Orison Swett Marden.

Little visits with great Americans; or, Success ideals and how to attain them online

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extraordinary degree of comprehension and receptivity,
due to his American blood.

Mr. Abbey has scholarly ability and intense applica-
tion, but they would have availed him little if they had



Edwin Austin Abbey

not seconded a talent of the most unusual order, and
an individuality which is so personal that it may be said
of him that he resembles no other living painter. It is
only natural that he should have gained success in his
chosen line of work, for his heart has been in it from
his boyhood days. His earnest efforts have always
been appreciated both in Europe and America. Only
two seasons after he went to live in England, he was
elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in
Water Colors. In 1889, he received a first-class medal
at the Paris Exposition, and, in 1896, he was honored
by an associate membership in the Royal Academy.
Two years later he was received into full membership,
though John R. Sargent, his fellow-countryman, had to
wait three years. Mr. Abbey was honored by King Ed-
ward VII with a commission to paint the coronation
scene in Westminster Abbey, and by the Pennsylvania
legislature with a commission to decorate the new
state capitol at Harrisburg.

A MOST INTERESTING STUDIO.

During a recent trip to England, I determined to
visit Mr. Abbey, and obtain from him some message
for his young countrymen who are beginning where he
began thirty years ago. He has a beautiful country
house known as Morgan Hall, in Gloucestershire, an
attractive English county. In this house is the largest
private studio in the whole country, built especially for
the preparation of the Boston Library decorations,

312



Illustrator and Decorator

which Mr. Abbey recently completed. It measures
twenty-five by fourteen yards, and has a high ceiling.
In this room I observed a number of great easels, for
Mr. Abbey usually has several pictures in progress at
one time, but they occupied only a fraction of the space.
It would be hard to imagine a studio more perfectly
equipped for work. Great tapestries hung from heavy
frames, not for ornamentation, but for study; carved
oak doors and panels were Vesting against the walls,
and scattered everywhere were casts of curious archi-
tecture. Priceless armor was displayed on every side,
and along the walls were a number of canvases which
had been used for studies, or paintings which had not
been completed. There were chests filled with velvets,
brocades and silks of various ancient periods. All these
things are accessories of Mr. Abbey's craft and nothing
more. He uses them in working out the details of his
historical paintings. There were trestles full of elabor-
ate studies and half-finished drawings standing about,
and, tacked upon the walls were photographs of pic-
tures of many interesting periods.

Mr. Abbey has also a vast collection of costumes.
They are of all periods, and one might suppose himself
in the stock room of some great theater. All these cos-
tumes help in depicting the dress worn at some great
event which the artist desires to put upon canvas. Mr.
Abbey is very accurate and careful in his work, and has
never been challenged in any details of fact, of costume,
of architecture, or of accessory. It must not be sup-



Edwin Austin Abbey

posed that any of these costumes and decorations are
copied in the paintings ; they are merely suggestions for
invention.

Mr. Abbey's industry and energy are prodigious, so
that I was quite prepared to find him at work when I
visited his studio. Although the artist has lived abroad
for many years, he is thoroughly American in his per-
sonality, and I might have been talking with him at a
Philadelphia studio, instead of in the heart of England.

HE WAS NOT A PRECOCIOUS BOY.

"There was nothing at all extraordinary about my
boyhood," he said, in answer to a question. "I was
very much like other boys, perhaps less promising than
most. I remember that my parents complained be-
cause I was unable to fix my ambition upon any single
profession, and they urged that I must have some defi-
nite aim in life. When I appeared unable to decide for
myself, they undertook to decide for me and to formu-
late plans for my future. They suggested that I enter
the ministry, but I had an instinct which told me that
I was fitted for no such career. I told them then that
art offered a greater attraction, and they were willing
that I should begin studying. I entered the Academy
of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and was delighted with
my undertaking from the very beginning.

"Of course I was interested in all that pertained to
art, and especially in drawing in black and white. I
read all publications which printed work of this sort,

3H



Illustrator and Decorator

and especially 'Punch' and 'The Graphic,' so that they
had no inconsiderable share in my instruction in the
use of a pencil. I used to observe the styles of the dif-
ferent artists and study the best in each.

