent more than a year sketching at the Parisian horse market, dressing as a man to discourage attention. Her first painting of the scene drew wide acclaim when it appeared at the Paris Salon of 1853. 

Reproductions of Bonheur’s market scene were especially popular among schools. Education specialist Ida Harris, writing in 1899 for The Perry Magazine, noted, “[W]hy place before the children a common chromo card to illustrate animal life, when we can have access to reproductions from such masters as …. Bonheur … for the study of horses.” 

Frameable renditions of The Horse Fair came into schools in Kansas communities such as Fredonia, Holton, and Anthony, as purchases, class gifts, and, in one case, a spelling bee prize. These examples from McPherson and WaKeeney’s former Valley School, a one-room schoolhouse, demonstrate the range of adaptations of Bonheur’s dynamic image.

ARTIST

After Rosa Bonheur
Born 1822, Bordeaux, France
Died 1899, Thomery, France

OBJECT

The Horse Fair, 1852–55
Lithograph of painting after original oil on canvas, ca. 1935

18 7/8 x 22 5/8 in. (frame)

CREDITS

Trego County Historical Society Museum, WaKeeney, Kansas

ARTIST

After Rosa Bonheur
Born 1822, Bordeaux, France
Died 1899, Thomery, France

OBJECT

The Horse Fair, 1852–55
Photogravure of engraving after original oil on canvas, ca. 1910

19 ¾ x 33 5/8 in. (frame)

CREDITS

McPherson USD 418, on loan to McPherson Museum

ARTIST

Simon Glücklich
Born 1863, Bielsko-Biala, Silesia, Poland
Died 1943, Munich, Germany

OBJECT

Evening Song (Spring Melody) (Boy with Recorder), 19th century

Art publisher, Ludwig Möller, Lubeck, Germany, 1920s
Photogravure of original oil on canvas

24 5/8 x 19 5/8 in. (frame)

CREDITS

Winfield Public Schools, USD 465 Foundation

ARTIST

Simon Glücklich
Born 1863, Bielsko-Biala, Silesia, Poland
Died 1943, Munich, Germany

OBJECT

Spring Song, 19th century

Art publisher, Ludwig Möller, Lubeck, Germany, 1920s
Photogravure of original oil on canvas

24 5/8 x 19 5/8 in. (frame)

CREDITS

Labette Community College, Parsons

OBJECT

The Copley Prints
1915 sales catalogue 
Curtis & Cameron, Boston, publisher

CREDITS

Kansas State University, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, library collection

OBJECT

The Copley Prints
1911 sales catalogue
Curtis & Cameron, Boston, publisher

CREDITS

Private collection, promised gift to McPherson USD 41

OBJECT

Gilt Edge School Series Composition Book
John Newton, 3rd Grade
Lawn Ridge Elementary School, Whiting, 1928-1929 

CREDITS

Private collection

John Newton’s grade school notebook is filled with assignments to write about paintings by American and European artists. This pasted-on image may have been cut from a sales catalogue like that issued by Curtis & Cameron, or it may be a “penny picture” sold through The Perry Magazine. 

In a 1914 report for the U.S. Office of Education, Royal Bailey Farnum remarked on the attractiveness of “penny prints” to children like Newton. He noted the pictures’ low cost as a particular benefit to American schools: 

Small pictures are much more easily handled, and they may be mounted and preserved with written work in the form of a school booklet. Furthermore, the expense of obtaining wall sizes of the total number of pictures usually studied would eliminate such a procedure in the average school. 

Kansas Participants for To the Stars Through Art kansasparticipants

Rosa Bonheur, The Horse Fair, 1852-55, oil on canvas, 96 ¼ x 199 ½ in., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Cornelius Vanderbilt, 1887, 87.25