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Chapter 16

  • The art world of New York is peculiar. It was then and for some time after,
  • broken up into cliques with scarcely any unity. There was a world o_culptors, for instance, in which some thirty or forty sculptors had part—bu_hey knew each other slightly, criticised each other severely and retired fo_he most part into a background of relatives and friends. There was a paintin_orld, as distinguished from an illustrating world, in which perhaps _housand alleged artists, perhaps more, took part. Most of these were men an_omen who had some ability—enough to have their pictures hung at the Nationa_cademy of Design exhibition—to sell some pictures, get some decorative wor_o do, paint some portraits. There were studio buildings scattered abou_arious portions of the city; in Washington Square; in Ninth and Tent_treets; in odd places, such as Macdougal Alley and occasional cross street_rom Washington Square to Fifty-ninth Street, which were filled with painters,
  • illustrators, sculptors and craftsmen in art generally. This painting worl_ad more unity than the world of sculptors and, in a way, included the latter.
  • There were several art clubs—the Salmagundi, the Kit-Kat and the Lotus—an_here were a number of exhibitions, ink, water color, oil, with thei_eception nights where artists could meet and exchange the courtesies an_riendship of their world. In addition to this there were little communa_roups such as those who resided in the Tenth Street studios; the Twenty-thir_treet Y. M. C. A.; the Van Dyck studios, and so on. It was possible to fin_ittle crowds, now and then, that harmonized well enough for a time and to ge_nto a group, if, to use a colloquialism, one _belonged_. If you did not, ar_ife in New York might be a very dreary thing and one might go a long tim_ithout finding just the particular crowd with which to associate.
  • Beside the painting world there was the illustrating world, made up o_eginners and those who had established themselves firmly in editorial favor.
  • These were not necessarily a part of the painting or sculpture worlds and yet,
  • in spirit, were allied to them, had their clubs also, and their studios wer_n the various neighborhoods where the painters and sculptors were. The onl_ifference was that in the case of the embryo illustrators they were to b_ound living three or four in one studio, partly because of the saving i_xpense, but also because of the love of companionship and because they coul_earten and correct one another in their work. A number of such interestin_roups were in existence when Eugene arrived, but of course he did not know o_hem.
  • It takes time for the beginner to get a hearing anywhere. We all have to serv_n apprenticeship, whatever field we enter. Eugene had talent an_etermination, but no experience, no savoir faire, no circle of friends an_cquaintances. The whole city was strange and cold, and if he had no_mmediately fallen desperately in love with it as a spectacle he would hav_een unconscionably lonely and unhappy. As it was the great fresh squares,
  • such as Washington, Union and Madison; the great streets, such as Broadway,
  • Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue; the great spectacles, such as the Bowery a_ight, the East River, the water front, the Battery, all fascinated him wit_n unchanging glamor.
  • He was hypnotized by the wonder of this thing—the beauty of it. Such seethin_asses of people! such whirlpools of life! The great hotels, the opera, th_heatres, the restaurants, all gripped him with a sense of beauty. Thes_ovely women in magnificent gowns; these swarms of cabs, with golden eyes,
  • like monstrous insects; this ebb and surge of life at morning and evening,
  • made him forget his loneliness. He had no money to spend, no immediate hope o_ successful career, he could walk these streets, look in these windows,
  • admire these beautiful women; thrill at the daily newspaper announcements o_lmost hourly successes in one field or another. Here and there in the news a_uthor had made a great success with a book; a scientist with a discovery; _hilosopher with a new theory; a financier with an investment. There was new_f great plays being put on; great actors and actresses coming from abroad;
  • great successes being made by débutantes in society; great movements forwarde_enerally. Youth and ambition had the call—he saw that. It was only a questio_f time, if you had talent, when you would get your hearing. He longe_rdently for his but he had no feeling that it was coming to him quickly, s_e got the blues. It was a long road to travel.
  • One of his pet diversions these days and nights was to walk the streets i_ain or fog or snow. The city appealed to him, wet or white, particularly th_ublic squares. He saw Fifth Avenue once in a driving snowstorm and unde_puttering arc lights, and he hurried to his easel next morning to see if h_ould not put it down in black and white. It was unsuccessful, or at least h_elt so, for after an hour of trying he threw it aside in disgust. But thes_pectacles were drawing him. He was wanting to do them—wanting to see the_hown somewhere in color. Possible success was a solace at a time when all h_ould pay for a meal was fifteen cents and he had no place to go and not _oul with whom to talk.
  • It was an interesting phase of Eugene's character that he had a passion fo_inancial independence. He might have written home from Chicago at times whe_e was hard pressed; he might have borrowed some money from his father now,
  • but preferred to earn it—to appear to be further along than he was. If anyon_ad asked him he would have said he was doing fine. Practically he so wrote t_ngela, giving as an excuse for further delay that he wanted to wait until h_ad ample means. He was trying all this time to make his two hundred dollar_o as far as possible and to add to it by any little commissions he could get,
  • however small. He figured his expenses down to ten dollars a week and manage_o stay within that sum.
  • The particular building in which he had settled was really not a studi_uilding but an old, run-down boarding and apartment house turned partially t_ses of trade. The top floor contained three fair sized rooms and two hal_edrooms, all occupied by lonely individuals plying some craft or other.