"In 1871, my father suggested that it was time to
decide whether or not I was to earn my livelihood as
an artist, and I decided that it should be my life-work.
I was fortunate in obtaining employment in the art
department of Harper and Brothers, in New York City.
I was only nineteen years old at the time, and was filled
with enthusiasm over my work. I was anxious to learn
as much as possible, and Harper's was an excellent
place for me. I was given a great variety of work, and
received every encouragement for earnest effort. Every
improvement in my drawings was appreciated. Several
boys who worked with me at that time have since be-
come famous in the art world, notably Reinhart and
Alexander. Even the boys who swept out the ofifice
were gaining an excellent start, for one of them has
since become one of the most famous Franco- American
painters, practicing in Paris."

HIS WORK WAS ENCOURAGED.

"My first published drawing represented the demoli-
tion of the Vendome Column in Paris by the French
Commune, and I shall never forget my pleasure at see-
ing it in 'Harper's Weekly.' It doesn't matter how old
we get, we're sure to remember our first appearance.



Edwin Austin Abbey

I received many congratulations for my effort and con-
tinued my work with enthusiasm.

"The young artists in Harper's offices were given
all sorts of subjects to do, pictorial, illustrative and
reportorial, and this variety has been of the utmost
value to me. There was one sort of work, however,
that I preferred above all others. When only a lad I
fell in love with the classic literature of England ; Gold-
smith was always one of my favorite authors, and
whenever I had spare time I devoted it to illustrating
some of the stories that I had read. I was especially
fond of English history, so you can imagine my de-
light when it was decided that I was to illustrate the
works of Herrick for 'Harper's Monthly,' with a view
to ultimate publication in book form.

"It was then that I first came to England. I thought
it advisable to live for a time in the English country,
and I settled for two years in one of the most pictur-
esque districts of Worcestershire. I need not tell you
that I enjoyed that visit, and, when I returned to Amer-
ica, in 1880, it was only to remain eight months and to
arrange my affairs so that I could return here. Al-
though I had lost none of my regard for the land of my
birth, I felt that, if I was to draw pictures from Eng-
lish history, England was the place for me to live in, so
here I have been ever since, save for occasional jour-
neys to America and the Continent."

Mr. Abbey breathed a sigh of relief as he finished the
narrative of his early days. "But this doesn't bring you

316



Illustrator and Decorator

up to date," I said, "and the most interesting story is
about what you've done since." But the artist shook
his head. "It's simply a record of steady work," he
said; "you already know about the chief paintings I
have done in late years."

"Of course," I said, "you are doing nothing now but
painting in oils ?"

"That's all," replied Mr. Abbey, "and my contracts
will prevent me from doing any other kind of work in
the near future. I didn't begin painting in oils until I
had been working many years; the 'Mayday Morn,'
my first exhibit, was not shown until 1890. It seems
quite the usual thing for artists to take up oils after
they are known chiefly by black and white or water
colors."

HE ALWAYS TAKES PAINS.

"It is well known that you spend much time in pre-
paring the subjects of your paintings," I said, "but
there aren't many artists who worry about the technical
details as you do."

"I won't say that I worry about them," replied Mr.
Abbey. "An artist should study for his profession just
as a man should prepare for the law or medicine, and
should never consider that natural ability is all that he
requires for success; He should have a knowledge of
architecture and sculpture as well as of the principles
of drawing; in short, he should carefully learn what
may be called 'the grammar of his profession.'



Edwin Austin Abbey

"When I am to paint a subject which is mythologi-
cal, I am at pains to absorb the atmosphere of the
period, and to learn something of the geography in
which the legendary figures moved. I visit the scene
of the story, obtain every picture which will give me a
knowledge of the dress of the period, and I am not
satisfied until I have exhausted every possible source
of information. It is well known that Sir Frederick
Leighton constantly refreshed his mind and memory
by visiting the classic scenes of his paintings.

"Some artists have been known to go so far as to
paint a scene as an artist living in the period of the
story would have painted it. I regard this as rather
extreme. It is well to have the details perfect, but
modern art has some advantage of technique and color
which are not to be despised. I would not have you
believe that technical efficiency is the greatest essential
in an artist's qualifications, only it is a valuable asset
when added to natural ability and earnestness of pur-
pose."

