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Bowers Museum Opens Exhibition of Art from Anaheim

By Michael Buss, 2013-11-25

We can only be profoundly grateful that the magnificent art collection of Dr. Howard Knohl does not forever remain cooped up in his home in Anaheim Hills but make various forays into local museums and art galleries for us all to see.

Last year Dr. Knohl had a splendid exhibition of Victorian art, priceless matchboxes and swordsticks at the Muzeo. Now he has just released some of his works to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

No matter that Santa Ana is a sister OC city, the grand opening last week was a lovely event attended by many well-known Anaheim leaders and art buffs. Dr. Knohl was present himself both to answer technical questions and to enjoy the company of friends.

Romantic Period

The pictures all come from what many term the Romantic period of English art. Artists were leaving behind the more classical forms of portrayal and exploring new vistas overseas and delighting their audiences with landscapes, scenes and snapshots of historical events that left people breathless with wonder about places they never imagined.

Industrial Revolution

This mid-nineteenth century period was also the time of the Industrial Revolution, when men who were completely remote from royalty and aristocracy were coming into money on account of their factories and entrepreneurial skills, and saw no reason why they should not also fill their houses with art. These nouveau riche therefore had their families, pets and houses painted in oils every bit as much as the more landed gentry.

The collection at the Bowers is beautifully laid out. Large wall panels introduce the visitor to the period and the forces that shaped that age. Each individual piece is mounted complete with its own explanation – generally a sentence or two about the artist, then an insight into the painting itself.

Here, for instance, is Napoleon being depicted in a perfectly orchestrated propaganda piece as a calm, compassionate, commanding hero bestowing comfort to a seriously wounded soldier. You see the surgeon above, left, wiping his hands after the amputation;  yet strangely we see no blood on the poor soldier’s bandaged stump. Other amputees sitting in the background. Napoleon himself is bathed in light not unlike a saint or savior with miraculous powers to heal.

On the Emperor theme here is also Napoleon crossing the Alps. It is a response to a very theatrical portrait in which Napoleon sits on a great rearing stallion. More likely he made the crossing like this – on the back of a tired mule, bedraggled an cold. In fact the artist, Paul Delarouche, made five copies of this scene which hang in such locations as the Louvre and Buckingham Palace. This is the only version that remains in private hands. To gaze upon it, to meld into the spirit of the artist and his subject, is to shiver with wonder that right here, in the Bowers Museum just a few inches away, is a painting of such compelling power.

Enchanted

Now these are only two. The gallery contains paintings enough to keep the visitor enchanted for well over an hour before perhaps taking a break in the gift shop, or the elegant dining room at the Bowers.

If you go – look out for the scene in which invaders of a foreign city captured all the local cats and used them as ammunition against the defenders! This is a visit well worth making.



 

 

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