America’s first black woman artist

Edmonia Lewis was a Neoclassicist, but her work explored issues of race and gender before these were even concepts.

The Death of Cleopatra, 1876, Edmonia Lewis, courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The first school of American women sculptors arose, paradoxically, in Italy, around Massachusetts-born Harriet Hosmer. These women went to Rome to take advantage of trained carvers and craftsmen and the access to pure white Carraramarble. Along with their male peers, they mined the rich vein of Neoclassicism. America was wealthy and the monument business was booming.
For women artists, there was the additional advantage of breaking away from the social strictures of home. Carving stone is hard physical work, considered uniquely unfeminine in the culture of the time.
Not that they escaped completely. There were plenty of conventional men among the expatriates. Henry James famously described them as “that strange sisterhood of American ‘lady sculptors’ who at one time settled upon the seven hills [of Rome] in a white, marmorean flock.”
Edmonia Lewis, c. 1870, courtesy National Portrait Gallery.
“One of the sisterhood,” James continued, “was a negress, whose colour, picturesquely contrasting with that of her plastic material, was the pleading agent of her fame.” Ouch.
He was referring to Edmonia Lewis, who is now considered the first prominent American female minority artist. Devoutly Catholic, she created many religious works, much of which are lost. Her oeuvre also included portrait busts and classical themes.
Lewis was born in Greenbush, Rensselaer County, New York, in 1844. Her father was of Haitian descent and her mother was Mississauga Ojibwe and African. Lewis was orphaned by the age of nine and adopted by two aunts who lived near Niagara Falls and sold souviners to tourists. At age 12, she was sent to a Free Baptist abolitionist school in central New York, and went from there to Oberlin College. After a childhood of absolute freedom, the strictures of civilization were uncomfortable.
Old Arrow Maker, 1872, is nominally an illustration of a passage from the Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It’s also an evocation of Lewis’ own childhood. Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum.
“Until I was twelve years old I led this wandering life, fishing and swimming and making moccasins. I was then sent to school for three years… but was declared to be wild—they could do nothing with me,” she recollected.
At Oberlin, she was accused of poisoning two friends with an aphrodisiac, a nod to her Haitian background. From that point, she was a marked woman. Another accusation, of stealing, prevented her graduation and she moved to Boston to take up training in sculpture. Again, her relationship with her mentor and teacher, Edward Augustus Brackett, broke down into acrimony.
Lewis’ Portrait of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, c. 1866, was one of the sales that enabled her to leave Boston for Rome. Courtesy Museum of African American History.
Meanwhile, she was lauded as a success in the Abolitionist press, bringing commissions and attention before she was fully prepared to deal with them. She left for Rome and a new start.
At the height of her popularity in the ‘60s and ‘70s, her studio was frequented by visitors fascinated by her charm and exotic clothing and background.
Lewis’ most celebrated sculpture was the monumental Death of Cleopatra, created for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Cleopatra killed herself after the death of her lover and ally, Mark Antony. In the 19th century imagination, she was Africa, he was Europe.
The public was accustomed to depictions of the dying queen as regal, calm and composed. Lewis’ depiction is of a sprawling, inelegant woman, on her throne, in the throes of death. As she did so often in her work, she was quietly looking at issues of race and gender in a novel way.