PERSISTENCE AND HARD WORK COUNT.

Mr. Abbey has invariably practiced what he advises
other artists to do. Before beginning the decorative
paintings for the delivery room of the Boston Library,
he spent many months traveling in Italy, collecting
information which might aid him in the paintings of
the Holy Grail. But in the end he decided that the
scene should not be in Italy at all, and his effort went

3^8



Illustrator and Decorator

for nothing, as far as that particular series was con-
cerned. He spent four years of unsurpassable toil,
study and application in completing the first five of the
pictures, and when they were done the public was not
slow to appreciate the effort he had evidently put forth.
Mr. Abbey could not have chosen a subject more wor-
thy of his talent. He has confidence in his ideas of
what is best in art, is full of mediaeval feeling, and is
endowed, — in spite of his sunny, hopeful temperament,
— with an appreciation of the tragedy underlying so
much of human life. In historical pictures, he con-
siders no toil too great to make sure of accuracy, and
his university training has been of the greatest assist-
ance to him in his work.

"No artist can be too well educated," he said, during
my conversation with him ; "every bit of information is
sure to be of use to him sooner or later, in one painting
or another.

"I am glad," he said, "if I can encourage anyone to
hard work, for surely that is the chief aid to success in
any career. The young person who believes that an
artist's life is a bed of roses, and that he needs only to
ply the brush a few hours each day, is mistaken. He
must be scholarly by nature, must have a wide and
minute acquaintance with art, and must never consider
that he has learned it all if he hopes for lasting fame. I
might add that he must also have earnest convictions
regarding his work, and the courage to carry them out.
Given these qualifications, combined with talent, of



Edwin Austin Abbey

course, any person should succeed as well in the field
of art as in any other profession, providing he is will-
ing to give a reasonable time to study and -preparation.
Although the world may call him master, the true artist
will never regard himself as other than a student."



320



XXX

A School Girl, Not Afraid of Drudg-
ery, Becomes America's Fore-
most Woman Illustrator.

IN the heart of Philadelphia's great business quar-
ter, on lower Chestnut street, there stands a five-
story, red brick building which is about as re-
served looking as Philadelphia business struc-
tures can be, and before which, in the street below, the
tide of traffic rumbles and clatters and clangs from
early morning until night. It doesn't look much Hke a
place where a person could be free enough from noise
and other distractions to exercise a fine artistic taste.

Yet it was here, I was informed, that Alice Barber
Stephens had her studio, and to this I was bound.
Mrs. Stephens takes rank with A. B. Frost, Howard
Pyle, A. B. Wenzell, C. D. Gibson and others, and
there are those who put her before several of these.
I remember looking over a book of her drawings,
published by some New York house, entitled "The
American Woman in the Home," and admiring ex-
ceedingly the gentle, refined appearance of the mothers,
the excellent sedateness and sympathetic beauty of the

321



Alice Barber Stephens

young married daughters, and the quiet modesty of the
girls in these pictures.

You would say, looking at these drawings, "Here is
a plain, commonplace, genuine person, who illustrates."
She has swept, sewed, performed the duty that lay
nearest. You can see it in the sketches. She paints
because she likes to, and as well as she can. She has
no thought of immortality, nor imagines that she will
be hailed as a marvel, but simply believes it is well and
interesting to do good work.

Considering these things, I made my way one after-
noon up several flights of stairs, — artists must have the
sky-light, you know, — to a door labeled A. B. Stephens,
which was opened by a tall, slender, reserved-looking
woman, who smiled as she admitted that she was Alice
Barber Stephens. After a sentence or two of explana-
tion, an invitation was extended to enter.

ART IGNORES NOISE.

It was as if one had dropped a stage curtain upon the
rattling, excited scene without. Comfortable chairs
were scattered about. Screens and tall bric-a-brac
cases of oriental workmanship divided spaces and filled
corners. A great square of sunshine fell from a sky-
light, and in one corner a Dutch clock slowly ticked.
The color of the walls was a dull brick red, and against
them stood light brown shelves, holding white and blue
china vases, jugs and old plates. Sketches in ink, wash
and color were here and there on the wall, and in one

322



Illustrator and Art Teacher

place a large canvas showing Market street, Philadel-
phia, near City Hall, on a rainy day, gave a sombre yet
rather pleasing touch.

