Arnold Genthe Back in “Home Town”
Artist Resting Following Illness
Still pursuing that will o’ the wisp, Beauty, Arnold Genthe, adopted native son of San Francisco, was a visitor yesterday in his old “home town.”
Genthe, one of the noted photographers of the world and a pioneer in what is now known as “modern” photography, is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Alanson at their Russian Hill home. He has come here to recover from a serious illness which sent him to a New York Hospital last June on the eve of his departure on a trip to the isles of Greece.
“I escaped from that hospital to come home to San Francisco and get well,” chuckled the 68-year old artist. “My escape, perhaps, was not as difficult as that of Casanova from the prison in Venice, but it was effected over the desires of three physicians who tried to stop me. Now I see how wise I was.
“Since I have been breathing San Francisco air I have improved more in a single week than in all the months they worked over me.”
Dr. Genthe’s choice of Casanova to illustrate his “escape” from the hospital was not, perhaps, entirely without point. For, like the famed sixteenth century figure, Genthe has been noted all his life for his appreciation of feminine beauty, and it was not long before he was on the subject.
“Women! Ah, they are growing more beautiful every day, every year,” he sighed enthusiastically. “More and more they are approaching the ideal type of Grecian beauty as it has come down to us through the art of Greece.
“Their legs are becoming longer, more slender. Their waists are higher, their breasts higher. They are taking care of their bodies with sensible exercise and well-designed diets. They are becoming more and more proud of their bodies, and as a consequence are guarding their points of beauty more carefully.”
While in San Francisco, Dr. Genthe will renew his acquaintance with Chinatown, which he knew so well and photographed so thoroughly before and after the disaster of 1906. He maintained studios here from his arrival on a visit in 1895 until 1911, when he removed to New York.
“The tremendous development of the camera in recent years has been remarkable,” he observed. “Now almost anyone can take pictures, and most of them are doing it.
“But it is rather like giving a 6-year old a pistol. All these people who are taking pictures now are not photographers. These new picture magazines—on a rough guess I would say that perhaps 90 percent of the pictures being published today should have been destroyed in the dark room, before anyone but the photographer ever saw them.
“These men and women with cameras are striving for the bizarre, the unusual. They lie on their backs and shoot up. They pour light on their subjects from strange angles.
“But in striving for something that will strike the eye, that will dazzle, they forget that what a real photographer—what any real artist tries—is to capture beauty.
“They do not ask what the world will think of their pictures 20, 30, 50 years from today.”
Dr. Genthe is interested in the 1939 World’s Fair here, but regrets that warfare in the Orient may interfere with the showing of Chinese and Japanese art treasures, in which field he is a connoisseur and recognized expert.
September 29, 1937