SEMINOLE DREAMS OF FLORIDA PAST,

Paintings by Eugene Francis Savage (1883-1978)

(and drawings by Eugene Savage too)

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Seminole Siesta, 1935, 30 by 30 inches, oil/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), South Miami, 1936, 20 by 20 inches, oil/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Orchid Hunters, 1935, 32 by 29 inches, oil/board

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         Eugene Francis Savage was born in Covington, Indiana 1883. He underwent various forms of art training in his youth.  He studied at the Corcoran Gallery and the Art Institute of Chicago, and was later awarded a fellowship to study in Rome at The American Academy. While under the spell of that ancient city the young artist began to render historic figures that were suitable for the classic style needed for mural painting in the traditional manor.  During this period he was able to study and observe Roman and Greek sculpture, although much of the academic training was accomplished by using plaster casts along with the incorporation of live models.  This method survived and was used efficiently throughout Europe and the United States.
         After leaving the Academy, Savage was commissioned to paint numerous murals throughout the United States and Europe. This artist received acclaim for the works he produced while under commissions from various sources.  This young master was a contemporary of Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) and Diego Rivera (1886-1957).  In this period he was to show the influence of his contemporaries in formulating a modern style.  Savage also played a vital role in the WPA Federal Art program, and he was a member of the Mural Art Guild.
         After getting a B.F.A. from Yale University in 1924, later that same year Savage was elected an associate member of The National Academy of Design and two years alter in 1926 he was made a full National Academician. In 1935-1936, 1939, 1950, 1953 and 1954, the artist focused his attention on a theme that dealt with the customs and tribal traditions of the Seminole Indians of Florida. Savage's depiction of the Seminole attire is considered extraordinarily accurate and it was based upon first hand obtained clothing samples his descendants still have today. The bright clothing of the Seminoles, particularly that of the women, is extraordinarily colorful, consisting of small bright patches of colored cotton sewn together in a quilt like fashion. It was thought by some that at the turn of the century almost all of the Seminole homes had human powered Singer Sewing machines with which they made these colorful garments.
       Not all of the Seminole contact with modern America went so well or was so pretty to look at. In the 1930's even the slow to action Federal government started to pay attention to the depredations that the Florida land boom and development had on the Seminole nation, particularly on the Everglades, as it flushed out a native population that had been pretty much in hiding since the Seminole Wars of the 1840's. By then the waterways and swamp foliage cover which had served them so well started to disappear as lakes were drained and trees cut down. While there were supporters of an Everglades National Park in the 1930's efforts to buy land and preserve areas from development by Congress were stalled by critics who called the proposed legislation
the "alligator and snake swamp bill," and so the full bill stalled during the Great Depression and World War II. It was in that temporal context of 1935-1936 that Savage painted and widely exhibited: Biscayne Holiday, 1935, Draining the Everglades, 1935, and Destitution, 1935. It can be inferred that simultaneous efforts, which included Seminole Siesta, South Miami and the Orchid Hunters, were meant to show the Seminoles in a more pristine "Garden of Eden" like setting before the white man's intrusion and/or what life for them might be like after an Everglades National Park finally got established. However it wasn't until December 6, 1947, that President Harry S Truman dedicated the Everglades National Park.
  
   Eugene Savage would return to Florida, as s
ometime around 1953 he was a visiting fellow at taught as a Professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He would return to his Seminole theme from before but the pictures were usually modest scale easel paintings, precise and carefully delineated. Many of these pictures incorporate Surrealistic elements and show some minor stylistic influences of the painters Kay Sage (1886-1957) and Yves Tanguy (1900-1955). Many of Savages' artistic portrayals of Seminole culture could be considered Dreamscapes with models and elements are often composed in a stage-like setting. From 1927, he held a professorship at Yale University where he taught mural painting, and some of his students went on to significant positions.
     
By mid twentieth century, the artist had painted large-scale murals at Columbia, Yale University, Buffalo N.Y., Dallas, Texas, Chicago, Indiana, along with other commissioned works. His largest work may be the mosaic at the Epinal American Memorial in Epinal, France, a massive work which is said to be fully four times the size of  a recently rediscovered study for the mosaic which measures 45 by 162 inches. He also achieved recognition for a series of murals commissioned by the Matson Shipping Line and completed around 1940.  For this commission, Savage made many exacting studies of customs and folkways of the Hawaiian natives. However, the award-winning murals were not installed as planned but were put in storage during the war years when the ships were used for troop transportation and were in danger of attack. However the mural images were reproduced and distributed by the shipping company including nine of the mural scenes that were made into lithographed menu covers in 1948. The American Institute of Graphic Arts awarded certificates of excellence for their graphic production, and the Smithsonian Institute exhibited the works in 1949. Today Savages' Hawaiian Art production is held in high regard by collectors of Hawaiian nostalgia, while the Seminole images have only just begun their reexamination and rediscovery.

  

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Draining the Everglades, 30 by 30 inches, oil/board. Exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, 1936.

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Biscayne Holiday, 36 by 36 inches, oil/board. Exhibited at the National Academy of Design, NY, NY, 1936.

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Destitution, 30 by 30 inches, oil/board

 

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Key Largo and the Everglades, 30 by 21 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Everglades, 21 by 30 inches, oil/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Cypress Colonnade, 30 by 21 inches, oil/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Crosswinds, 12 inches across, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Caprice, 12 inches, across, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Elegiac, 27 by 24 inches, oil/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Cypress Trail, 13 by 21 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Study for the Orchid Hunter, 13 by 13 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Everglades Great Cypress Lagoon, 14 by 27 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Orchid Trail, 13 by 13 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Everglades, Agitation, 21 by 27 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), The Everglades, Largo, 17 by 11 inches, oil/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Cypress Colonnade, 17 by 11 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Near Lake Trafford, Everglades, 22 by 36 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), Disowned, 14 by 13 inches, oil/canvas/board

Eugene Savage (1883-1978), The Outcast, 21 by 27 inches, oil/board

(and drawings by Eugene Savage too)

 

Art sites Also by Alexander Boyle:

Guide to where the Hudson River School Painted

Bright Lights, Safe Harbors, Painted Images of American Lighthouses

First Review of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), Nov. 22, 1825

Thomas Cole in the Upper Schoharie watershed of the Catskills

Frederic E. Church (1826-1900)

Master-list of Herman Herzog (1832-1932)

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) and Houghton Farm, Mountainville, NY

John F. Peto (1854-1907), The Studio in Island Heights, NJ

Biography of Eugene Francis Savage (1883-1978)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) rediscovery   

Abstract Expressionist Joseph Grippi (1924-2003)   

Alvin Loving (1935-2005)

The Outside Art of Nobihoru Yamauchi

E-Mail Alexander questions about these artists or any fine art work in general