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Full text of "Little journeys to the homes of eminent artists : Whistler"

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LITTLE ♦»«•«• 

Journeys 

To the Homes of 

EMINENT 
ARTISTS 

Written by Elbert 
Hubbard and done 
into a BooK by the 
Royerolters at their 
Shop, whieh is in «• 
East Aurora, New 
York, A. D, 1902«*«*«- 


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Copyright, 1902, by Elbert Hubbard. 



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WHISTLER 



Art happens — no hovel is safe from it, no Prince may depend 
upon it, the vastest intelligence cannot bring it about, and 
puny efforts to make it universal end in quaint comedy, and 
coarse farce. THE " TEN O'CLOCK " LECTURE. 



WHISTLER 



131 



HE Eternal Paradox of Things is re- 
vealed in the fact that the men who 
have toiled most for peace, beauty and 
harmony have usually lived out their 
days in discord; and in several instances 
died a malefactor's death. Just how 
much discord is required in God's form- 
ula for a successful life, no one knows, 
but it must have a use, for it is always 
there jf jf 

Seen from a distance, out of the range 
of the wordy shrapnel, the literary 
scrimmage is amusing. "Gulliver's 
Travels" made many a heart ache, but 
it only gladdens ours. Pope's " Dunciad ' ' 
sent shivers of fear down the spine of 
all artistic England, but we read it 
for the rhyme, and insomnia. Byron's 
"English Bards and Scotch Review- 
ers" gave back to the critics what they 
had given out — to their great surprise 
and indignation, and our amusement. 
Keats died from the stab of a pen, they 
say, and whether 'twas true or not we 
know that now a suit of Cheviot is suf- 
ficient shield. "We love him for the 
enemies he has made" — to have friends 
is a great gain, but to achieve an enemy 
is distinction. 



X32 



WHISTLER 



Ruskin's "Modern Painters" is a reply to the con- 
tumely that sought to smother Turner under an ava- 
lanche of abuse; but since the enemy inspired it, and 
it made the name and fame of both Ruskin and Tur- 
ner, why should they not hunt out the rogues in 
Elysium and purchase ambrosia? 
Whistler's "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies" is a 
bit of sharp-shooter sniping at the man who was brave 
enough to come to the rescue of Turner, and who 
afterward proved his humanity by adopting the tactics 
of the enemy, working the literary stink-pot to repel 
impressionistic boarders. 

No friend could have done for Whistler what Ruskin 
did. Before Ruskin threw an ink-bottle at him, as 
Martin Luther did at the Devil, he was one of several; 
after the bout he was as one set apart. 
When we think of Whistler, if we listen closely, we 
can hear the echo of shrill calls of recrimination, 
muffled reveilles of alarm — pamphlet answering unto 
pamphlet across seas of misunderstanding — vitupera- 
tions manifold and recurring themes of rabid ribaldry 
all forming a lurid Symphony in Red. 




WHISTLER 



133 




OHN DAVIDSON has dedicated 
a book to his enemy, thus: 
Unwilling Friend, let not thy spite abate, 
Help me with scorn, and strengthen me with 
hate. 

The general tendency to berate 
the man of superior talent would 
seem to indicate, as before sug- 
gested, that disparagement has 
some sort of compensation in it. Possibly it is the 
governor that keeps things from going too fast — the 
opposition of forces that holds the balance true. But 
almost everything can be overdone ; and the fact re- 
mains that without encouragement and faith from 
without, the stoutest heart will in time grow faint 
and doubt itself. It hears the yelping of the pack, and 
there creeps in the question, "What if they are 
right ?" Then comes the longing and the necessity 
for the word of praise, the clasp of a kindly hand and 
the look that reassures. 

Occasionally the undiscerning make remarks, slightly 
touched with muriatic acid, concerning the ancient 
and honorable cult known as the Mutual Admiration 
Society. My firm belief is, that no man ever did or 
can do a great work alone—he must be backed up by 
the Mutual Admiration Society. It may be a very 
small Society — in truth, I have known Chapters 
where there were only two members, but there was 
such trust, such faith, such a mutual uplift, that an 



i34 WHISTLER 

atmosphere was formed wherein great work -was done. 
C.In Galilee even the Son of God could do no great 
work, on account of the unbelief of the people. " Fel- 
lowship is heaven and lack of fellowship is hell," 
said William Morris. And he had known both. 
Some One must believe in you. And through touching 
finger-tips with this Some One, we may get in the 
circuit, and thus reach out to all. Self-Reliance is 
very excellent, but as for independence, there is no 
such thing. We are a part of the great Universal Life; 
and as one must win approval from himself, so he 
must receive corroboration from others: having this 
approval from the Elect Few, the opinions of the 
many matter little. 