Mrs. Stephens had returned to her easel, on which
was a large sketch in black and white, showing a young
rake, with his body bent forward, his elbows resting on
his knees, his face buried in his hands, — the picture of
despair. Some picture for a novel it was, the title of
which might easily have been "The Fool and His
Money."

"You won't mind my working," said Mrs. Stephens,
and I hastened to explain that I wouldn't, and didn't.

She put touches here and there on the picture, as we
talked of women in art, and the conversation did not
seem to distract her attention from the work in hand,
which advanced rapidly.

girls' chances as illustrators.

"Don't you believe it is easier, to-day, for a young
girl to succeed in illustrating than it is for a young
man ?"

"Well, possibly," she answered. "Neither girl nor
boy can succeed without aptitude and the hardest kind
of work, but girls are rather novel in the field, and
their wor1< may receive slightly more gentle considera-
tion to begin with. It would not be accepted, how-
ever, without merit."

"Hasn't the smaller remuneration which women ac-



Alice Barber Stephens

cept something to do with the popularity of the woman
illustrator ?"

"Very little, if any," she answered. "I find that
women are about as quick, perhaps more so, than men,
to demand good prices for clever work, although they
have less of the egotism of men artists."

"You judge from your own case," I suggested.

"Not at all. I never possessed cleverness. It was
need and determination with me, and I can honestly
say that all I have gained has been by the most earnest
application. I never could do anything with a dash.
It was always slow, painstaking effort ; and it is yet."

"Do you ever exhibit?" I asked.

"No," said Mrs. Stephens, "not any more. There
was a time when I had an ambition to shine as a
painter, and as long as I had that ambition I neither
shone as a painter nor made more than a living as an
illustrator. I made up my mind, however, that I was
not to be a great woman painter, and I decided to apply
myself closely to the stronger, illustrative tendency
which fascinated me. From that time on my success
dates, and I am rather proud now that I was able to
recognize my limitations."

"Did you find that in marrying you made your work
more difficult to pursue ?" I ventured, for her interest-
ing home life is a notable feature of her career.

"I cannot say that I did. There is more to do, but
there is also a greater desire to do it. I love my boy,
and I take time to make his home life interesting and



Illustrator and Art Teacher

satisfying. When he was ill, I removed my easel from
the studio to a room adjoining the sick-chamber at the
house, and worked there."

HOW SHE BEGAN.

Her instinct for art seems to have been a gift direct.
As a very little girl her facility with the pencil de-
lighted her teachers, and after the regular exercises of
the day she was allowed to occupy her time drawing
whatever fancy or surroundings might suggest. At
seven years of age her parents removed to Philadel-
phia, and there the young artist encountered school
regulations which rather debarred her from following
her beloved pastime. But her talent was so pronounced
that one day in every week was allowed her in which
to attend the School of Design — an arrangement that
continued until she entered the grammar school.

A few years later she became a regular student at
this School of Design, where she took a course of wood
engraving, but did not relax her study of drawing. As
an engraver she became so successful that her work
soon became remunerative, and gave her means to
enter the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. At the
same time her progress as an engraver was so marked
that her efforts were brought to the attention of the art
editor of "Scribner's Magazine," for whom, to illus-
trate an article on the academy, she engraved the
"Woman's Life Class," from her own drawing. Soon
her drawings gave her a reputation, and she abandoned



Alice Barber Stephens

engraving. Her first published drawings were for
school-book illustrations, from which her field widened
and her work came into great demand.

In 1887 she was married and spent ten months
abroad, studying for a part of the time in Paris in the
school of Julien and of Carlo Rossi, devoting the re-
mainder of her stay in travel. Upon her return she
was prevailed upon to become an instructor in the
Philadelphia School of Design, where she introduced
life-class study, which has met with marked success.



326



XXXI

A Schoolboy's Sketches Reveal the
Bent of a Talented Illustrator.

