Sargent's Life through his writing, paintings and drawings
IT is commonly said that when Sargent grew tired of portrait painting he turned to decoration and began his work for the Boston Library. But when he undertook this work he was only thirty-four and he was occupied with it for the best part of thirty years. Before its completion he had undertaken, in 1916, further decorative work at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts which he finished in 1921, and in 1922 he painted the two decorative panels in the Widener Memorial Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in commemoration of Harvard's share in the War. It was therefore within a very few years of his arrival in England that he turned to decoration and many years before he had reached his culmination as a portrait painter.
The Boston Public Library was designed by the famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, of New York, and the member of the firm principally responsible for the form and structure of the building was Charles Follen McKim, born in 1847. The building is constructed in the style of the Italian Renaissance.
The trustees of the library before 1890 had resolved that it should be decorated internally in a manner worthy of the architecture, which has made it one of the best-known civic edifices of the United States.
It was agreed to invite the co-operation of Sargent, Edwin Abbey and Puvis de Chavannes. In January, 1890, Sargent with his sister Violet arrived in America; Edwin Abbey and Stanford White had preceded them. In the spring of 1890 the architects McKim, William Rutherford Mead, and Stanford White, together with St. Gaudens, who had been commissioned to carry out certain sculptural groups for the building, began the negotiations on behalf of the trustees. St. Gaudens at the time was engaged on a medallion of Miss Mead, the future Mrs. Abbey. He wrote the following letter to Abbey:*
McKim, White,Sargent, thee and I dine at the Players Wednesday night this week at 7.30. D.V., so help me God. But, be Jasus, McKim don't want any other fellows round, although I tried to (get) the whole crew together as we had agreed. The photos will be on hand. If you can't come, let me know right away. The Medallion looks like hell. I thought I had done a good thing, but it makes me
It was after this dinner that the following letter was written by Charles McKim to Mr. Abbott, President of the Board of Trustees:
McKim, Mead and White,
Charles F. McKim.
Wm. Rutherford Mead.
My dear Abbott,
Let me explain my despatch of today. I received one morning a little over a week ago an excited note from St. Gaudens, stating that Abbey had just returned from Boston and was at that moment dining with him. It appears that while there, Abbey had gone over the Library and was so impressed that on his return he could talk of nothing else. This at least was the substance of St. Gaudens's note.
It appeared also that Sargent had expressed himself strongly interested in it, and knowing the policy of your Board in favour of mural decoration should the opportunity offer for it, St. Gaudens proposed boldly that we should meet at "The Players'* Club the following Wednesday evening and dine with him and talk over a scheme to be submitted to the Trustees. You can imagine how joyfully this news with such substantial assurances of interest and approval from men like Abbey and Sargent and St. Gaudens, and how delighted we were to accept his invitation to meet them at dinner. Only Abbey, Sargent, St. Gaudens and McKim, Mead & White were present. After dinner, the plans of the Library were spread out and the mural possibilities of the walls and ceilings of the halls and galleries forming the special library collections discussed. Abbey was vastly interested in the Shakespeare collection while Sargent's interest in the direction of Spanish literature was a most natural one. The interest of the occasion was much enhanced by the presence of several hundreds of carbon prints from the Masters, covering the whole period of the Renaissance. The works of Baudry and Puvis de Chavannes were also discussed.
* E. V. Lucas, "Life of Edwin Abbey," p. 228.
STUDY FOR THE ARCHERS.
Finally Abbey with the spontaneity which characterizes him could resist no longer and seizing his pencil sketched out almost in a moment, upon a sheet of brown wrapping paper, which happened to be at hand, two compositions for the Shakespeare Room, representing at one end "Comedy" seated opposite "Tragedy" under a ceiling divided into "Sonnets." These two allegorical figures were placed in repose over the central door-ways of access and exit from the room and were surrounded each with numerous figures proper to the subject. It was impossible to restrain our admiration as he went from one thing to another, talking as he drew, and it was good to observe the pride which Sargent evinced in the powers of his brother-artist. The next day Abbey came here at four o'clock and stayed for two hours or more for the purpose of obtaining accurate measurements of the wall surface and ceiling to be covered, and the disposition of the various vaultings. I gave him three arrangements; one representing an assumed collection requiring a space the length of two windows, one representing he length of three windows, and one representing five windows in length. The last with the barrel vault (with square ends), the first two groined (with penetrations).
