« AnteriorContinuar »
Pigi - fund THE CENTURY MAGAZINE
art school, the potter's field of the hos
pital, the harvest field of the church. LOWLY on Morningside Heights Past the foot of this strip of nature,
rises the Cathedral of St. John the which fronts the dawn and is called Divine, standing there on a high rock un- Morningside Park, a thoroughfare stretches der the Northern sky, above the long wash northward and southward, level and wide of the untroubled sea, above the wash of and smooth. Over it the two opposite-movthe troubled waves of men.
ing streams of the city's traffic and travel It has fit neighbors. Across the street rush headlong. Beyond this thoroughfare to the north looms the many-towered, an embankment of houses shoves its mass gray-walled St. Luke's Hospital, cathe- before the eyes, and behind the embankdral of our ruins, of our sufferings and ment the city stretches across Alats where our dust, near the cathedral of our souls. human beings are as thick as river reeds.
Across the block to the south is situated Thus within close reach humanity is a shed-like two-story building with dor- here: the cathedral, the hospital, the art mer-windows and a crumpled, three-sided school, a field of nature, a broad highway roof, the studios of the National Academy along which, with their hearthfires flickering of Design, and under that low, brittle under their tents of stone, camp life's restskylight youth toils over the shapes and less, light-hearted, heavy-hearted Gipsies. colors of the earth's visible vanishing paradise in the shadow of the cathedral which It was Monday morning and it was nine promises an unseen, an eternal one. o'clock. Over at the National Academy
At the rear of the cathedral, across the of Design, in an upper room, the members roadway, stands a low stone wall. Be- of one of the women's portrait classes were yond the wall the earth sinks down a assembled, ready to begin work. Easels precipice to a green valley bottom far be- had been drawn into position; a clear light low. Out here is a rugged slope of rock from the blue sky of the last of April fell and verdure and forest growth which through the opened roof upon new canbrings upon the scene an ancient presence, vases fastened to the frames. And it nature-nature, the Elysian Fields of the poured down bountifully upon intelligent
Copyright, 1914, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.
was beautiful, mind about the mysterious stranger waitand it was complete except in one particu- ing below, and he continued : lar: the teacher of the class was missing 'We teachers of art schools in engaging - the teacher and a model.
models have to take our human material Minutes passed without his coming, as we can find it. The best we find is and when at last he did enter, he advanced seldom or never what we would prefer. two or three steps, and paused as though If I, for instance, could have my choice, he meant presently to go out again. With my students would never be allowed to his sober smile and quiet good morning work from a model who repelled the stuhe gave his alert listeners the clue to an dent or left the student indifferent. No unusual situation:
students of mine, if I could have my way, “I told the class that to-day we should would ever use a model that failed to call begin a fresh study. I had not myself de- forth the finest feelings. Otherwise how cided what this would be. Several mod- can your best emotions have full play in els were in reserve, any one of whom your work; and unless your best emotions could have been used to advantage at this enter into your work, what will your closing stage of the year's course. Then work be worth? For if you have never the unexpected happened: on Saturday a before understood the truth, try to realstranger came to see me and asked to be ize it now: that you will succeed in paintengaged. It is this model that is waiting ing only through the best that is in you; down-stairs now. I have been detained just as only the best in you will ever while making some arrangements for her carry you triumphantly to the end of any and while explaining to her a few things practical human road that is worth the about which she wished to feel satisfied.” travel, just as you will reach all life's best
Their thoughts instantly passed to the goals only by your best. But in painting model : the teacher's manner, his words, remember that the best is never in the eye, invested her with mystery, with fascina- for the eye can only perceive, the eye can tion. His countenance lighted up won- only direçt; and the best is never in the derfully as he went on:
hand, for the hand can only measure, the "She is not a professional; she has never hand can only move. In painting the posed. In asking me to engage her she best comes from emotion. You may lack proffered barely the explanation which eyes and be none the poorer in character; she seemed to feel due herself.
