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HE voice of the Spelling Reformer is offered a new alphabet, so dotted over with
once more heard in the land after so cabalistic signs that it may be warranted to
considerable a lapse that we thought ruin the strongest eyesight! he had forgotten all about us. This time he It really is not wise to subject even youth comes re-enforced by the Captain of Industry, to a too sudden shock to its “delicate sense who announces that he is going to "finance for visual symbols.” One would not willingspelling reform." Decidedly we must now ly arouse laughter when one is in dead earmind our Ps and Qs.
nest. Take, for instance, the case of my We have been growing careless of late. friend Justus, who felt obliged, the other day, Once upon a time we took shame to ourselves to write a letter of admonition to his graceif we made errors in spelling and we were in less nephew. Now my friend is not a spellhaste to devise excuses for our shortcomings. ing reformer, but, although a man of educa
It was a slip of the pen, we said; tion, he has always been an indifferent Some Advantages
or if we acknowledged our weak- speller, and he does by no means sit with the of Unreformed Spelling
ness we maintained that good spell- dictionary at his elbow. The double conso
ers were born, not made, and tried nant is his stumbling-block. When he sat to brazen it out in that way. Nowadays, down to write his letter he was in a severe when a high priest of spelling reform tells us frame of mind, and as he wrote his indignathat the student is no longer obliged to sit tion grew—a righteous and well-justified in“with a dictionary at his elbow” and that the dignation too; and since he does not lack a traveller need no longer “pack one with his command of concise and forcible language linen and his Bible,” we feel that we are not he did not fail to make his opinion of the called upon to be slaves to the vagaries of boy's behavior clear. The boy, who is by twenty-six letters; that it is of no consequence no means irreclaimable, found himself very whether we spell the English language cor- unhappy upon the receipt of this letter. He rectly or not; and that, in fact, so irregular and knew quite well that he had made a fool of illogical a language does not deserve any con- himself and his uncle's scorn cut deep. As he sideration at our hands—to such ease of con- read, he had a despairing sense that nothing science have we arrived. True, we are still was very much worth while any more, that no cowardly enough to anticipate criticism by efforts could make up for the past, and that saying in a casual way to whomever it may “foolishness" (how much more contemptuconcern, “You know I don't pretend to know ous a word than folly!) was more irremedihow to spell”; for nothing so disarms criti- able than sin. And then suddenly, as his cism as to confess one's sins before commit- eyes followed the lines, the tension was reting them.
lieved and he burst out laughing. For my It is doubtless a fine thing not to be obliged friend Justus, at the climax of his scorn, had to worry over a vowel put in or a consonant written “apetites” for appetites. left out, but we seem to be coming to the tites!” chuckled the boy, and after that could end of this happy, care-free period, for now bear to be told that his debts were "appalwe are to be brought up with a sharp turn. ing." Of course you and I, who have a Ironclad rules are to be laid down which, if sneaking kindness for the boy, are glad that we follow them, will give to our most serious the sting was drawn; but the effect was not and eloquent pages an appearance at once what my friend Justus intended. barbarous and would-be funny, reminding us Our friends the spelling reformers intend, of the methods of the early school of American I understand, to make their spelling conform humorists. Perhaps the only thing necessary to our pronunciation; but there seems to be is to get used to these changes; but shall we of some danger that it will be the other way the present generation ever succeed in getting about, and that long before we have got used used to them? Shall we ever be able to take to their indicatory dots and lines our prothe literature of the future seriously? Protests nunciation will have become hopelessly viticome from those who treasure that “nice and ated. Who that has heard program prodelicate sense for visual symbols which has nounced progrum can be free from this been built up through centuries”; but what apprehension? Can even the ingenious chance have we old fogies if Capital is to suggestion that the silent letters should be finance spelling? And not only is it proposed made to do their duty and that we should to give us a changed spelling, but we are even sound the final ugh avail to save us?