Last night I dined with him and his wife at St. Gaudens's and learned that he had actually made a study in oil since our meeting at "The Players" Club, which St. Gaudens and I are going to see today. To make a long story short, we propose if you approve, to descend upon you in Boston some time during next Wednesday, with the sketches which have been made at our request, and take dinner with you and talk this matter over.
Abbey sails immediately for Capri with his bride of two weeks. St. Gaudens and I are very anxious that you should meet and know him, hence the sudden dispatch. The suggestion to ask Mr. Brooks, Mr. Brimmer and others at the same time, was, in order to render the occasion more interesting, as well as to create, if possible, public support of a policy which has not yet been carried out on this side ol the ocean. Of course we do not expect anything from the City, but I am convinced that any space which you may see fit to allot to Abbey and to Sargent can be paid for privately. / already have some -promising assurances of this ! No such brilliant opportunity has come within my recollection and I feel sure that it will appeal to you all in the way it deserves.
Charles F. McKim.
S. A. B. Abbott, Esq.
Towards the middle of May, 1890, the whole party went to Boston and there met the Trustees of the Library and settled the final terms of the great undertaking. Sargent was given and accepted the commission to decorate the corridor or special libraries floor at the head of the principal staircase; a task which was to tax his imaginative and intellectual resources for twenty- six years, and to evoke in him also a talent for the plastic arts and modelling in relief. The apartment is 84 feet long, 23 feet wide, and 26 feet high, lit from above with a vaulted ceiling.
It forms a spacious landing and encloses the head of the marble staircase. Abbey, at the same time, undertook the decoration of the distributing room, involving a frieze of 180 feet in length and 8 feet in height. His first intention was that the frieze should have for its theme "subjects taken either altogether from Shakespeare, or one each from some typical writer of the various countries of Europe." Later this was altered to a single subject, "The quest and achievement of the Holy Grail," divided into fifteen scenes. It will be noticed that as late as May, Sargent was still thinking of getting his subjects from Spanish literature. Why then did he turn from a theme with which he was already familiar, and launch upon a subject so vast and complex as that he ultimately chose ? It may well be that in the symbolic figures of an abstract theme he saw and welcomed an escape from the concrete, and from the literalness and limitations of portraiture. Decoration was a phase of art in which he had himself made no experiments. It is true that he had studied Tintoretto and Tiepolo and the great Venetian decorators, and had been a pupil of Carolus Duran when that artist had painted a ceiling for the Louvre, but he had done nothing of the sort himself. Confronted now with the alternative of taking scenes from the pictorial literature of Spain, or choosing some scheme of his own, he turned to religion. The subject required faculties and qualities not usually associated with Sargent's art. For once he was not dealing with the visible and tangible world, but rather a thing so abstract as a movement of thought. The progress of that movement had to be interpreted, symbolized and legibly translated into painted form. It was a daring scheme. He must have seen in a flash of intellectual vision the possibilities of the idea. His mind must have been already stored with learning sufficient, at any rate, to enable him to visualize vaguely the opportunities or imagery provided by such a theme. But it was with no fervour of religious enthusiasm that he approached it. To Sargent the evolution of religion was a subject which could be viewed with detachment; he approached it without bias or preference. He was no mystic drawing near to some sacred shrine, no devout enthusiast working by the light of an inward revelation, but a painter aware that here was a subject with a significance lending itself to interpretation in decorative pictorial designs. His imagination was fired, but as when he was told he had revealed the moral qualities of a sitter he said, "No, I do not judge, I only chronicle," so in his Boston decorations he must be understood as treating objectively and dispassionately the images suggested by his theme.*
Though the agreement with the trustees was come to in May, 1890, the contract was not signed till January 18, 1893, when they undertook to pay fifteen thousand dollars, and the painter to complete the work by December 30, 1897. In 1895 the scope of the scheme was very much extended. Mr. Edward Robinson raised a subscription of a further fifteen thousand dollars, and for this sum Sargent agreed to decorate the side wall of the Sargent Hall and to enter into a contract to that effect. He was much exercised about the decoration of the tympana or lunettes, holding that it was inadvisable to settle as to these before the side wall had been completed. But