How little we know of the aspirations that wither un- 
expressed, and of the hopes that perish for the want of 
the right word spoken at the right time ! Out in the 
orchard, as I write, I see thousands and thousands of 
beautiful blossoms that will never become fruit for lack 
of vitalization — they die because they are alone. 
Thoughts materialize into deeds only when Some One 
vitalizes by approval. Every good thing is loved into life. 
H Great men have ever come in groups, and the Mutual 
/Admiration Society always figures largely. To enu- 
merate instances would be to inflict good folks with 
triteness and truism. I do not wish to rob my reader 
of his rights — think it out for yourself, beginning with 
Concord and Cambridge, working backward a-down 
the centuries. 



WHISTLER 



135 




HERE are two Whistlers. One 
tender as a woman, sensitive as a 
child, — thirsting for love, friend- 
ship and appreciation — a dreamer 
of dreams, seeing visions and 
mounting to the heavens on the 
wings of his soaring fancy. This is 
the real Whistler. And there has 
always been a small Mutual Ad- 
miration Society that has appreciated, applauded and 
loved this Whistler; to them he has always been 
"Jimmy." 

The other Whistler is the jaunty little man in the 
funny, straight brimmed high hat — cousin to the hat 
John D. Long wore for twenty years. This man in the 
long black coat, carrying a bamboo wand, who adjusts 
his monocle and throws off an epigram, who con- 
founds the critics, befogs the lawyers, affronts mil- 
lionaires from Colorado, and plays pitch and toss 
with words, is the Whistler known to newspaper- 
dom. And Grub Street calls him "Jimmy," too, but 
the voice of Grub Street is guttural and in it is no 
tender cadence — it is tone that tells, not the mere 
word: I have been addressed by an endearing phrase 
when the words stabbed. Grub Street sees only the 
one man and goes straightway after him with a 
snickersnee. To use the language of Judge Gaynor, 
"This artistic Jacques of the second part protects the 
great and tender soul of the party of the first part." 



136 WHISTLER 

CThat is it — his name is Jacques: Whistler is a fool. 
The fools were the wisest men at court. Shakespeare, 
who dearly loved a fool, belonging to the breed him- 
self, placed his wisest sayings into the mouths of men 
who wore the motley. When he adorned a man with 
cap and bells, it was as though he had given bonds 
for both that man's humanity and intelligence. 
N either Shakespeare nor any other writer of good books 
ever dared depart so violently from truth as to picture 
a fool whose heart was filled with pretense and perfidy. 
The fool is not malicious. Stupid people may think 
he is, because his language is charged with the light- 
ning's flash ; but these be the people who do not know 
the difference between an incubator and an egg plant. 
C Touchstone, with unfailing loyalty, follows his 
master with quip and quirk into exile. When all, even 
his daughters, had forsaken King Lear, the fool bares 
himself to the storm and covers the shaking old man 
with his own cloak, and when in our day we meet the 
avatars of Trinculo, Costard, Mercutio and Jacques, 
we find they are men of tender susceptibilities, gener- 
ous hearts and lavish soul. 

Whistler shakes his cap, flourishes his bauble, tosses 
that fine head, and with tongue in cheek, asks ques- 
tions and propounds conundrums that pedantry can 
never answer. Hence the ink-bottle, with its mark 
on the walls at Eisenach, and Coniston. 



WHISTLER 



i37 




VERY man of worth is two men 
— sometimes many. In fact, Dr. 
George Vincent, the psychologist, 
says, "We never treat two per- 
sons in exactly the same manner." 
If this is so, and I suspect it is, 
the person we are with dictates 
our mental process and thus con- 
trols our manners — he calls out 
the man he wishes to see. Certain sides of our nature 
are revealed only to certain persons. And I can under- 
stand, too, how there can be a Holy of Holies, closed 
and barred forever against all except the One. And in 
the absence of this One, I can also understand how 
the person can go through life, and father, mother, 
brothers, sisters, friends and companions never guess 
the latent excellence that lies concealed. We defend 
and protect this Holy of Holies from the vulgar gaze. 
C There are two ways to guard and keep alive the 
sacred fires; one is to flee to convent, monastery or 
mountain and there live alone with God; the other is 
to mix and mingle with men and wear a coat of mail 
in way of manner. 

Women whose hearts are well nigh bursting with 
grief will often be the gayest of the gay; men whose 
souls are corroding with care — weighted down with 
sorrow too great for speech — are often those who set 
the table in a roar. 
The assumed manner, continued, evolves into a pose. 



i38 WHISTLER 

Pose means position, and the pose is usually a posi- 
tion of defense. 
All great people are posers. 

