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.