* At the end of the chapter will be found the titles of the subjects included in the decorations. then, had the subscribers paid their money in the belief that the tympana were to be painted ? Did they regard them as part of the bargain, or would they allow them to be dependent on the general effect and only painted if needed as part of the decorative requirements when the side wall was finished ? These questions were very agitating. It was just the sort of difficulty most calculated to perplex the conscientious mind of Sargent. On the one hand was his scrupulous desire to fulfil to the letter what might be the expectations of the subscribers, on the other his recognition that the tympana might be the better for being left alone. In the end, and after a voluminous correspondence, he was persuaded by Mr. Robinson to regard himself as having a free hand; his scruples were set at rest, and when the time came for forming an opinion he went ahead with the tympana as part of the scheme. This second contract was signed December, 1895.
Having settled on his subject, "The development of religious thought from paganism through Judaism to Christianity/' Sargent there and then began to make studies. At the end of May, Abbey, then on his way to England, wrote:*
I wonder how John is getting on, and whether you have built him a beautiful model yet. I went into his studio a day or two before I sailed and saw stacks of sketches of nude people, saints, I dare say, most of them, although from my cursory observations of them they seemed a bit earthy. You will surely get a great thing from him. He can do anything^ and don't know himself what he can do. He is latent with all manner of possibilities and the Boston people need not be afraid that he will be eccentric or impressionistic, or anything that is not perfectly serious and non-experimental when it comes to work of this kind.
Sargent had entered on this entirely new phase of his career at the age of thirty-four. Those who saw the exhibition at the Academy in 1926, and bore in mind that another exhibition of his paintings was being held in America, were astonished at the extent of his work. Few considered, or indeed knew, that concurrently with the work exhibited, he had during twenty-six years been engaged on this stupendous decoration at the Boston Library.
* E. V. Lucas, "Edwin Austen Abbey,"
When Abbey returned to England he sought for a place where he could work undisturbed; Broadway had disposed him towards the West Country. Wanderings through the counties of Oxford, Gloucester and Worcester finally brought him to Fairford, where in Morgan Hall he saw the very house he wanted. This was in the autumn of 1890. He entered into a lease for twenty-one years and at once began the construction in the grounds of a studio 64 feet long by 40 feet by 25 feet. There in November, 1891, Sargent joined him, and in cordial association carried out much of the preliminary work for the Boston Library designs.
Sargent meanwhile had remained in New York through the summer of 1890, pushing on with studies for his decorative scheme, and filling up the intervals with painting a number of portraits. The portraits of Mr. George Peabody of Salem, Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Brooks, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Mrs. Francis Dewey, Mrs. Augustus P. Loring, Miss Katherine Pratt, Edwin Booth, Joseph Jefferson, Laurence Barrett and a study of Carmencita singing, belong to this period.
It was also during this visit that he painted the well-known picture of Miss Beatrice Goelet, which with the portrait of the Hon, Laura Lister constitute Sargent's two most ambitious and successful renderings of childhood. Both pictures have been the subject of unmeasured praise. Both have been ex- tolled as expressions of the spirit of childhood. Of the picture of the Hon. Laura Lister Mrs. Meynell goes so far as to say that "it takes its place with the most beautiful painted in all centuries." In America the Goelet portrait was the subject of discerning praise from the pen of Mrs. Van Rensselaer, and when later the same critic wrote an appreciation of Sargent's picture Mother and Child (Mrs. Davis and her son) she received from Sargent the following letter:
33, Tite Street,
My dear Mrs. Van Rensselaer,
I am sure you must be the author of an article that has been sent me from N.Y. in which Mrs. Davis' picture receives very high praise, because it seems to have touched a sentiment in the writer like what you expressed about the Goelet baby, and very few writers give me credit for insides so to speak. I am of course grateful to you for writing, but especially for feeling in the way you do, for it would seem that sometimes at any rate for you, I hit the mark.
