A Man’s Life

That eighteenth-century British curmudgeon Dr. Samuel Johnson once remarked, “I would rather see a portrait of a dog that I know than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world.” A hundred years later an American who shared this sentiment, Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (1844 1934), began painting the daily lile of some very humanoid canines, an artistic subspecialty that was preceded by a string of careers.Read more »

Mary Cassatt

“I do not admit that a woman can draw like that,” said Degas when he saw one of her pictures

At eight o’clock on the evening of June 14, 1926, a very old woman—blind and suffering from advanced diabetes—died in her chateau on the edge of the tiny village of Mesnil-Theribus, some thirty miles northwest of Paris. At her funeral, because she held the Legion of Honor, there was a detail of soldiers, and because she was chatelaine of the manor house, the village band played and most of the townspeople followed her coffin to the cemetery. There was nothing extraordinary in this; it is a not uncommon ritual in the villages of France.Read more »

Reginald Marsh

A reminiscent tribute to a great American painter, with an evocative selection from thousands of unpublished sketches

Soon after Reginald Marsh’s death in 1954 an art magazine asked me to write about him. When I turned in the article the editor said he liked it but he had one reservation: “You say, ‘In my opinion he was the greatest artist of his time.’ Do you mean that? Greater than Picasso?”

“Yes,” I answered. Read more »

Henry Herrick’s Manchester

In 1865, after a highly successful career as an art teacher and wood engraver in New York City, Henry W. Herrick returned to his family’s home in Manchester, New Hampshire, to care for his aging mother. He was forty-one years old, portly, dignified, and soon—with his tall silk hat and gold-headed cane—he became something of an institution in the culture-poor cotton-mill community, a pillar of the First Congregational Church and a founder of the Manchester Art Association. Read more »

Boston Painters, Boston Ladies

Its venerable Museum of Fine Arts revives an era of forgotten beauty in a very proper Bohemia

Oscar Wilde, who had something clever to say on almost any subject, visited Boston about 1880, attended a debutante ball, and is supposed to have found the state of feminine beauty so low that he now understood why the city’s artists were reduced to “painting only Niagara Falls and millionaires.” It has been thought sophisticated to slur Boston girls ever since. Of course, it is all nonsense. Read more »

The WPA’s Amazing Artistic Record Of American Design

From the winter of 1935–36 until shortly after America’s entry into World War II, hundreds of artists were engaged throughout most of the nation in compiling a graphic record of surviving artifacts from the American past. Antiques shops and old farmhouses, private collections, historical societies and museums, California missions and Shaker barns, were ransacked for evidence that would accurately and colorfully picture the story of our early arts and crafts.Read more »

George Washington Sat Here … And Here …

James Fenimore Cooper told him; Charles Sumner and Ralph Waldo Emerson told him; even Charles Bulfinch, one of the architects of the Capitol, told him; but Horatio Greenough knew his own mind. The gigantic monument to George Washington taking shape in Greenough’s Florentine studio was to be “the birth of my thought.Read more »

The Life And Death Of Thomas Nast


To his contemporaries Thomas Nast was unquestionably America’s greatest and most effective political cartoonist, attacking corruption with a brilliant and often vitriolic pen, harrying the bosses, creating the political symbols that still remain the emblems of our two major political parties. His grandson’s impression is quite different. He remembers him as a gentle and witty companion, as the creator of our conception of Santa Claus, as a sad and lonely man whose life ended poignantly in a foreign land.Read more »

A Schoolboy’s Sketchbook

Charles Manon Russell, the famous artist of the American West, came to Montana m 1880 as a boy of sixteen. He lived there the rest of his life, working for a number of years as a cattle wrangler and gradually getting to know with intimacy the men and the country that were to be his great subject during forty-six years of drawing, painting, and sculpting. Read more »

American Gothic

The revival in the nineteenth century of medieval motifs in architecture extended from villas and furniture to farmhouses and vineries

Many of the visitors who admire the classic calm of Monticello would be startled if they knew of the original intentions of Thomas Jefferson. In 1771, after he had begun work on the estate, he seriously contemplated building a battlemented tower on a neighboring mountain; and he also planned, though he did not actually erect, “a small Gothic temple of antique appearance” for the graves of his family and retainers. As usual, the master of Monticello was ahead of the times.Read more »