  • Eugene's next door neighbor chanced to be a hack illustrator, who had had hi_raining in Boston and had set up his easel here in the hope of making _iving. There were not many exchanges of courtesies between them at first,
  • although, the door being open the second day he arrived, he saw that an artis_orked there, for the easel was visible.
  • No models applying at first he decided to appeal to the Art Students' League.
  • He called on the Secretary and was given the names of four, who replied t_ostal cards from him. One he selected, a young Swedish American girl wh_ooked somewhat like the character in the story he had in mind. She was nea_nd attractive, with dark hair, a straight nose and pointed chin, and Eugen_mmediately conceived a liking for her. He was ashamed of his surroundings,
  • however, and consequently diffident. This particular model was properl_istant, and he finished his pictures with as much expedition and as littl_xpense as he possibly could.
  • Eugene was not given to scraping odd acquaintances, though he made friend_ast enough when the balance of intellect was right. In Chicago he had becom_riendly with several young artists as a result of working with them at th_nstitute, but here he knew no one, having come without introductions. He di_ecome acquainted with his neighbor, Philip Shotmeyer. He wanted to find ou_bout local art life from him, but Shotmeyer was not brilliant, and could no_upply him with more than minor details of what Eugene desired to know.
  • Through him he learnt a little of studio regions, art personalities; the fac_hat young beginners worked in groups. Shotmeyer had been in such a group th_ear before, though why he was alone now he did not say. He sold drawings t_ome of the minor magazines, better magazines than Eugene had yet had dealing_ith. One thing he did at once for Eugene which was very helpful: he admire_is work. He saw, as had others before him, something of his peculia_istinction as an artist, attended every show and one day he gave him _uggestion which was the beginning of Eugene's successful magazine career.
  • Eugene was working on one of his street scenes—a task which he invariabl_ssayed when he had nothing else to do. Shotmeyer had drifted in and wa_ollowing the strokes of his brush as he attempted to portray a mass of Eas_ide working girls flooding the streets after six o'clock. There were dar_alls of buildings, a flaring gas lamp or two, some yellow lighted sho_indows, and many shaded, half seen faces—bare suggestions of souls an_ulsing life.
  • "Say," said Shotmeyer at one point, "that kind o' looks like the real thing t_e. I've seen a crowd like that."
  • "Have you?" replied Eugene.
  • "You ought to be able to get some magazine to use that as a frontispiece. Wh_on't you try _Truth_ with that?"
  • "Truth" was a weekly which Eugene, along with many others in the West, ha_dmired greatly because it ran a double page color insert every week an_ccasionally used scenes of this character. Somehow he always needed a shov_f this kind to make him act when he was drifting. He put more enthusiasm int_is work because of Shotmeyer's remark, and when it was done decided to carr_t to the office of _Truth_. The Art Director approved it on sight, though h_aid nothing, but carried it in to the Editor.
  • "Here's a thing that I consider a find in its way."
  • He set it proudly upon the editorial desk.
  • "Say," said the Editor, laying down a manuscript, "that's the real thing,
  • isn't it? Who did that?"
  • "A young fellow by the name of Witla, who has just blown in here. He look_ike the real thing to me."
  • "Say," went on the Editor, "look at the suggestion of faces back there! What?
  • Reminds me just a little of the masses in Doré stuff—It's good, isn't it?"
  • "It's fine," echoed the Art Director. "I think he's a comer, if nothin_appens to him. We ought to get a few centre pages out of him."
  • "How much does he want for this?"
  • "Oh, he doesn't know. He'll take almost anything. I'll give him seventy-fiv_ollars."
  • "That's all right," said the Editor as the Art Director took the drawing down.
  • "There's something new there. You ought to hang on to him."
  • "I will," replied his associate. "He's young yet. He doesn't want to b_ncouraged too much."
  • He went out, pulling a solemn countenance.
  • "I like this fairly well," he said. "We may be able to find room for it. I'l_end you a check shortly if you'll let me have your address."
  • Eugene gave it. His heart was beating a gay tattoo in his chest. He did no_hink anything of price, in fact it did not occur to him. All that was in hi_ind was the picture as a double page spread. So he had really sold one afte_ll and to _Truth_! Now he could honestly say he had made some progress. No_e could write Angela and tell her. He could send her copies when it came out.
  • He could really have something to point to after this and best of all, now h_new he could do street scenes.
  • He went out into the street treading not the grey stone pavement but air. H_hrew back his head and breathed deep. He thought of other scenes like thi_hich he could do. His dreams were beginning to be realized—he, Eugene Witla,
  • the painter of a double page spread in _Truth_! Already he was doing a whol_eries in his imagination, all he had ever dreamed of. He wanted to run an_ell Shotmeyer—to buy him a good meal. He almost loved him, commonplace hac_hat he was—because he had suggested to him the right thing to do.
  • "Say, Shotmeyer," he said, sticking his head in that worthy's door, "you and _at tonight. _Truth_ took that drawing."
  • "Isn't that fine," said his floor-mate, without a trace of envy. "Well, I'_lad. I thought they'd like it."
  • Eugene could have cried. Poor Shotmeyer! He wasn't a good artist, but he had _ood heart. He would never forget him.