A century of sculptors Art: Maryland Institute's Rinehart School of Sculpture has been creating them since 1896.

June 15, 1996|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Potted palms and period photographs of smock-gowned students provide the perfect ambience for "Rinehart 100: The Figurative Tradition (1896-1996)" at the Maryland Institute, College of Art's Fox Building. There, William Henry Rinehart's 19th-century marble sculpture "Atalanta," with its flowing gown, personifies the age-old tradition of the human figure that held sway in sculpture for thousands of years, until well into our own century.

A block away, down the hill at the Institute's Mount Royal Station Building, turtles made of plastic Tide detergent bottles, a rock encased in lead, a sailboat made with a crutch and wire shoes floating in solid acrylic blocks populate the companion show "Rinehart 100: The Contemporary Years (1961-1996)."

Together, these two exhibits -- or really two parts of one exhibit -- commemorate the centennial of the institute's Rinehart School of Sculpture, a respected and selective graduate school founded in 1896.

They also testify to the sea change that has taken place in sculpture during our century. And they constitute a tribute to Norman Carlberg, who has led the Rinehart successfully through that change during his 35 years as its director.

The first part of "Rinehart 100" provides a glimpse of the school's first two-thirds of a century and of the artist who provided for it in his will. William Henry Rinehart, born in Union Bridge, Md., in 1825, came to Baltimore in 1846 to pursue a career in sculpture. He won local medals, came to the attention of collector William T. Walters and by 1858 was a classical sculptor in Rome, where he spent most of the rest of his short life.

On his death in 1874, he left the bulk of his estate (which amounted at the time to about $38,000) for the purpose of "aiding in the promotion of a more highly cultivated taste for art among the people of my native State, and of assisting young men in the study of the art of sculpture who desire to make it a profession."

Originally administered by the Peabody Institute, the Rinehart School opened in 1896 and counted among its early graduates a number of artists who went on to distinguished local careers. There was Edward Berge, class of 1900, represented in the exhibit by the bronze bust of "James Russell Wheeler," and who teamed up with J. Maxwell Miller, also 1900, to create the Latrobe Monument located at Broadway and Baltimore streets. Miller was director of Rinehart from 1923 to 1933.

There was Hans Schuler Sr. (1899), one of the best-known Baltimore artists of the first half of the 20th century, represented in the show by the bronze "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and in Baltimore by multiple works including the Hopkins monument (Charles and 33rd streets) and the Sidney Lanier monument (Charles Street north of 34th Street). Schuler was also director of the Maryland Institute from 1925 to 1951.

Helen Journeay, Perna Krick Kramer and Reuben Kramer are among the other notable artists in "Figurative Tradition." So is Tylden Streett, represented by the full-length bronze "Youth"; a 1957 graduate of Rinehart, he was the school's acting director in 1960 and 1961.

The Carlberg years

He was succeeded by Carlberg, who came to Baltimore in 1961 from Yale, where he had just earned an M.F.A. There he had met Eugene W. Leake, who in 1961 was appointed president of the institute and is now credited with having brought it to the forefront of American art colleges.

Carlberg, one of Leake's first appointments, arrived at Rinehart at a pivotal moment. The long tradition of figurative sculpture was rapidly being replaced with the modernist spirit. Abstraction, minimalism, conceptualism, all the winds of postwar sculpture would blow through Rinehart in the succeeding third of a century. Carlberg, himself a creator of geometric abstractions in modular form, was thoroughly in tune with new developments in art. But one of his chief attributes as director is that he did not impose his style, or any other style, on the school. From the beginning, he sought out the best artists as students and encouraged them to go their own ways.

Rinehart is a two-year master's program which enrolls only 10 students, five a year, and customarily receives 12 or more applications for every position available. In choosing students, Carlberg says, "I look for serious works that move you as a work of art. The best thing is to see work that's exciting, by someone who's excited about being an artist. I'm not looking for fanaticism, but dedication, the intensity of having to do things.

"The school has always reflected a diverse group of individuals, with no particular strong philosophy."

It has also reflected Carlberg's gentle encouragement and the freedom he allows the students.

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