Portland has had a robust arts community for generations. It’s collectors we lack. I estimate currently artists outnumber buyers of art at least 100 – 1. Those are rough odds.

Portland’s first collector and a generous character was Henry Waldo Coe, died around 1925. A public psychiatrist he owned a madhouse – Morningside Hospital – out in rural East Portland where he provided some sort of sanctuary to Alaskan Native Americans. (No publicly financed mental health services were available in Alaska until statehood in 1956.)

Coe bought many works of art for Portland. The Lincoln by George Fite Waters, the Roosevelt, by Phimister Proctor in the Park Blocks, the Washington, by Pornpeo Cappini on Sandy Blvd, and the Sacajawea in Washington Park by Alice Cooper. And as an unusual memorial for vets returning from Europe, he bought this Jeanne d’Arc, Maid of Orleans from the studio of Emmanuel Fremiet, died 1910.

Original? Coe traveled, his Portland neighbors didn’t. Originality wasn’t important. Nah – 100 years ago if it also set in a Parisian square, it was good.

Place des Pyramides, Paris.

You can buy a poster.

There’s one in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, bought and donated about the same time. Nine copies are extant. Kinda like the Lichtenstein Brushstrokes deal at the PAM.

Here’s a nice one at the Museum d’Orsey.

This one in New Orleans. There are more.

Portland’s Joan has recently been terribly gilded by RACC, paid for in part by a grant from the Save Our Sculptures!, part of the National Institute for Conservation. I had to wait for a cloudy day to take pictures of it. The gleam is shockingly bright and dazzling. Not pleasant. Neighbors complained. Kids put pumpkins on her head and stole the flag.

She’s not situated well either. Sitting in a traffic circle, surrounded by beeping cars, this Joan is hard to see with more than a glance. Like many of Portland’s artworks, there are barriers. No parking for a block in any direction, then complicated traffic to jump through – no crosswalk. Once you clamber up to the pedestal, she’s still high out of reach, fenced by rose bushes.

But just look at her – up close!


Determined, feminine, fantastical, strident, bewitched, commanding. The horse is magnificent. Her firm face, female form, flowing scarf and flag, all excellent form. She doesn’t have anything to do with WWI, or really anything in the context of Oregon, but a slim connection to the cultural home of Paris, of Napoleon III, of civilization. This piece of Portland artwork is well-worth time and effort to see closely.

And – it’s a thoughtless tragedy this public artwork has been so badly handled, both in surrounding it with physical barriers and damaged by “restoration.” Thoughtless.

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