Paul Chabas . . . and "September Morn"

A one page article summarizing the history of Comstock's painting. The article appears in the June 1958 issue of Photography Portfolio. Photography Portfolio claims to be a magazine focusing on photography, but the articles are often merely the alibi for Playboy-like images of nude and semi-nude women.
Paul Chabas . . . and "September Morn"
By G. W. Service

When Anthony Comstock, self-styled keeper of the keys of U. S. morals blasted Paul Chabas' "September Morn", a painting of a young sixteen year old French Blonde standing nude in the shoreline waters of Lake Annecy near Switzerland, by calling it "lewd and indecent" in 1913, little did he know then that some day this sought-after masterpiece would hang in the galleries of the New York Metropolitan Museum. Nor did he think then that this gem would be valued at $30,000. Comstock said that Chabas was corrupting the morals of the world, and that there was "too little morn and too much maid."

That single event probably was the chief cause of Chabas' going from almost obscurity that 1910 summer morning to the respect and stature he now enjoys among world artists of all time. Chabas, a Paris painter had a young girl pose in the nude, standing the cold waters of the lake. The girl's reaction to the chilled water caused her to assume the protective position which Chabas captured in his oil. The name of "September Morn" was given the canvass because it was on a morning in September that he had completed it . . . 1912, just five years before we entered World War I.

When "September Morn" was shown at a Paris salon that year, it won recognition as an academic triumph. However, it did not attract any cash customers. Nevertheless, Chabas did not lose faith in his work, and at the advice of a friend, sent the painting to the United States where rich patrons of the art were in quest of new works. And when Comstock put the "curse of condemnation" on the picture, he opened the way for its becoming the talk of New York. The painting was reproduced on calendars, post-cards, candy boxes, suspenders and cigars. The more it was exposed, the more it was a target for suppression. At one time, postcards of this gentle and delicate nude were suppressed by moralists who brought pressure on the U. S. Mail authorities, not to permit it to go through the mail.

With nothing but ridicule and debasement of the painting facing him, Paul Chabas ordered it sent back to Paris. There, Chabas got a customer who paid $10,000 for it . . . a Russian who took it to Moscow where it was exhibited. During the Russian Revolution, the picture disappeared but later showed up in a Paris gallery. Art critics have labelled this work as "delicate", "innocent", "gentle", "beautiful" and "charming". It has an inherent quality of the sweetness of youth, and of a naturalness that seldom is evident in other works of art. To even the most discriminating, there is nothing objectionable or lewd about the painting. For those who have not enjoyed the experience of seeing the original, a trip to the Metropolitan will be very rewarding. It will be discovered that what once was a topic of vaudeville jesters is now a world-renowned work of distinctive art.

Dublin Core

Title

Paul Chabas . . . and "September Morn"

Subject

September Morn
Paul Chabas
Anthony Comstock

Description

A one page article summarizing the history of Comstock's painting. The article appears in the June 1958 issue of Photography Portfolio. Photography Portfolio claims to be a magazine focusing on photography, but the articles are often merely the alibi for Playboy-like images of nude and semi-nude women.

Creator

G. W. Service

Source

Photography Portfolio

Publisher

Sigroc Publishing Co.

Date

1958-06

Format

Magazine, 11 by 8.5 inches, 36 pages.

Language

en

Type

Text

Contribution Form

Document Item Type Metadata

Text

Paul Chabas . . . and "September Morn"
By G. W. Service

When Anthony Comstock, self-styled keeper of the keys of U. S. morals blasted Paul Chabas' "September Morn", a painting of a young sixteen year old French Blonde standing nude in the shoreline waters of Lake Annecy near Switzerland, by calling it "lewd and indecent" in 1913, little did he know then that some day this sought-after masterpiece would hang in the galleries of the New York Metropolitan Museum. Nor did he think then that this gem would be valued at $30,000. Comstock said that Chabas was corrupting the morals of the world, and that there was "too little morn and too much maid."

That single event probably was the chief cause of Chabas' going from almost obscurity that 1910 summer morning to the respect and stature he now enjoys among world artists of all time. Chabas, a Paris painter had a young girl pose in the nude, standing the cold waters of the lake. The girl's reaction to the chilled water caused her to assume the protective position which Chabas captured in his oil. The name of "September Morn" was given the canvass because it was on a morning in September that he had completed it . . . 1912, just five years before we entered World War I.

When "September Morn" was shown at a Paris salon that year, it won recognition as an academic triumph. However, it did not attract any cash customers. Nevertheless, Chabas did not lose faith in his work, and at the advice of a friend, sent the painting to the United States where rich patrons of the art were in quest of new works. And when Comstock put the "curse of condemnation" on the picture, he opened the way for its becoming the talk of New York. The painting was reproduced on calendars, post-cards, candy boxes, suspenders and cigars. The more it was exposed, the more it was a target for suppression. At one time, postcards of this gentle and delicate nude were suppressed by moralists who brought pressure on the U. S. Mail authorities, not to permit it to go through the mail.

With nothing but ridicule and debasement of the painting facing him, Paul Chabas ordered it sent back to Paris. There, Chabas got a customer who paid $10,000 for it . . . a Russian who took it to Moscow where it was exhibited. During the Russian Revolution, the picture disappeared but later showed up in a Paris gallery. Art critics have labelled this work as "delicate", "innocent", "gentle", "beautiful" and "charming". It has an inherent quality of the sweetness of youth, and of a naturalness that seldom is evident in other works of art. To even the most discriminating, there is nothing objectionable or lewd about the painting. For those who have not enjoyed the experience of seeing the original, a trip to the Metropolitan will be very rewarding. It will be discovered that what once was a topic of vaudeville jesters is now a world-renowned work of distinctive art.

Original Format

Magazine, 11 by 8.5 inches.

Citation

G. W. Service, "Paul Chabas . . . and "September Morn"," in September Morn Archive, Item #27, http://septembermorn.org/items/show/27 (accessed October 17, 2019).