The Frick Art and Historical Center is having an exhibit of nineteenth century printed views of Pittsburgh. The prints give a wonderful picture of the early growth of the city. Coming from the amazingly flat city of Chicago I am always intrigued by the hills and valleys of Pittsburgh, particularly the changes that were made in the downtown area by leveling Grant’s Hill and using it as landfill. Both the Frick Building and the Allegheny County Courthouse were built with the expectation that Grant’s Hill, which they were built into, would be removed. The basement of the Frick Building became the first floor and the facade of the courthouse was reconfigured. Knowing this, I have tried to envision what Grant’s Hill would have looked like. I was hoping the prints would help me, but I the best picture I’ve found is here. It looks like the kind of hill I imagined as a child, something not too large rising off a flat surface. I can see where this could be completely removed. The map just below the Grant’s Hill picture shows a pond in the middle of downtown. This was probably filled in using material from Grant’s Hill. On Sunday, there was a special lecture about the show given by the curator. I was hoping he would talk mostly about the content of the prints, but he actually spoke about how so many of these views were copied and reissued without ever crediting the original creators. Copyright law was a different animal at that time.
Earlier in the week I went to the Carnegie International, a major survey of contemporary art presented by the Carnegie Museum of Art. Although I am not usually fond of contemporary art I found this exhibit quite interesting and plan to return and spend more time there. I can’t say I loved any of it, but it was intriguing and gave me a lot to think about.