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A reminiscent tribute to a great American painter, with an evocative selection from thousands of unpublished sketches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

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 »

Centennial City

The simple, affectionate water colors of an unassuming Scots immigrant, David J. Kennedy, bring back the Philadelphia of 1876 and our first great world’s fair

President Ulysses S. Grant opened the United States Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia on May 10, 1876. When the closing ceremonies were held on November i o, in a cold drenching rain, 9,910,966 people (paid and free) had passed through the entrance gates. This was more than fourteen times the population of Philadelphia, the second largest city of the United States, and more than had attended any of the great world’s fairs held in the preceding quarter century.Read more »

Maxfield Parrish

Guess who’s having a revival—

I am one of those people who grew up, I am now aware, in a household that was completely bourgeois. I didn’t know it as a child, of course, but the chief sign of my family’s middle-class status was not the fact that my parents subscribed to the Saturday Evening Post , or drove a green Nash with spoke wheels, or played bridge several evenings a week.Read more »

The Paintings Of Mr. Otis

A “primitive-moderne” spoofs American art and history.

A new talent burst on the art world a few months ago, a talent which lies somewhere between Jackson Pollock and Gluyas Williams and within shouting distance of Maxfield Parrish. His name is simply Mr. Otis, and he comes from Portland. Oregon. His work is painted laboriously, by hand, with real oil. He was sprung on an unsuspecting public by the Macmillan Company in a book called Mr. Otis.Read more »

‘The Smoke, The Thunder, The Roar Of The Battle…”

It is an interesting paradox that, of the two most famous paintings of Bunker Hill, the one that most suggests a real battle was painted by Pyle, the illustrator who lived long afterward, and not by John Trumbull, the painter who saw it (albeit from a distance) and served briefly in the Revolution (see AMERICAN HERITAGE , June, 1958).

Pennsylvania Sunday Best

Itinerant primitive painters dressed up the farmers and the burghers as they hoped posterity would remember them

Well over a century has passed since a small group of itinerant artists wandered through the German settlements of southeastern Pennsylvania, making a precarious living and incidentally founding a fascinating provincial school of American portraiture. Talent brushed some of them lightly, and sometimes inspiration, even if most of the time their minds were largely occupied with the prospects for their next meal.