Men pose so as to keep the mob back while they can 
do their work. "Without the pose, the garden of a 
poet's fancy would look like McKinley's front yard at 
Canton in the fall of '96. That is to say, without the 
pose the poet would have no garden, no fancy, no 
nothing — and there would be no poet. Yet I am quite 
willing to admit that a man might assume a pose and 
yet have nothing to protect; but I stoutly maintain 
that pose in such an one is transparent to every one 
as the poles that support a scare-crow, simply be- 
cause the pose never becomes habitual. 
With the great man pose becomes a habit — and then 
it is not a pose. When a man lies and admits he lies, 
he tells the truth. 

Whistler has been called the greatest poser of his day; 
and yet he is the most sincere and truthful of men 
— the very antithesis of hypocrisy and sham. No man 
ever hated pretence more. 

Whistler is an artist, and the soul of the man is re- 
vealed in his work — not in his hat, nor yet his bam- 
boo cane, nor his long black coat, much less the 
language which he uses, Talleyrand-like, to conceal 
his thought. Art has been his wife, his children and 
his religion. Art has said to him, "Thou shalt have 
no other gods before me," and he has obeyed the 
mandate. 



WHISTLER 139 

That picture of his mother in the Luxembourg is the 
most serious thing in the whole collection — so gentle, 
so modest, so charged with tenderness. It is classed 
by the most competent critics of today along with the 
greatest works of the old masters. We find upon the 
official roster of the fine arts of France this tribute 
opposite the name of Whistler, "Portrait of the 
mother of the author, a masterpiece destined for the 
eternal admiration of future generations, combining 
in its tone power and magnificence, the qualities of a 
Rembrandt, a Titian, a Velasquez.'* The picture does 
not challenge you — you have to hunt it out, and you 
have to bring something to it, else 'twill not reveal 
itself. There is no decrepitude in the woman's face 
and form, but someway you read into the picture the 
story of a great and tender love and a long life of use- 
ful effort. And now as the evening shadows gather, 
about to fade off into gloom, the old mother sits there 
alone, poised, serene: husband gone, children gone — 
her work is done. Twilight comes. She thinks of the 
past in gratitude, and gazes wistfully out into the 
future, unafraid. It is the tribute that every well-born 
son would like to pay to the mother who loved him 
into being, whose body nourished him, whose loving 
arms sustained him, whose unfaltering faith and ap- 
preciation encouraged him to do and to become. She 
was his wisest critic, his best friend — his mother! 



140 



WHISTLER 




AJOR GEORGE WASHINGTON 
WHISTLER, the father of Whis- 
tler the artist, was a graduate of 
West Point, and a member of the 
United States Corps of Engineers. 
He was an active, practical and 
useful man — a skillful draughts- 
man, mathematician and a man 
of affairs who could undertake a 
difficult task and carry it through to completion. 
Such men are always needed, in the army and out of 
it. Responsibility gravitates to the man who can 
shoulder it. Such men as Major Whistler are not tied 
to a post — they go where they are needed. 
When George Washington Whistler was a cadet at 
West Point, there came to visit the place Dr. Swift 
and his beautiful young daughter, Mary. She took the 
Military School by storm, at least, held captives the 
hearts of all the young men there — so they said. And 
in very truth the heart of one young man was prison- 
er, for Major Whistler married Miss Swift soon after. 
<LTo them were born Deborah, the Major's only 
daughter, who married Dr. Seymour Hayden of Lon- 
don, a famous surgeon and still more famous etcher: 
George, who became an engineer and railway mana- 
ger: and two years later, Joseph. 
And when Joe was two years old, this beautiful 
wife, aged twenty-three, passed away, and young 
Major Whistler and his three babies were left alone. 



WHISTLER 141 

<^At West Point Whistler had a friend named Mc- 
Neill, son of Dr. C. D. McNeill, of Wilmington, N. C. 
— a classmate — with whom he had been closely asso- 
ciated since graduation. McNeill had a sister, Anna 
Matilda, a great soul, serious and strong. At length 
Whistler took his motherless brood — including him- 
self — to her and she accepted them all. I bow my 
head to the step-mother who loves into manhood and 
womanhood children whom another has loved into 
life. She must have a great heart already expanded 
by love to do this. Naturally the mother-love grows 
with the child — that is what children are for, to en- 
large the souls of the parents. But at the beginning 
of womanhood, Anna Matilda McNeill was great 
enough to enfold in her heart and arms the children 
of the man she loved and make them hers. 
In the year 1834, Major Whistler and his wife were 
living in Lowell, Massachusetts, where the Major 
was superintending the construction of the first of 
those wonderful waterways that tirelessly turn ten 
thousand spindles. 