THE FIELD OF ART
EASTMAN JOHNSON-HIS LIFE AND tune has rewarded the efforts of many of our WORKS
painters abroad, a good fortune made the OLLAND, the country above all others more conspicuous, perhaps, by our lack of apto which art owes gratitude for the preciation of many of the same men at home.
creation and maintenance of sane Stuart's renunciation of a position hardly traditions of painting, rendered a signal ser- second to Reynolds' in order that he might vice to American art some half century ago transmit to posterity the features of Washin the solid technical training which it gave ington, Vanderlyn's success in Paris, Allsto Eastman Johnson. The education of our ton's deliberate return in the face of a strong earlier painters had been various. When probability that he might inherit the position the nineteenth century was nearing its middle and influence which Benjamin West had so period there was a general exodus of students long held in London, and Morse's turning to Düsseldorf, and it was to pursue his studies from his brilliant début abroad to found at there that in 1849 Eastman Johnson took home the National Academy of Design, are ship for Europe. The vessel on which John- all instances of Americans taking a position son sailed, bound for Antwerp, was detained in the art of the Old World that proves the at Flushing; and it is to be regretted that no trite axiom that our prophets are not without written record has been made of the story honor save in their own country. which Johnson delighted to tell, and told so This may be deliberately written even in well, of how he and his comrade, George view of what we deem here to have been the Henry Hall, who survives him—impatient successful career of Eastman Johnson, and young pilgrims desiring to plunge at once may be enregistered without bitterness as a into the promised land of art—left the vessel necessary sacrifice on the part of all those and, ignorant of the language and customs of honorable men who have laid the foundation the country, trudged on foot along the River of our present and future art. If we had Scheldt toward their goal. On their way each to-day an institution possessing the authority step revealed to their New World eyes some of the Institute of France, addressing a pubdetail filled with romance and promise, until lic sufficiently enlightened to accept the lifeafter nightfall they found themselves before work of a sincere and gifted artist as an imthe closed gates of the city of Antwerp, which portant part of the accrued intellectual wealth was then a walled town obedient to the old of our country, an exhibition might be had custom of curfew.
of the work of Eastman Johnson like those After an amusing parley in conflicting which in the year following their death gather tongues the capital of Flemish art received together a comprehensive and representative them kindly, and henceforward the art of showing of the life-work of the greater artists Flanders and Holland made so direct and of France within the galleries of the Ecole sympathetic an appeal to Johnson that his des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This summer sees sojourn in Düsseldorf was comparatively such exhibitions there of the work of Fantinbrief and its lessons had little or no visible Latour and J. J. Henner; good painters both, effect on his life-work. His earlier student but no more important to the art of their stage passed, he settled at the Hague, where country than is Eastman Johnson to ours. his success was so marked that when after an Such an exhibition would show that reabsence of long duration he determined to turning home shortly before the Civil War return to the United States, his patriotic pur- Johnson was, as Aaron Burr wrote of Vanpose was carried out in the face of a tempta- derlyn at his return (I quote from memory), tion to accept the formal proffer of the posi- “the best trained painter that is or has been tion of court painter at the Hague. It may born upon our shores.” Chronologically, be said in passing that a singular good for- the most important evidence of a higher de
'gree of technical skill in drawing, painting, handled in a manner which, technically, comand composition that any of our men at that manded the respect of those of us who had time possessed may be found in the “Old come from the schools of Paris, where the Kentucky Home," now in the Lenox Library pâte and the coup-de-brosse were held in the in New York, though a number of smaller highest esteem. His method of work was pictures, notably a “Prisoner of State,” may one known to our predecessors and esteemed have preceded this. At about the same by us, though differing from that which I period must be noted some very remarkable had myself been taught in the atelier of Carostudies and drawings made among the In- lus Duran. It was one of the warm, transpardians in the Northwest.
ent shadows sustaining lights and half-tones As he was thirty years ago so Eastman John- painted with vigor and impasto. Thomas son remained to the last. He was seventy- Couture was perhaps the best exponent of five years of age when, returning from the this method in France during the period predecorous revels by which the Century Club ceding my study there. Eastman Johnson of New York at long intervals celebrates the practised this formula of painting with exTwelfth Night, he caught sight of himself in treme dexterity, using both warm and cool a mirror. He was dressed in the costume of lights in delicate contrast to half-tones of a Dutch burgomaster, his ruddy face emerg- pearl and cool gray, the whole backed by ing from a “cartwheel” ruff. It was three warm, rich, luminous shadow painted transo'clock in the morning, but as he himself parently. This method of painting, in the told the story, the effect of light under the hands of a man who was a practised draughtsgas tempted him, and procuring a canvas, he man, gave a means of expression which only then and there painted from his reflection in required to have back of it a mind in touch the glass until dawn, producing a spirited with humanity and of high ideals to produce portrait that many of his younger contem- works of art above the average, and such poraries could well envy, and that more than were the works of this artist. In telling the one of the old Dutch masters could regard stories of our American people, both in New with an approving eye. A full-blooded, England and the South, he never descended honest painter, close kin to a great and virile into the trivial, he was never simply anecrace, when the time comes that present ac dotic. The art conveyed to the canvas alcomplishment shall have triumphed over ways prevailed over the simple story. The false and temporary fashion, and it is recog- work of the painter was dominant. Be it in nized that we must honor our own men, his “The Glass with the Squire" or in the “Corn place will be assured.