Please believe me,
John S. Sargent.
I feel as if I ought to have written a much longer letter to give you any idea of how much pleasure and what kind of pleasure you have given me.
The letter shows on the part of Sargent a greater sensibility to criticism than the public gave him credit for. As a matter of fact, praise, if it was discriminating, brought him the keenest pleasure. He was much too human and much too humble to pass it by or let it slip through his fingers; he clung to it with the inner satisfaction that belongs by habit to the diffident; and here was a point raised as to which he was sensitive. He was already perhaps a little tired of the hackneyed view that his portraiture was deficient in feeling, that he was a pitiless revealer of his sitter's defects. It was therefore something to the good that when he set out to paint childhood he could satisfy critics on the look-out for emotional quality in his work. No artist deficient in tenderness of feeling, no artist not gifted with the power of finely apprehending the particular significance of childhood could have painted these two pictures. They have not got the direct and winning artlessness of the children of Bronzino, Franz Hals, Holbein or Velasquez — it might even be said that in their childishness they are precocious, or should we say sophisticated — but they possess the same exquisite delicacy and distinction, the same subtlety of charm that we see in the Fortune Tellers or the Lady Mary FitzPatrick of Reynolds.
Sargent had a studio in New York in Twenty-Third Street, and here he painted the picture of Carmencita. Carmencita was a Spanish dancer recently arrived from Europe and holding the public of New York enthralled by her beauty and sensational dancing. She consented to pose to Sargent. He soon found that he had undertaken a perilous sitter. She was a primitive and untutored creature, straight from the cabarets of Spain. Civilization had put few fetters about her. She was reminiscent of the sources from which his picture of El Jaleo had been drawn. In mood she was wayward, now sullen and subdued, then breaking into tempests of anger and impatience, ready to smash anything that was to hand, or, again, sinking into an entirely childish readiness to be diverted or amused. She made no pretence of liking to have her portrait painted. She found posing intolerable. Movement was the essence of her existence, why forego it and be bored and insufferably constrained to please an artist and be recorded on canvas ? Sargent had to exercise his ingenuity; "he used to paint his nose red to rivet her childish interest upon himself, and when the red nose failed he would fascinate her by eating his cigar. This performance was the dancer's delight."*
Sargent was anxious that Mrs. Gardner should see this "bewilderingly superb creature," and asked if she would give a party at her house in Fifth Avenue. "Could you," he wrote, "have her at your house in Fifth Avenue? If so, might I go and see whether the floor or carpet would be good, and whether there is a chandelier against which she would have to break the head ? It would have to be about twelve o'clock at night, after the performance." In the end the party was given by Mrs. Gardner at the studio of William Chase the painter, at Tenth Street, New York. The fee paid to Carmencita was 150 dollars. Mrs. de Glehn, then Miss Jane Emmett, was present with her sister, and has described the scene. Sargent, whom she had never seen before, was seated on the floor. The studio was dimly lighted; at the end of the room was just such a scene as he had represented in El Jaleo. Carmencita, a light thrown on her from below, now writhing like a serpent, now with an arrogant elegance, strutted the stage with a shadowy row of guitarists in the background strumming their heady Spanish music. She had arrived at the studio with her hair frizzled and her face loaded with powder and paint. Sargent, as her impresario for the occasion, smoothed her hair flat with a wet brush; he even applied a wash rag to her cosmetics.* This was carrying the office of stage manager too far; she resented it and boiled over. Tact was then required to cool her down and induce her to dance, but her "scenes" were short-lived. Before she had danced many steps Mrs. de Glehn saw her throw a rose at her painter as he sat in the half-light on the floor. He picked it up, and from his buttonhole it ratified the peace.
* W. H. Downes v " John Sargent," p. 31, citing H. J. Brock, New York Times.