And fate would have it so, that here at Lowell, in a 
little house on Worthing Street, was born the first of 
the five sons of Major Whistler and his wife, Anna 
Matilda. And they called the name of the child James 
Abbott McNeill Whistler — an awful big name for a 
very small baby. 

About the time this peevish little pigmy was put into 
short dresses, his father resigned his position in the 



i42 WHISTLER 

United States Army to accept a like position with the 
Czar of Russia. The first railroad constructed in Rus- 
sia, from Moscow to St. Petersburg, was built under 
the superintendence of Major Whistler, who also de- 
signed various bridges, viaducts, tunnels and other 
engineering feats for Adam Zad, who walks like a 
man, and who paid him princely sums for his services. 
C. Americans not only fill the teeth of royalty, but we 
furnish the Old World machinery, ideas and men. 
For every twenty-five thousand men they supply us, 
we send them back one, and the one we send them is 
worth more than the twenty-five thousand they send 
us. Schenectady is today furnishing the engines and 
supplying engineers to teach engineers for the trans- 
continental Siberian railway. When you take "The 
Flying Scotchman" from London to Edinburgh you 
ride in a Pullman car, with all the appurtenances, even 
to a Gould coupler, a Westinghouse air-brake, and a 
dusky George from North Carolina, who will hit you 
three times with the butt of a brush broom and ex- 
pect a bob as recompense. You feel quite at home. 
<^Then when you see the Metropolitan Railway of 
London is managed by a man from Chicago, and that 
all trains of "the underground" are being equipped 
with the Edison incandescent light; and you note 
further that a New York man has morganized the 
trans-Atlantic steamship lines, you agree with Mr. 
William T. Stead that, "America may be raw and 
crude, but she is producing a race of men — men of 



WHISTLER 143 

power, who can think and act." C, Coupled with the 
Englishman's remarkable book/ "The Americaniza- 
tion of the World," there is an art criticism by Bernard 
Shaw, who comes from a race that will not pay rent, 
strangely enough living in London, content, with no 
political aspirations, who says, "The three greatest 
painters of the time are of American parentage — 
Abbey, Sargent and Whistler; and of these, Whistler 
has had greater influence on the artists of today than 
any man of his time." 

But let us swing back and take a look at the Whistlers 
in Russia. Little Jimmy never had a childhood: the 
nearest he came to it was when his parents camped 
one summer with the "construction gang." That 
summer with the workers and toilers, among the 
horses, living out of doors — eating at the campfire 
and sleeping under the sky — was the boy's one glimpse 
of paradise. "My ambition then was to be the fore- 
man of a construction gang — and it is yet," said the 
artist in describing that brief, happy time to a friend. 
CThe child of well-to-do parents, but homeless, liv- 
ing in hotels and boarding-houses, is awfully handi- 
capped. Children are only little animals and travel is 
their bane and scourge. They belong on the ground, 
among the leaves and flowers and tall grass — in the 
trees or digging in sand piles. Hotel hallways, table 
d'hote dinners and the clash of travel, are all terrible 
perversions of nature's intent. 
Yet the boy survived — eager, nervous, energetic. He 



i44 WHISTLER 

acquired the Russian language, of course, and then 
he learned to speak French as all good Russians must. 
"He speaks French like a Russ," is the highest com- 
pliment a Parisian can pay you. 

The boy's mother was his tutor, companion, playmate. 
They read together, drew pictures together and played 
the piano, four hands. 

Honors came to the hard-working engineer — decora- 
tions, ribbons, medals, money — and more work. The 
poor man was worked to death. The Czar paid every 
honor to the living and dead that royalty can give. He 
ordered his private carriage to take the family to the 
boat as they left St. Petersburg, bringing with them 
the body of the loved one. And honors awaited the 
dead here. A monument in the cemetery at Stoning- 
ton, Connecticut, erected by the Society of American 
Engineers marks the spot where he sleeps. 
The stricken mother was back in America, and James 
was duly entered at West Point. The mother's ideal 
was her husband — in his life she had lived and moved 
— and that James should do what he had done, become 
the manly man that he had become, was her highest 
wish *pf jf 

The boy was already an acceptable draughtsman, and 
under the tutelage of Professor Robert Weir he made 
progress. West Point does not teach such a soft and 
feminine thing as picture painting — it draws plans of 
redoubts and fortifications, makes maps and figures 
on desirability of tunnels, pontoons and hidden mines. 



WHISTLER 145 

Robert Weir taught all these things, and on Satur- 
days painted pictures for his own amusement. In the 
rotunda of the Capitol at Washington is a taste of his 
quality, the large panel entitled "The Departure of 
the Pilgrims." 

Tradition has it that young Whistler assisted his 
teacher on this work. 