Husking," one felt the merit of the man who WILL H. Low. handled the brush above the sentiment of the
subject, and it is this quality in Eastman The example set by Eastman Johnson, Johnson's work that makes me glad to write both as a man and an artist, is one worthy of him as an artist. He tells his story in a of the consideration of all artists.
strong and forceful manner, unheeding the As a painter he has for many years stood clamor for detail and triviality. Such have among us, acknowledged both by the men of been the characteristics of men like Jean the older and the younger schools as an able François Millet and Winslow Homer, who technician and as a worthy exponent of the art being men absorbed by and devoted to their we have developed on this side of the ocean. art, have felt that its superiority must be mainMr. Johnson began his career as a draughts- tained over the theme presented, thereby man, doing his first portraits in crayon, and making their canvases of that lasting quality his work was throughout characterized by which the mere recital of an incident in paint recognition of form. It is a matter of inter- never attains. est to note that in the history of painting, In portraiture Mr. Johnson was both forcewith but very few exceptions, every producer ful and sympathetic. Some of his heads of of work emphasizing drawing and a knowl men are as strong as any that have been edge of form has scored, even though color produced in our time. I recall with the was not a dominant or even strikingly per- greatest pleasure a head of Dr. McCosh ceptible accompaniment. In the case of which was in the collection of his work exMr. Johnson, however, color was an accom hibited at the Century Club a few years ago. paniment of no mean proportion and was Laid in with great skill, this canvas both in
color and value was a masterpiece, portray- nique taught suited him perfectly. This ing the refined intellectuality of a sitter in technique, with its careful drawing, warm a direct manner without overelaboration. transparent shadows and solid, opaque lights, The planes of the brow and face were de- had nothing revolutionary in it, but repreclared with the surety which comes from sented the academic tradition of the country. long training and artistic judgment. There Johnson mastered it thoroughly, and having was no juggling with the brush or forcing mastered it, thought no more about it, but of the pigment, no avoidance of a form or a centred his mind upon his subject. feature to bring into prominence the author's This is where he differed from the skill in keying up a high light. The whole “younger men” trained in Munich or Paris. was a conscientious representation of the per- They had cast in their lot with the innovators. sonality of the subject, reminding one of the They brought from Munich felicities of dashdignity and charm of certain portraits by ing brushwork and from Paris effects of openTitian and the early Italians. Our later school air lighting unattempted before. The subof painters are interpreting things in a some- jects on which they displayed these novelties what different way. Is it a better way? I were matters of indifference to them. Parseriously doubt it. The paint and the execu- adoxically, the very fact that they had not tion are playing the rôle of importance and lived so long abroad as Johnson made them occupying too much the centre of the stage. more removed from our native taste. They Mr. Johnson represented sincerity and a had not painted pictures in Europe, but studknowledge based on training and coupled ies, and they still had a student's pride in with natural gifts of a high order. His work the skill of the student, with no experience will be always valuable both intrinsically and of the completeness and seriousness of finas an example to followers of his art. ished work. They did things “amusing” CARROLL BECKWITH. to themselves and which were “amusing"
largely from technical reasons which their EASTMAN JOHNSON was eighty-two years public was not in a position to understand. old when he died and the beginnings of his art Eastman Johnson was the direct contrary went back to a time when painting in this to all this. To him his subject was as paracountry was at its lowest point. The culture mount as it was to the early Italian or Flemish of England and of Europe in general, which painters. He had a story to tell, and he apwas reflected in our colonial life, had about pealed not to a restricted circle, but to the died out, and in its place was growing up a great public; and his pictures displayed incicrude and trivial art to satisfy a public for the dents of common life, mostly that country life most part uncultivated and busy with other which nearly everyone of that earlier day had things. This public, however, had at least the known in youth. This story-telling intent was advantage of being homogeneous and dem- general in America at the time and produced ocratic. The artists belonged to it and were much work that was trivial and inartistic, but understood and honored by it, and when they Johnson's was neither. His nature was strong advanced they lifted the public with them. and deep and he chose from the life around
It was for this public that Johnson catered him what was human and permanent, disboth in his early efforts before he went abroad carding instinctively the petty and insigniin 1849 and after his return in 1860. He ficant. His world of plain folk, farmers, never lost touch with it as did the great body peddlers, housewives, or country boys is of the “younger men" who in the 80's came seen with sympathetic insight. More imback from Europe with new ideas of what portant still, it is seen from a painter's standconstituted a picture.