you may lack hands and be none the this explanation over to you because she poorer in character; but whenever in life wished, I think, that you also should not you lack any great emotion, you are the misunderstand. It is the fee, then, that poorer in everything. And so in painting is needed, the model's wage; she has felt you can fail after the eye has gained all the common lash of the poor. Plainly necessary knowledge, you can fail after here is some one who has stepped down your hand has received all necessary trainfrom her place in life, who has traveled ing, either because nature has denied you far outside her inclinations, to raise a the foundations of great feeling, or because, small sum of money. Why she does so is having these foundations, you have failed of course her own affair. But the spirit to make them the foundations of your in which she does so becomes our affair, work. because it becomes a matter of expression. “But among a hundred models there This self-sacrifice, this ordeal which she might not be one such. Actually in the voluntarily undergoes to gain her end, world, among the thousands of people we gives her a look, it shows in her face; and meet, how few stir in us our best, force us if while she poses, you should be fortunate to our best! It is the rarest experience of enough to see this look, along with even our lifetimes that we meet a man or a finer things, greater things, it will be the woman who literally drives us to the realiaim of your art to catch them all upon zation of what we really are and can your canvases-if you can."
really do. What we all most need for He smiled on them with a kind of fos- our careers is one who can liberate within tering challenge to their over-confident us that lifelong prisoner whose doom it is impulses and immature art.' But he had to remain a captive until someone else not yet brought out what most he had in sets it free-our best. For we can never
set our best free by our own hands; that der forces came forth, eager to serve, to must always be done by another."
obey. He added a few particulars: They were listening to him with a "For a while after she is posed you will startled first-hand recognition of their in- no doubt see many different expressions most selves. He was now ready to drive pass rapidly over her face. This will be home his point about the waiting stranger: a new and painful experience to which she
“I am going to introduce to you, then, will not be able to adapt herself at once. a model who beyond all the others you She will be uncomfortable, she will be have worked with will liberate in you awkward, she will be embarrassed, she your finer selves. It is a rare opportunity. will be without her full value. But I Do not thank me. I did not find her. think from what I have discovered that Life's storms have driven her violently she will soon grow oblivious to her suracross the landscape of the world against roundings. They will not overwhelm her; the walls of the art school; we must see she will overwhelm them. She will soon to it at least that she be not bruised while forget you and me and the studio; the one it remains her shelter, her refuge. Who ruling passion of her life will sweep back she is, what her life has been, where she over her; and then out upon her features comes from, how she happens to arrive will
will come again that marvelous look here, these are privacies into which of which has almost remodeled them to itcourse we do not intrude. Immediately self alone.” He added, “I will go for her.” behind herself she drops a curtain of si- As he turned to leave, he glanced at lence which obliterates every such sign of some screens placed at that end of the her past. But there are other signs of room; behind these the models made their that past which she cannot hide, and preparations to pose. which it is our privilege, our duty, the "I have arranged," he said significantly, aim of our art, to read. They are writ- “that she leave her things down-stairs." ten on her face, on her bearing, on her It seemed long before they heard him hands; they are written all over her - the on the way back. He came slowly, as bruises of life's rudenesses, the lingering though concerned not to hurry his model, shadows of former dark days, the pride as though to shield her from the disreand the wounded pride, the stripped for- spect of urgency. Even the natural noise tunes, the unconquerable will, a spirit of his feet on the bare hallway was rewhose wings are meant for the upper air, strained. They listened for the sounds of but which are tied, and beat the dust. All her footsteps. In the tense silence of the these are sublime things to paint in any studio a pin-drop might have been noticehuman being; they are the footprints of able, a breath would have been audible; destiny on our faces. The greatest mas- but they could not hear her footsteps. He ters of the brush that the world has ever might have been followed by a spirit. known could not have asked for any- Those feet of hers must be very light feet, thing greater. When you behold her, per
very quiet feet. haps some of you may think of certain He entered and advanced a few paces, brief, but eternal, words of Pascal: Man and turned as though to make way for is a reed that bends, but does not break.' some one of far more importance than Such is your model, then, a face with a himself; and there walked forward and great look; the fighting face of a woman stopped at a delicate distance from them at peace.
For out upon the darkened all a woman, bareheaded, ungloved, slenbattle-field of this woman's face shines der, straight, of middle height, and in one serene sun, and that sun brings out life's middle years-Rachel Truesdale. upon it its marvelous human radiance, its She did not look at him or at them; she supreme expression: it is the love of the did not look at anything. It was not her mother. Your model has the beauty of rôle to notice. She merely waited, permotherhood, the sacredness of mother- fectly composed, to be told what to do. hood, the glory of motherhood.”
Her actual life did not enter into the He was content to stop now. Their scene at all; she was there solely as having countenances glowed; their eyes disclosed been hired for a work. depths in their natures never stirred be- One privilege she had exercised unsparfore; from out those depths youthful, ten- ingly- not to offer herself for this em