Weir succeeded in getting his pupil heartily sick of 
the idea of grim visaged war as a business. He hated 
the thought of doing things on order, especially killing 
men when told. "The soldier's profession is only one 
remove from the business of Jack Ketch who hangs 
men and then salves his conscience with the plea that 
some one told him to do it," said Whistler. If he re- 
mained at West Point he would become an army offi- 
cer and Uncle Sam or the Czar would own him and 
order him to do things. 

Weir declared he was absurd, but the Post Surgeon 
said he was nervous and needed a change. In truth 
West Point disliked Jimmy as much as he disliked 
West Point, and he was recommended for discharge. 
Mother and son sailed away for London, intending to 
come back in time for the next term. 
The young man took one souvenir from West Point 
that was to stand by him. In a sham battle, during a 
charge, his horse went down, and the cavalcade be- 
hind went right over horse and rider. When picked 
up and carried out of the scrimmage, Cadet Whistler 
was unconscious, and the doctors said his skull was 



146 



WHISTLER 



fractured. However, his whip-cord vitality showed 
itself in a quick recovery; but a white lock of hair 
soon appeared to mark the injured spot, to be a badge 
of distinction and a delight to the caricaturist forever. 
In London the mother and son found lodgings out to- 
wards Chelsea. No doubt the literary traditions at- 
tracted them. Only a few squares away lived Rossetti, 
with a wonderful collection of blue china, giving les- 
sons in painting. There were weekly receptions in his 
house, where came Burne-Jones, William Morris, 
Madox Brown and many other excellent people. 
Down a narrow street near by, lived a grumpy Scotch- 
man, by the name of Carlyle, whose portrait Whistler 
was later to paint, and although Carlyle had no use 
for Rossetti, yet Mrs. Whistler and her boy liked them 
both. It came time to return to America if the young 
man was to graduate at West Point. But they decided 
to go over to Paris so James could study art for a 
few months. C.They never came back to America. 




WHISTLER 



i47 




HISTLER, the coxcomb, had 
Ruskin haled before the tribunal 
and demanded a thousand pounds 
as salve for his injured feelings 
because the author of "Stones of 
Venice," was color-blind, lacking 
in imagination, and possessed of 
a small magazine wherein he 
briskly told of men, women and 
things he did not especially admire. 
The case was tried, and the jury decided for Whistler, 
giving him one farthing damages. But this was suc- 
cess — it threw the costs on Ruskin, and called the 
attention of the world to the absurdity of condemning 
things that are, at the last, a mere matter of individ- 
ual taste. 

Whistler was once asked by a fellow artist to criti- 
cise a wondrous chromatic combination that the man 
had thrown off in an idle hour. Jimmy adjusted his 
monocle and gazed long. "And what do you think of 
it?" asked the painter standing by. "Oh, just a little 
more green, a little more green — (pause and slight 
cough) — but that is your affair." 

Whistler painted the "Nocturne," and that was his 
affair. If Ruskin did not think it beautiful that was his 
affair; but when Ruskin went one step further and 
accused the painter of trying to hoodwink the world 
for a matter of guineas, attacking the man's motives, 
he exceeded the legitimate limits of criticism, and his 



*48 WHISTLER 

public rebuke was deserved. In matter of strictest 
justice, however, it may be as well to say that Whis- 
tler was quite as blind to the beauty of Ruskin's 
efforts for the betterment of humanity as Ruskin was 
to the excellence of Whistler's pictures. And if Rus- 
kin had been in the humor for litigation he might have 
sued Whistler and got a shilling damages because 
Whistler once averred "The Society of St. George is 
a scheme for badgering the unfortunate, and should 
be put down by the police. God knows the poor suffer 
enough without being patronized!" 
Mr. Whistler was once summoned as a witness in a 
certain suit where the purchaser of a picture had re- 
fused to pay for it. The cross-examination ran some- 
thing like this : 

" You are a painter of pictures?" 
"Yes." 

"And know the value of pictures?" 
"Oh, no." 

"At least you have your own ideas about values?" 
"Certainly." 

"And you recommended the defendant to buy this 
picture for two hundred pounds?" 
"I did." 

"Mr. Whistler, it is reported that you received a 
goodly sum for this recommendation — is there any- 
thing in that ? " 

"Oh, nothing I assure you" — (yawning) "nothing but 
the indelicacy of the suggestion." 



WHISTLER 149 

The critics found much joy, several years ago, in trac- 
ing out the fact that Whistler spent a year at Madrid 
copying Velasquez. That he, like Sargent, has been 
benefited and inspired by the sublime art of the Span- 
iard there is no doubt, but there is nothing in the 
charge that he is an imitator of Velasquez, save the 
indelicacy of the suggestion. 

