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