Study of Oxen
Some years later Carmencita came to London, and Sargent gave a party at 31, Tite Street, at which she danced in his studio. She was now married to the leader of her guitar orchestra, living in lodgings in Bloomsbury and dancing for a large salary at one of the music halls. Mr. Jacomb Hood, who visited her, found her occupying, with her husband, a single bed-sitting-room and cooking together their meal on the fireplace; her portmanteau and one chair were the only seating accommodation. But she was no longer the Carmencita of New York. Time had abated her wildness, though not her beauty, and civilization had subdued the fire of her spirit, though not her grace — she was tamed — she danced at charity concerts, and in her steps she deferred to the standards of British conventionality.
The picture painted by Sargent was exhibited at the Society of American Artists at New York in 1890, at the Royal Academy in 1 891, and at the Exhibition of American Art in 1919, and it now hangs in the Luxembourg. Carmencita stands with her right foot advanced, her right arm akimbo, in a dress of orange, black and silver, a silk scarf falls across her breast and is tied at the left hip, on which her left hand rests. The attitude suggests a challenge to the guitarists to play, to the audience to applaud. She is balanced on her feet with all the lightness of an accomplished dancer, in a moment the orange skirt will swirl, and the lissom figure spring into vehement action. In no other picture by Sargent is the suggestion of suspended movement so direct and convincing. In the treatment of the dress, as in the
* W. H. Downes, "John Sargent," , citing H. J. Brock, New York Times.
t Jacomb Hood, "With Brush and Pencil,"
fine portrait of Mrs. Leopold Hirsch (1902), there is a very definite reminder of Velasquez. The shimmer of silver, the notation of pattern, the suggestion of texture, the crispness of touch, are reminiscent of the portrait of Philip in the National Gallery. The dress rustles, the light plays in its folds, the whole figure is alert with vitality. If the pose verges on the theatrical, and the expression is wanting in the primitive emotions of El Jaleo, and if the tones of the flesh are less subtle than in some of his pictures, none the less it lives as a masterly expression of the artist's skill. Sargent himself expressed regret to Miss Heyneman that he should be represented at the Luxembourg by this picture. When asked why, he said: "After all, it is little more than a sketch. ,,
When the picture was exhibited in New York an admirer offered £600. Sargent said to de Glehn: "I was unable to accept it as it had cost me more than that to paint." "Cost you more! how do you mean?" "Why, in bracelets and things." To such an extent had this capricious beauty to be coaxed before she would fulfil her promise to pose.
IN the autumn of 1890 Sargent and his sister, after a year's absence, returned to Europe, going direct to Marseilles, where they joined Mrs. Sargent and Miss Emily; the whole party proceeding together to Egypt and arriving at Alexandria on Christmas Eve. Thence they went to Cairo, where Sargent hired a studio and painted, among other pictures, the nude full-length of an Egyptian girl, now owned by Mr. Dering. Here they found Mrs. Farquharson and her stepson Mr. Joseph Farquharson, who were living on a dahebiah owned by Mrs. Farquharson's brother. After a month at Cairo, Sargent and his family, with the Farquharsons, embarked on one of Gage's steamers and went up the Nile to Luxor and Philae. Sargent himself with a dragoman made an expedition to Fayoum.
His main purpose in Egypt was to familiarize himself with the legend and myth, the history and archaeology, the symbols and religion of the country, and thus furnish himself with the material for the first stage of his Boston decoration. With his natural aptitude for mastering the essential, he came away at the end of this visit equipped with all the knowledge his exacting mind could require. The character and significance of the Egyptian gods, their relation to their time, their influence in history, the legends to which they had given origin, and the symbolism by which they were surrounded, had now only to be sifted and sorted in his brain, that they might be adapted for pictorial embodiment. Just as Gustave Flaubert had visited Carthage and settled down to master the archaeology necessary for "Salammbo," so had Sargent pored over the monuments and lore of Egypt that he might correctly interpret the spirit and significance of the pagan deities. His accuracy has never been questioned.
