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self, and that we both had been pupils of Gros. Our friendship dated from that moment. There was in Couture's talent such vigor, such frankness, so much of life and truth, that my admiration for the artist equaled my liking for the man. He was apart among the painters of the day; as far removed from the cold academic school as from the new art, just then making its way, with Delacroix at its head. The famous quarrel between the classical and the romantic camps left him indifferent. He was, even then, of too independent a nature to
by the wayside, a goatskin about his loins his only garment, thin, his deep-sunken eyes full of despair, his brow overshadowed by a thick shock of black hair, seems to ruminate over his past follies and their consequences. In the background pass a man and a woman: the young woman is full of compassion, while her companion points to the prodigal and seems to tell his story. The contrast between the prodigal son and these lovers is very happily indicated; and the rich tones of the man's red drapery relieve the somberness of the rest of
follow any chief, however great. He washimself. His great aim was to approach nature as near as possible, to give life and passion to his painted figures. And in that he succeeded wonderfully.
On that first visit of mine to his bare studio -a very different-looking place from the lovely boudoir-like studios of fashionable painters nowadays-I saw him at work on a picture only just sketched in. He exclaimed: "The amateur who will buy that canvas for a thousand francs will have his money's worth. Don't you think so?" A thousand francs! The picture was large, and represented the prodigal son, a life-size figure. The young man, seated
the picture. While examining the sketch I said to my new friend: "My sitters pay me a thousand francs for a portrait. If you will allow me to pay you by instalments, I will be that amateur,- and a proud one too,- and I offer you not a thousand francs, but fifteen hundred."
I was very proud of my purchase, but a little troubled too. In those days my sitters were not very numerous, and I borrowed of Mr. Coplis, the brother of my fellow-student, the first sum paid to Couture. But I never regretted this youthful folly of mine. "The Prodigal Son" remained in my studio for many years, and I took it with me to America. Finally I gave it, with many other
pictures, to the city of Chicago. I am sorry to say that the whole collection was destroyed in the great fire of 1871. A small sketch of "The Prodigal Son," and a most spirited one, still exists; it belongs to M. Barbedienne, the famous bronze-dealer, who was a personal friend of Couture, and possesses a number of pictures, drawings, and sketches by the master.
Thomas Couture was of humble origin, and had to fight his way in life; he fought it bravely and successfully. He was born in Senlis, not far from Paris, on the 21st of December, 1815. Sturdy, thick-set, short, with a big voice and somewhat rough manners, he was by no means what is called a "lady's man." He never frequented society, and had a profound contempt for those who did. He was a great worker, in his youth especially, for later he grew much fonder of his ease. He cared only for the life of the studio and for artists' jokes, and, I am sorry to say, practical jokes were his particular delight.
If he had not been a painter, he might have been a most inimitable comic actor. When he told a story (and he told funny stories by the dozen), he would act it; his face would turn and twist, his eyes would dance, his nose, with its peculiar nostrils opening upward, would sniff, and he managed so admirably to render the tone
of voice and the gestures of those he imitated that he actually looked like them. I remember that many years later, happening to speak of a very fussy old lady whom we both knew, and whom he had known when she was young, he so caught the twist of her head, the pleading of her eyes, the flattery of her society phrases, that I saw her before me, and not only as she was then, but as she must have been twenty or thirty years before.
Couture was a stanch and faithful friend. We were often separated, as I continually went to America or to England; but when I returned to Paris I was sure to find my old comrade such as he had been when we parted. When I married, and presented him to my young wife, the impression was not so favorable as I should have liked. His big, loud voice, his free-and-easy manners, and especially his practical jokes, which he did not always reserve for the painting-room, greatly disturbed the shy young Englishwoman. At one time he never came to dine with us without bringing in his pocket a tame lizard, which would run up his back and nestle against his neck, or would play the same trick with unsuspecting strangers. He did his best to inspire a disgust for oysters by showing the creatures to be living at the moment when they were swallowed. Many other
such trifles were set down against him at first; but with time, and especially after he himself, rather late in life, married, these eccentricities were softened down, and his real sterling qualities - the good heart, the faithfulness, the sturdy courage, and the manly energy-grew to be more thoroughly appreciated.
These strong qualities did not go without a certain rough independence of character which did not help him to success and official dignities. He divided the world into two distinct classes: artists,- that is, those whom God created to be the masters of the world,and the others, whom he called with infinite contempt "les bourgeois." The greatest statesmen, kings, noblemen, or shopkeepers were all bourgeois,- that is, inferior beings, who should consider it an honor to buy pictures or statues at the highest possible rates. As to allowing them a voice in the matter, the right of directing in any way the artist they employed, that was not to be thought of. Their first duty was to be eternally satisfied, grateful, and enthusiastic.