It was a comparison of Velasquez and Whistler and a 
warm assurance that his name would live with that 
of the great Spaniard that led Whistler to launch that 
little question, now a classic, "Why drag in Velas- 
quez?" C.The great lesson that Whistler has taught 
the world is to observe; and this he got from the Japa- 
nese. Lafcadio Hearn has said that the average citizen 
of Japan detects tints and shades that are absolutely 
unseen by western eyes. Livingston found tribes in 
Africa that had never seen pictures of any kind, and 
he had great difficulty in making them perceive that 
the figure of a man, drawn on a piece of paper a foot 
square, really was designed for a man. 
"Man big — paper little — no good!" was the criticism 
of a chief. The chief wanted to hear the voice of the 
man before he would believe it was meant for a man. 
This savage chief was a great person, no doubt, in 
his own bailiwick, but he lacked imagination to bridge 
the gap between a real man and the repeated strokes 
of a pencil on a bit of paper. 

The Japanese — any Japanese — would have been de- 
lighted by Whistler's "Nocturne." Ruskin wasn't. 



i5o WHISTLER 

He had never seen the night, and therefore, he de- 
clared that Whistler had "flung a pot of paint in the 
face of the public." 

That men should dogmatize concerning things where 
the senses alone supply the evidence, is only another 
proof of man's limitations. We live in a peewee world 
which our senses create and declare that outside of 
what we see, smell, taste and hear there is nothing. 
C.It is twenty-five thousand miles around the world 
— stellar space is uncomputable ; and man can walk 
in a day about thirty miles. Above the ground he can 
jump about four feet. In a city his unaided ear can 
hear his friend call about two hundred feet. As for 
smell, he really has almost lost the sense; and taste, 
through the use of stimulants and condiments, has 
likewise nearly gone. Man can see and recognize 
another man a quarter of a mile away, but at the same 
distance is practically color-blind. 
Yet we were all quite willing to set ourselves up as 
standards until science came with spectroscope, tele- 
phone, microscope and Roentgen ray to force upon us 
the fact that we are tiny, undeveloped and insignifi- 
cant creatures, with sense quite unreliable and totally 
unfit for final decisions. 

Whistler sees more than other men. He has taught us 
to observe, and he has taught the art world to select. 
C Oratory does not consist in telling it all — you select 
the truth you wish to drive home; in literature, in 
order to make your point, you must leave things out ; 



WHISTLER 151 

and in painting you must omit. Selection is the vital 
thing & tf 

The Japanese see one single lily stalk swaying in the 
breeze and the hazy, luminous gray of the atmosphere 
in which it is bathed — just these two things. They 
give us these, and we are amazed and delighted. 
Whistler has given us the night — not the black, inky, 
meaningless void which has always stood for evil: 
not the darkness, the mere absence of light, the 
prophet had in mind when he said, "And there shall 
be no night there" — not that. The prophet thought 
the night was objectionable, but we know that the 
continual glare of the sun would quickly destroy all ani- 
mal or vegetable life. In fact, without the night there 
would be no animal or vegetable life, and no prophet 
would have existed to suggest the abolition of night 
as a betterment. In the night there are flowers that 
shed their finest perfume, lifting up their hearts in 
gladness, and all nature is renewed for the work of the 
coming day. We need the night for rest, for dreams, 
for forgetfulness. Whistler saw the night, this great 
transparent, dark-blue fold that tucks us in for one- 
half our time. The jaded, the weary and the heavy- 
laden at last find peace — the day is done, the grateful 
night is here. 

Turner said you could not paint a picture and leave 
man out. Whistler very seldom leaves man out, 
although I believe there is one " Nocturne " wherein 
only the stars and the faint rim of the silver moon 



152 



WHISTLER 



keep guard. But usually we see the dim suggestion of 
the bridge's arch, the ghostly steeples, lights lost in 
the enfolding fog, vague purple barges on the river 
and ships rocking solemnly in the offing — all strangely 
mellow with peace, and subtle thoughts of stillness, 
rest, dreams and sleep. 




HE critics have all shied their 
missiles at Whistler, and he has 
gathered up the most curious and 
placed them on exhibition in a 
catalogue entitled "Etching and 
Dry Points." This document gives 
a list of fifty-one of his best known 
productions, and beneath each 
item is a testimonial or two from 
certain worthies who thought the thing rubbish and 
said so $f $f 

If you want to see a copy of the catalogue you can 
examine it in the "treasure room" of most any of the 
big public libraries ; or should you wish to own one, a 
chance collector in need of funds might be willing to 
disengage himself from a copy for some such trifle as 
twenty-five dollars or so. 