FREDERIC REMINGTON'S drawings and
paintings of ranch life are so full of action and
so vigorously drawn that they have attracted
attention all over the United States and abroad,
wherever true art is honored. No living artist can
equal Remington in bringing into life, as it were, on
the very canvas, a bucking broncho, or the sweeping
charge of a force of Uncle Sam's cavalry. One fairly
sees the dust on the scorching alkali plains, and hears
the quick clatter of the horse's hoofs as he strikes the
ground, and gathers his legs again.

And yet, with all his success, Mr. Remington is most
unassuming. I went to New Rochelle, where he has a
cosy place on the crest of a hill. He was in his studio,
which is an addition to the house ; and, as I descended
a few steps, he rose from before his easel to greet me.
His working coat was covered with paint, and he held
a brush in his left hand. He had not been warned of
my mission, and seemed almost startled.

"I cannot shake hands,'' he said, looking at me,
"mine are soiled ; I am a painter, you know."



Frederic Remington

He sat down, hanging one arm over the back of his
chair.

"Don't write about me, but speak of my art !" said
Mr. Remington.

"But you and your art are one," I replied, looking
around the studio, and to its walls hung with Indian
relics. "Most of your pictures are from experiences
of your own in the great far west, are they not?"

"Yes, but not all," was the reminiscent reply.

"And those trophies?" I added, glancing at them.

"O, I bought most of them. That jacket I bought
from a mounted policeman. Pretty, isn't it? I am
able to depict the western country and life, because I
have been there."

remington's schoolboy effects.

"When did you first take up art?"

"I studied some art at the Yale Art School, and a
little at the Art League. When I was a schoolboy, I
was forever making sketches on the margin of my
school-books, but I never really studied it much,
although my dream was to be an artist. At nineteen, I
caught the fever to go west, and incidentally to become
rich. That was my idea ; art came second. I ranched
it, and got into Indian campaigns. I have always been
fond of horses and out-of-door life, and I got plenty of
it there, with every opportunity to study the rough life,
the lay of the country, and the peculiar atmosphere."

"Mr. Remington," I asked, "how do you get that

328



The Artist of the Plains

'devil-may-care' look in the faces of your cowboys and
soldiers ?"

His face lighted up, and a deep twinkle came into
his eyes. He glanced across the room at just such a
picture as I had described. He took his pipe out of his
mouth and laid it on the window sill.

remington's attention to detail.

"Kipling says that, 'a single man in a barrack is not
a plaster saint,' and that is about it. That cavalryman
posed for me on his horse. But not all of my work is
from life. I go west for three months every year, and
gather a lot of sketches and then work them up. Those
color sketches there, — a chief and his daughter, — are
from life. You see I was able to get all the color.
Yet I like to depict white men best; they are more
interesting."

My eyes rested on an unfinished picture, toward
which, every now and then, Mr. Remington turned a
thoughtful gaze as if trying to think of something. It
was a birch-bark canoe, with a figure at either end ;
the water was smooth, and the shore was wooded. One
person in the motionless canoe was fishing.

"Is that from memory?" I asked of the artist.

"Partly," he said, with a smile. "I used to see a
good many photographs of trout fishing in the Adiron-
dacks ; lines taut, and then hurling a trout through the
air, to land it in the canoe. So once I thought I would
try it myself. I went up there and fished for two weeks



Frederic Remington

in the rain. I am trying to think how to make the rain
appear to strike and bounce from the water. You know
how water looks when it is raining," — ^and there came
into his face a thoughtful and studious look, showing
how carefully he weighed every detail of his work.

Mr. Remington rises early, has breakfast at seven,
and works until three, when he takes his customary
horseback ride across the country.

"Do you work from inspiration ?" I asked.

"I do not know what you mean, exactly. I must
have a study in my mind, and then I work it out.
Some mornings I can do but little; but I am kept ex-
ceedingly busy with constant orders to fill, besides
illustrating my own articles."

HOW HIS WAR PICTURES ARE MADE.

"That painting of the charge of the Rough Riders
up San Juan hill, and your other Cuban pictures, must
have been interesting work."

"I saw Roosevelt just before but not during the
charge. But when you see one, you see all. The
fighting to-day is done in long, thin lines ; the solid
formations are no longer used. It makes too great a
target. You are never out of range, for the bullets


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Online LibraryOrison Swett MardenLittle visits with great Americans; or, Success ideals and how to attain them → online text (page 18 of 20)