In April the family crossed over to Athens, whence Sargent set out with a dragoman for Olympia and Delphi. Every morning he was in the saddle at 4 a.m., only ending the day's journey when night again fell. He rode through miles of country carpeted with wild flowers. Greece was displaying its beauties and enchantments, and revealing its magic vistas in the allurement of a golden spring. Long before his return to Athens he had filled up every available corner of canvas and paper that he had taken for oil and water-colour. From Athens the family went to Constantinople. Here, by bribing an official, he obtained leave to do a sketch of the interior of Santa Sophia, and by the shores of the Bosphorus where the Judas trees were in full bloom he did several water-colours. The study of Santa Sophia* was made in the early morning, and is one of the most purely atmospheric canvases which he painted. The picture has charm and mystery, and probably few better examples exist of his power for rendering the structure and spacing of a building with the minimum of definition. In two other interior studies, St. Mark's, Venice: the Pavement] and Interior of the Palazzo Ducale, Venice^ he has succeeded equally well in rendering structure, proportion and space; but in these the means employed are comparatively matter of fact, they have not the same atmospheric effect, the craftsmanship is consummate, though they are less suffused with a mood. For that we must turn to An Hotel Room& My Dining-Room \\ and the masterly picture of Mr. and Mrs. Vickers, A Dinner Table at Night. \ From Con- stantinople the family came west by Vienna, and in July (1891) were at San Remo at the Villa Ormond. In August his sister Violet was married in Paris to Monsieur Ormond. It was not till the autumn of 1891 that he was back in England after an absence, save for a brief visit in June, of two years. Mrs. Sargent and Miss Emily spent that winter at Nice, and the following winter in Tunis, returning to London in the spring of 1893.
* The picture owned by Mr. C. J. Conway was exhibited at the Royal Academy
Memorial Exhibition, 1926, No. 329. f Owned by Miss Sargent,
t Owned by Viscount Lascelles, K.G., D.S.O.
§ Owned by Mrs. Ormond.
|| Owned by W. G. de Glehn, Esq., A.R.A.
\ Owned by V. C. Vickers, Esq.
It was then that a lease of 10, Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk, was taken for Mrs. Sargent and Miss Emily, close to Sargent's own house in Tite Street. In the years to follow a large part of his home life was spent with his sister Emily.
In 1891 Sargent was represented in the Academy by his picture of Carmencita and a portrait of Mrs. Thomas Lincoln Manson. The critics were beginning to come over. They were falling into line with R. A. M. Stevenson and the public was following. Sargent was beginning to be recognized as the first of living portrait painters. In London he had formed many friendships: Professor Tonks, Mr. D. S. MacColl, Sir George Henschel, Mr. and Mrs. L. A. Harrison, Mr. and Mrs. Comyns-Carr, Mr. Frederick Jameson, Miss Heyneman, Wilson Steer, Sir George and Lady Lewis. He was a frequent visitor at Ightham Moat House, which had been leased by Mrs. Palmer, where he painted in 1889 the large picture of the " house party" playing at bowls, exhibited at the New Gallery in 1890. Socially in London he was greatly sought after. He was becoming acclimatized to the conditions, beginning to feel himself at home, and being "licked into London shape" had proved a less trying process than he had anticipated. He, Whistler and Henry James were recognized in the nineties as stars of the first magnitude, and though Sargent and James equally and consistently shunned publicity like the plague, "renown" has a tendency to make things easy, to simplify the strangers problems, and amplify his area of selection and choice. At the same time any one more completely unconscious of his prestige than Sargent can hardly be imagined. It coursed and eddied about his feet, but he never suffered it to throw him off his balance or to disturb the full and even measure of his working days.
In November, 1891, he joined Mr. and Mrs. Abbey at Morgan Hall, Fairford, and there for certain months in each year till 1895 he remained to share the studio and to pursue his Boston Library decorations. Mrs. Mead, the mother of Mrs. Abbey, was also of the party during the greater part of
AT THE FORGE.
these years, and did much to enhance the contented spirit that reigned in this centre of strenuous work.