Whistler's book "The Gentle Art" contains just one 
good thing, although the touch of genius is revealed 
in the title which is as follows: "The Gentle Art of 
Making Enemies, as pleasingly exemplified in many 
instances wherein the serious ones of this earth, care- 



WHISTLER 153 

fully exasperated, have been prettily spurred on to 
unseemliness and indiscretion, while overcome by an 
undue sense of right." 

The dedication runs thus: "To the rare Few who early 
in life have rid themselves of the Friendship of the 
Many, these pathetic papers are inscribed." 
The one excellent thing in the book is the "Ten 
OXlock" lecture. It is a classic, revealing such a dis- 
tinct literary style that one is quite sure its author 
could have evolved symphonies in words, as well as 
color, had he chose. However, this lecture is a 
sequence, leaping hot from the heart, and would not 
have been "written had the author not been "carefully 
exasperated and prettily spurred on, while overcome 
by an undue sense of right." Let us all give thanks to 
the enemy who exasperated him. There is a great 
temptation to produce the lecture entire, but this 
would be to invite a lawsuit, so we "will have to be 
content with a few scrapings from the palette: 
Listen! There never was an artistic period. 
There never was an Art-loving nation. 
In the beginning, men went forth each day — some to 
do battle, some to the chase ; others, again, to dig and 
to delve in the field — all that they might gain and 
live, or lose and die. Until there was found among 
them one, differing from the rest, whose pursuits at- 
tracted him not, and so he stayed by the tents with 
the women, and traced strange devices with a burnt 
stick upon a gourd. 

This man, who took no joy in the way of his brethren 
— who cared not for conquest, and fretted in the field 



i54 WHISTLER 

— this designer of quaint patterns — this deviser of the 
beautiful — who perceived in Nature about him curious 
curvings, as faces are seen in the fire — this dreamer 
apart was the first artist. 

And when, from the field and afar, there came back the 
people, they took the gourd — and drank from out of it. 
C,And presently there came to this man another — and, 
in time, others — of like nature, chosen by the gods — 
and so they worked together; and soon they fashioned, 
from the moistened earth, forms resembling the gourd. 
And with the power of creation, the heirloom of the 
artist, presently they went beyond the slovenly sug- 
gestion of Nature, and the first vase was born, in 
beautiful proportion. 

********** 
And the Amateur was unknown — and the Dilettante 
undreamed of. 

And history wrote on, and conquest accompanied 
civilization, and Art spread, or rather its products 
were carried by the victors among the vanquished 
from one country to another. And the customs of cul- 
tivation covered the face of the earth, so that all peo- 
ples continued to use what the artist alone produced. 
C.And centuries passed in this using, and the world 
was flooded with all that was beautiful, until there 
arose a new class, who discovered the cheap, and 
foresaw a fortune in the facture of the sham. 
Then sprang into existence the tawdry, the common, 
the gewgaw. 

The taste of the tradesman supplanted the science of 
the artist, and what was born of the million went 
back to them, and charmed them, for it was after 
their own heart; and the great and the small, the 
statesman and the slave, took to themselves the 
abomination that was tendered, and preferred it — and 



WHISTLER 155 

have lived with it ever since. C. And the artist's occu- 
pation was gone, and the manufacturer and the huck- 
ster took his place. 

And now the heroes filled from the jugs and drank from 
the bowls — with understanding — noting the glare 
of their new bravery, and taking pride in its worth. 
C And the people — this time — had much to say in the 
matter — and all were satisfied. And Birmingham and 
Manchester arose in their might, and Art was rele- 
gated to the curiosity shop. 

********** 
Nature contains the elements, in colour and form, of 
all pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of all 
music. 

********** 
The artist is born to pick, and choose, and group with 
science these elements, that the result may be beau- 
tiful — as the musician gathers his notes, and forms 
his chords, until he bring forth from chaos glorious 
harmony. 

To say to the painter, that Nature is to be taken as 
she is, is to say to the player, that he may sit on the 
piano jf jf 

That Nature is always right, is an assertion, artistic- 
ally, as untrue, as it is one whose truth is universally 
taken for granted. Nature is very rarely right, to such 
an extent even, that it might almost be said that Na- 
ture is usually wrong: that is to say, the condition of 
things that shall bring about the perfection of har- 
mony worthy a picture is rare, and not common at all. 

********** 
The sun blares, the wind blows from the east, the sky 
is bereft of cloud, and without, all is of iron. The win- 
dows of the Crystal Palace are seen from all points of 
London. The holiday-maker rejoices in the glorious 



i56 WHISTLER 

day, and the painter turns aside to shut his eyes. 
C,How little this is understood, and how dutifully the 
casual in Nature is accepted as sublime, may be gath- 
ered from the unlimited admiration daily produced by 
a very foolish sunset. 