point and rendered with something of that Johnson was by that time one of the “older “style” which escapes the commonplace. men,” and though well disposed toward the The work is full of artistic qualities addnew movements and respected by its fol- ed unconsciously in the desire to express lowers he remained true to the earlier tradi- the subject. The draughtsmanship is adtions. He never lacked public comprehen- mirable, not only correct, but strong and full sion and patronage as the “younger men” of character; the composition is well ardid. His training was different. He had be- ranged, the lights and darks spot well, and gun with Düsseldorf, but soon went to Hol- the color, while rich and warm, according to land, where the sound and thorough tech- the school traditions, is not perfunctory, but
shows real feeling. No impatience or change These pictures are veritable contributions as of mood leaves any part incomplete, yet labor records of vanishing phases of the national does not wear out inspiration. There are life. But as he had begun by making porfelicities of handling not aggressive but as traits, so he returned to them; and his repuskilful and interesting as ever came out of tation was that of a portrait-painter. To Munich, and atmospheric effects rendered consider these is to go into a subject that is with a delicate accuracy that Paris training more or less technical. It would not be wise, has not surpassed. It is the combining of ar- however, to measure Johnson's art by the tistic and popular elements that is Eastman practice of to-day; but for the time he worked Johnson's characteristic merit. For a gen- and the environment in which he worked, his eration he stood almost alone in offering to accomplishment was remarkable. He had the uncultured public pictures which they indeed many attributes that well fitted him could thoroughiy enjoy and which at the for his work. A genial, robust, and wholesame time increased and educated their ar some personality-one that by no idiosyn. tistic perceptions. Even now there seems to crasy or affectation would be likely to repel a be no one who fully replaces him in that sitter—and this sometimes counts for much. office.
SAMUEL ISHAM. When a painter puts before us personali
ties so strongly marked as some of Johnson's
most telling presentations, one is rather inThe death of Eastman Johnson removes disposed to find fault because of the lack of almost the last link which unites us with that those qualities of the virtuoso which much past of our art which was, in a certain sense, of the work of to-day displays, not always so analogous to the period of our literature of successfully united with the human side. It which Bryant, Longfellow, Prescott, Motley, is perfectly true, however, that the painter we Whittier, and Lowell were representatives. are considering made use of conventions in It was characteristic of both fields of effort painting which the worker of the present that in the output of each there was a dis- seeks to avoid. In spite of this there was in tinct national flavor. The sympathies of his work a breadth of aspect, a merging into both writer and painter were of the soil of the background of certain uninteresting pastheir native land
sages of form, a care in the selection of accesRomance invested the institution of slav- sories, that testified to the presence of a conery; and later the Civil War provided sub- trolling judgment in the conception of the jects, and farm life suggested topics to the canvas, which stamped it as the production healthy-minded and not too complex painter of one possessed of the essentials of portrait of the day which appealed to a public equally art. Our painter's method was, after all, a simple and receptive in its attitude toward rather full-blooded one-his touch was, as painted themes. Hence we still recall by opposed to that of his contemporaries, free this painter “The Old Kentucky Home," and loose—a reminder, perhaps, of that vig“The Pension Agent,” “The Tramp,” “The orous manipulator of pigment, Couture; Old Stage-coach,” “Nantucket Whalers,” while Johnson's color seemed to come from and “The Cranberry Pickers,” which reveal his very veins, so rich and ruddy was its glow. a past, or fast-vanishing, phase of our civili If he had been possessed of a surer and zation.
more certain sense of planes, if he had This fact, of itself, would not make them builded, with his strong color, the construcmemorable; but Johnson had a fine sense of tive forms of the human head with the comcolor and a wholesome appreciation of the inti- petency say, of Raeburn, we should have mate and homely subjects of the Dutch school. had still greater pleasure in the canvases he Beautiful grays were to be found in his in- has left. Still, vigor and character were the terior scenes, a rich impasto, and a kind of distinguishing marks of Johnson's work looseness in the touch which removed them above, perhaps, that of any of his contempofar from much of the practice that was go- raries, and he outlived many of them in his ing on at the time of his return from abroad. working years.