At the time that Guizot published his work on Washington I was commissioned by a group of Americans to paint a portrait of the great statesman. The sittings were most agreeable, and conversation between the painter and the sitter never flagged. I happened to mention Couture, and I spoke so warmly of my fellow-student that Guizot expressed a wish to see him. The picture of "The Prodigal Son," which he had admired during his sittings, proved to him that my enthusiasm was not inspired merely by friendship. We therefore went to gether to Couture's studio. He had utilized one of his bare walls to sketch in the picture which was to become so celebrated under the title of "The Romans of the Decadence." Even in that rough state it was easy to see what a strong work it was, and the visitor was very much struck by it. Guizot was then all-powerful, and a more courtier-like painter would have shown himself more flattered by this visit than did Couture; he considered it but his due. When the statesman asked him whether he had no order for this picture, he answered, "J'attends." The orders should come to him; he would never run after them. Guizot smiled, but continued most graciously:
"Who was your master?" "Delaroche."
After the death of Gros, Couture had entered Delaroche's atelier, but remained only a short time under a master whom he did not admire.
"M. Delaroche is a friend of mine," answered Guizot; " I shall have great pleasure in speaking of you to him."
And he evidently did speak to Delaroche of his pupil, for a short time after this visit VOL XLIV.—2.
Couture happened to meet his old master, most successful artist of the day, the favorite painter of Louis Philippe and of all his family. Delaroche went up to him and said:
"M. Guizot seems to have been struck by your work; he told me so. I replied that you had been my favorite pupil, you had natural talent, but you have strayed from the true path, and I cannot recommend you."
Probably the favorite court-painter influenced his royal patrons, for when the "Decadence" was exhibited at the Louvre-in those days the "Salon" took place in the long gallery, the modern canvases hiding the works of the old masters-the King, Louis Philippe, when he visited the exhibition, managed to turn his back on Couture's picture, both in coming and in going. The painter's contempt for "bourgeois" taste by no means kept him from feeling this royal behavior most keenly. However, the picture had such great success, was so generally praised, suddenly causing its author to become famous in a day, that the state bought it for the very large sum of 6000 francs. This sudden reputation of his ex-pupil probably caused Delaroche to modify his judgment. At any rate, he called on Couture some time after the purchase of his picture, and said:
"Monsieur Couture, I have greatly disapproved, I still disapprove, of your conception of art, but I do not deny that you have talent. You have made for yourself a place in art; let us be friends."
But Couture was not a man to be taken by a few pleasant words; he drew back and answered:
"Monsieur Delaroche, you have had immense success, you are a member of the Institute, you have innumerable admirers. I never was, I never can be, among those admirers. Therefore there can be no question of friendship between us two."
And, bowing, he left the great man somewhat astonished at this manner of responding to his advances.
Couture was a good painter, but a very bad courtier; he proved it every time he was placed in contact with the great ones of this world, whether sovereigns or members of the Institute of France. That was not the way to make of his talent a popular talent. The rough independence of his nature could admit of no sort of compromise. He had several opportunities of making his way to honors and to fortune-opportunities which another might have utilized, but which he wasted. Doubtless he made good resolutions, but when the time came he was unable to control his impatience and his sharp retorts.
If Louis Philippe did not appreciate the painter of the "Decadence," his reputation was
STUDY OF AN AMERICAN GIRL.
so well established when Napoleon III. took possession of the throne that it was impossible to treat him slightingly, though Couture's talent was not such as courts, as a usual thing, care to encourage. The favorite painter of the Third Empire was Winterhalter, as Delaroche had been of the Orleans family. However, an order was given to Couture for a large picture representing the baptism of the little Prince Imperial. He went to work with great ardor, making sketches, and preparing a vast composition. In the course of the work he had to have sittings from the various members of the imperial family and their immediate followers. If a portrait-painter, when his sitters are ordinary mortals, has nearly always to undergo many unpleasant scenes, it is easy to judge how his temper is tried, and his nerves unstrung, when those sitters are princes or sovereigns. It is
(MADE IN ONE SITTING.)
ENGRAVED BY T. JOHNSON.
likely that in Couture's case the sittings were not agreeable either to the painter or to his models. Napoleon III. wished to direct his artist, and of all artists Couture was the least easy to direct. Finally, one day, goaded beyond endurance, the painter turned around and said:
"Sire, who is to paint this picture-your Majesty, or I?" And neither painted it! The Emperor gave no more sittings, turned his back on the painter, and his courtiers turned theirs also. The order was not maintained, and all the work of many months was wasted.
Couture never recovered from this bitter disappointment. He shook the dust from his feet, and returned contempt for contempt. From that day on he never sent any work to the annual Salon, and, little by little, so retired from the world that many thought him dead. For many of his contemporaries he remained the