The dignity of the snow-capped mountain is lost in 
distinctness, but the joy of the tourist is to recognize 
the traveller on the top. The desire to see, for the 
sake of seeing, is, with the mass alone, the one to be 
gratified, hence the delight in detail. 
But when the evening mist clothes the riverside with 
poetry, as with a veil, and the poor buildings lose 
themselves in the dim sky, and the tall chimneys be- 
come campanili, and the warehouses are palaces in 
the night, and the whole city hangs in the heavens, 
and fairy-land is before us — then the wayfarer hast- 
ens home; the workingman and the cultured one, the 
wise man and the one of pleasure, cease to under- 
stand, as they have ceased to see, and Nature, who 
for once, has sung in tune, sings her exquisite song to 
the artist alone, — her son and her master — her son 
in that he loves her, her master in that he knows her. 
(I.To him her secrets are unfolded, to him her lessons 
have become gradually clear. He looks at the flower, 
not with the enlarging lens, that he may gather facts 
for the botanist, but with the light of the one who 
sees in her choice selection of brilliant tones and del- 
icate tints, suggestions of infinite harmonies. 
He does not confine himself to purposeless copying, 
without thought, each blade of grass, as commended 
by the inconsequent, but in the long curve of the nar- 
row leaf, corrected by the straight tall stem, he learns 
how grace is wedded to dignity, how strength en- 
hances sweetness, that elegance shall be the result. 
{^In the citron wing of the pale butterfly, with its 



WHISTLER 157 

dainty spots of orange, he sees before him the stately 
halls of fair gold, with their slender saffron pillars, 
and is taught how the delicate drawing high upon the 
walls shall be traced in tender tones of orpiment, and 
repeated by the base in notes of graver hue. 
In all that is dainty and lovable he finds hints for his 
own combinations, and thus is Nature ever his re- 
source and always at his service, and to him is naught 
refused. 

Through his brain, as through the last alembic, is dis- 
tilled the refined essence of that thought which began 
with the Gods, and which they left him to carry out. 
C,Set apart by them to complete their works, he pro- 
duces that wondrous thing called the masterpiece, 
which surpasses in perfection all that they have con- 
trived in what is called Nature; and the Gods stand 
by and marvel, and perceive how far away more beau- 
tiful is the Venus of Melos than was their own Eve. 

And now from their midst the Dilettante stalks abroad. 
The Amateur is loosed. The voice of the /Esthete is 
heard in the land, and catastrophe is upon us. 

Where the Artist is, there Art appears, and remains 
with him — loving and fruitful — turning never aside in 
moments of hope deferred — of insult — and of ribald 
misunderstanding; and when he dies she sadly takes 
her flight: though loitering yet in the land, from fond 
association, but refusing to be consoled. 
With the man, then, and not with the multitude, are 
her intimacies; and in the book of her life the names 
inscribed are few — scant, indeed, the list of those 
who have helped to write her story of love and beauty. 
C.From the sunny morning, when, with her glorious 
Greek relenting, she yielded up the secret of repeated 



I5» 



WHISTLER 



line, as with his hand in hers, together they marked 
in marble, the measured rhyme of lovely limb and 
draperies flowing in unison, to the day when she 
dipped the Spaniard's brush in light and air, and made 
his people live within their frames, that all nobility 
and sweetness, and tenderness, and magnificence 
should be theirs by right, ages had gone by, and few 
had been her choice. 

********** 
Therefore have we cause to be merry! — and to cast 
away all care — resolved that all is well — as it ever 
was — and that it is not meet that we should be cried 
at, and urged to take measures. 

Enough have we endured of dullness ! Surely are we 
weary of weeping, and our tears have been cozened 
from us falsely, for they have called us woe! when 
there was no grief — and where all is fair! 
We have then but to wait — until, with the mark of 
the gods upon him — there come among us again the 
chosen — who shall continue what has gone before. 
Satisfied that, even were he never to appear, the story 
of the beautiful is already complete — hewn in the 
marbles of the Parthenon, and broidered, with the 
birds, upon the fan of Hokusai, at the foot of Fusiyama. 




SO HERE ENDETH THE LITTLE JOURNEY TO THE HOME 
OF WHISTLER, AS WRITTEN BY ELBERT HUBBARD: 
THE TITLE PAGE AND INITIALS BEING DESIGNED 
BY SAMUEL WARNER & THE WHOLE DONE INTO A 
PRINTED BOOK BY THE ROYCROFTERS AT THEIR 
SHOP, WHICH IS IN EAST AURORA, ERIE COUNTY, NEW 
YORK, IN DECEMBER, OF THE YEAR MCMII w W w w 



mwmi