Before Sargent's arrival x-\bbey had written to Paris for assistance, asking that specimen drawings should be sent by students who were ready to join the studio at Fairford. Two students were chosen, James Finn and Wilfrid de Glehn (A.R.A., 1925). Between de Glehn and Sargent began one of Sargent's staunchest friendships.
Work would begin at nine or nine-thirty every morning and continue till dark, the studio being divided into a Sargent territory and an Abbey territory. An Italian named Colarossi came as model for Sargent, and one Demarco, "who had a very beautiful head," posed for Abbey.
Later on a younger model became necessary for Sargent's purposes, and an Italian named Inverno was chosen. This was the brother of Nicola d'Inverno, who subsequently in 1893 came to the studio as a model and remained in Sargent's service more than twenty years — Nicola will be remembered by everyone who visited the studio in Fulham Road. He used to pose for the frieze of the prophets and other portions of the decorative work and was constantly in attendance, assisting in the preparation of the "relief" work for the Boston Library, and looking after the mechanical accessories of the artist's work, accompanying Sargent abroad and taking charge of brushes, canvases and paints. Nicola, who had come from Clerkenwell and was in his spare moments a pugilist, used with Sargent to go by the name of the "Clerkenwell Chicken." Occasionally he would appear with a black eye as the trophy of an overnight contest, when Sargent would say: "Ah, I see we have met another man who is slightly the better." Sargent paid for Nicola's training at a gymnasium and would assist him financially when, as not infrequently happened, he was unsuccessful in some venture on the Turf. Nicola wrote his recollections of Sargent in the Boston Sunday Advertiser ', February 7, 1926, and concluded: "Every hour I spent in his service will be a precious memory for ever. The world calls him a great, I know him to be a good, man."
One day a week, occasionally more often, Sargent, who kept a horse at Fairford, would hunt either with the Heythrop, the Warwickshire or the North Cotswold Hounds. Those who only saw him in later years in London would hesitate to associate him with this particular form of activity and recreation, but it was a source of great enjoyment to him. In the first years of his London life he even kept a horse and rode regularly in the Row; and it is difficult to recognize him as the author of the following letter to Sir George Henschel, to whom, when he himself was leaving London, he lent his horse:
I will give instructions about the mare's cribbing, she must either be muzzled or wear a cribbing strap, both of which she possesses. You will find the mare rather sluggish in the streets and inclined to gallop much too fast in the row. You had better use my saddle and bridle which has a very strong curb. She is shod by Messrs. . . . with a rational shoe and I would like her always to be shod by them. This diagnosis of the mare's characteristics proved correct save on the one point of sluggishness in the streets, and when, like Hercules with Mr. Thornton in Mr. Sponge's "Sporting Tour/' the mare showed tendencies to go through plate-glass windows, Sir George thought it time to return the horse to its owner. Sargent was fearless across country, but he was not an accomplished horseman. His departure to the meet was viewed with anxiety: his return in the evening hailed with relief. He had many falls. None displayed more nervousness than Co- larossi, who so long as Sargent was absent at the hunt remained in a state of profound apprehension. Describing what used to occur Colarossi said, not without pride: "Sometimes he not come off the horse at all."
At one time Sargent took lessons at the Kensington Riding School, advised so to do by Mr. Joseph Farquharson, to whom he had confided his deficiencies in his early hunting days, saying that he had fallen off when his horse had jumped into a field and fallen off again when the horse jumped out of the field. As the result of these lessons a cavalcade including Mr. Jacomb Hood, Linley Sambourne, Shakespeare the singer, and Sir George Henschel would issue from the streets of London on Sunday mornings and clatter through Putney for a gallop in Richmond Park.
Sargent's hunting was responsible for one of the oddest episodes in his career. It was shortly before Christmas, 1891. Towards the end of the day he was riding homeward. He found himself in a field of winter wheat, a part of which he had to cross in order to reach a bridle path.
He was no agriculturist; he probably would have found it difficult to distinguish between a field of potatoes and a field of turnips. In all ignorance and innocence, therefore, he continued his way. His movements had been observed; through the twilight the owner of the winter wheat advanced upon him and without preliminaries launched out into a torrent of low abuse. Sargent was completely surprised. He dismounted, and as the man drew near began to apologize for his mistake, offering to make good any damage he had done. Far from being pacified by his courtesy, the farmer became more incensed. He worked himself into a frenzy of rage and loaded Sargent with every variety of threat and malediction. He was well known in the neighbourhood as a surly and foul-mouthed fellow, and Sargent, deeply agitated, mastered his temper and moved away, mounted his horse and rode home. That evening he described what had happened; Mrs. Abbey states that he was obviously in the grip of an agitating distress. At intervals he would return to the subject and discuss what he ought to do. For two days he was uneasy and silent and could do no work. Late on the second day he went out. Towards evening of that day Mrs. Abbey was returning from a walk. Her road led past the gate of the house where the farmer lived. As she approached, a figure walked rapidly down the path; drawing nearer she saw in the dusk that it was Sargent. When he joined her he exclaimed: "I've done it — I've done it." He was calmer than he had been at any time since the adventure. He went on to tell her that after looking at the thing from every side and turning it over and over in his mind he had settled what he ought to do; he had gone to the farmer's door, knocked, and when the farmer appeared, had said: "Come outside and defend yourself, I am going to thrash you." The farmer called on his household to witness the assault, and then, answering the challenge, engaged in a struggle in the course of which Sargent appears to have carried out his threat. Such was the amazing story told as he and Mrs. Abbey walked home.
The farmer at once sought the help of the law. It was doubtful at first whether he would proceed by summons before a magistrate or by a civil action for damages. Sargent put the matter in the hands of Sir George Lewis. On January 21 Sir George wrote that the farmer had issued a writ for damages. He advised payment into court. £50 was considered adequate. The farmer accepted the sum, and proceedings went no further; and there, so far as Sargent was concerned, this curious episode ended. Later an unexpected turn was given to it by an invitation from the farmer to Sargent asking him to dine. Sargent declined, but as a reconciliation was in the air de Glehn and Finn took his place, and found the farmer if not ready to forgive, at any rate determined effectually to achieve forgetfulness by conviviality.
Legend has it that Sargent spent the interval between the insult and the assault in taking lessons in boxing. This scarcely needs denial; he spent the interval, it is true, in deep perplexity. His sense of justice, always lively, but balanced, had been out- raged, but his indignation had cooled and had been replaced by a reasoned view of what under the circumstances it was right to do. He acted in a manner which was unspeakably distasteful to him, driven forward by the conviction that no other course was honourably open to him. It was in no spirit of revenge that he acted, it was probably with no sense of personal grievance, but on a conclusion of judgment arrived at on a point of honour. It was, in fact, the outcome of that rigid rectitude of mind which was habitual to him. We may look on it as evidence of character that he should have allowed the first heat of his anger to cool, and that then, after conferring with his conscience like any cadi seated under a tree, he should have thought himself bound to mete out retribution. His action, therefore, was no "wild form of justice," but a lively expression of the moral instinct embedded in his character.
North End of the Hall
Ceiling: Pagan religions of countries surrounding Palestine.
Lunette: Children of Israel, oppressed by pagan neighbours, expressing their dependence on the True God. Frieze: The Hebrew prophets, typifying the progress of the Jews in religious thought, with final expectation of the Messiah.
IN THE EASTERN LUNETTES
Left: The downfall of paganism, as preached by Hebrew prophets. Centre: The Hebrew ideal — the chosen people protected by Jehovah, through its observance of the Law. Right: The Messianic era, foretold by Hebrew prophets.
At the South End of the Hall Lunette: Doctrine of the Trinity. Frieze and Crucifix: Doctrine of the Redemption.
Ceiling and Niches: Doctrine of the Incarnation.
IN THE WESTERN LUNETTES
Centre: The Judgment.
THE MEDIEVAL CONTRAST
On the East Wall
Left Panel: The Synagogue.
Right Panel: The Church.*
* This analysis is taken from "Handbook of the Boston Public Library."