Monday Morning Art School: how to draw a boat

This exercise is like learning perspective. You’ll never draw this way in the real world, but practicing it will improve your harborside skills.
Cadet, by Carol L. Douglas
I tell my students that it’s best to paint a boat from the deck of another boat or a floating dock. If you can’t, then keep your distance. The tides in Rockport average about 12 feet. That means that if you stand on the public landing painting the lovely and graceful Heron, her angle is going to shift more than 20° over six hours. That’s an impossible perspective shift to manage.
There aren’t tides on lakes, obviously, but the waterline-view of a boat is still often the loveliest view.
Two figure eights. The top one is going to be stern-facing; the bottom one is going to be bow-facing. Thus the lines on the right are straight for the sides of the transom, curved for the bow. I made the bow loop slightly bigger because in practice the bow is likely to be higher.
I learned to draw boats based on figure eights. This is simple. You can master it in the studio before you go out to tackle the real thing. Since the bow of a boat is generally higher than the stern, I draw that end of the figure eight higher. The figure mustn’t be two circles, but you can make it as short or long as you wish. There’s no reason the two loops must be equal, although you should try it that way first. It’s easiest to do this when you’re not trying to be overly precise.
The fattest points of your figure eight are going to be the stern and bow of your boat. The keel curves in the front, so that line is drawn as a curve. The stern may curve in a fantail or be a flat transom. That varies by the boat.
The next step is to erase the extra lines and add a little shading. I took the liberty of adding a little extra height to the bow on the bottom.
In the top example, I put the transom forward; in the bottom drawing I put the bow forward. The important thing to realize is that the figure-eight is just like an optical illusion: it can go either way. Once I draw the curve or cut off the transom, I just erase the extra lines and gussy it up with some shadows. 
The actual direction of the boat is like an optical illusion; it can flip either way. The Scrumpy‘s notch is a little crooked; sorry.
In the very old days, small boats were sometimes clinker-built, meaning they had overlapping planks that made for beautiful curving lines beloved of artists. If you see those planks on a modern boat, they’re molded. I halfheartedly faked them in on my drawing, because I no longer entirely believe in them.
Dinghy, by Carol L. Douglas, shows how fast that can be done in practice. This was a workshop demo.
Drawing boats like this is like drawing perspective. You need to know how to draw 2-point perspective but you’ll never really draw those rays on your canvas while you’re working. It’s an exercise that teaches you a principle that you then incorporate into your work.
Once you see it as a process of squeezing and lengthening the horizontal shapes while leaving the heights the same, drawing boats is easy.
The same with this kind of boat drawing. The take-away lesson is this: as long as you have the relative heights of the pieces of your boat right, it can swing on its anchor all afternoon without significantly messing up your painting. Block it in with initial measurements and let it go from there. The parts will stretch out or grow shorter, but their heights will always remain the same. That liberates you from worrying when your boat—as it will—wanders around its mooring. I did the little sketch above to demonstrate that.

Professional artists, please take this survey

A young Alabama artist wants to ask you some questions. Help a girl out, would you?
American Eagle in Drydock, by Carol L. Douglas

Cat Pope is a young artist in Mobile Alabama who is serious about building a sustainable art business. She planned a trip to visit an established artist in her community, and shared her questions with me beforehand.

Why limit this to one artist’s experience? Drawing from her list, I created a short survey, which you can access here:
If you are a professional artist and can complete this, that’s great. If you can forward it to your working-artist friends, that’s even better.
What am I going to do with this data? Why, share it with you, of course.
It can’t be all brushwork and happiness…
Here are more of Cat’s questions, which I’ve answered from my experience. If you have any advice you want to share with her, just write a comment here (not on Facebook) where she’ll see it.
How often do you replenish stock at a gallery? When I finish a new piece that is appropriate to a gallery, I approach the gallerist with it. Paintings take a long time to sell. Be patient.
How do you ship work? Small works, by USPS. Large works, through a dedicated local shipping company that makes the crate for me.
A shipping crate from back when I used to make my own.
Do you provide the gallery with your own contract, or rely on theirs? In Maine, things are pretty informal. I read their contract and ask questions and make annotations if necessary.
How often do you increase your prices, and by how much? Every few years. I survey the competition and my galleries for advice.
Do you ever offer discounts for repeat customers? Of course.
What made you choose your art market? I like the tradition of plein air painting on the Maine coast, and it’s a market with a history of making and buying landscape paintings.
Barnum Brook, by Carol L. Douglas, is located in the Adirondacks, which I still consider as part of my regional market.
What percentage of your time is spent creating work? Office duties? I shoot for a 50-50 division of time between painting and promotion.
How many off days do you take in a week for family and personal time? I try to work five days a week. In the summer, that’s impossible, but I remember that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
What advice would you tell young professionals who want to build a fine arts business, specifically in original paintings? Be serious—as you are—about a business plan up front. Frederic Edwin Church was from a very successful family. Their wealth enabled him to pursue an art career. In turn, he was expected to be business-like about it. It was his skill in business and promotion, as much as his prodigious talent, that made him the legend he is today. 

A strategic plan for the artist

Planning isn’t the artist’s strongest skill. Here’s a step-by-step model you can use.

Winter lambing, by Carol L. Douglas. When I stray from my narrow focus, it’s for my own purposes and intentional.
My husband’s work is incremental. His current project has a three-year timeline. The members of his team have a clear idea of the end product. Each person disciplines him- or herself to finishing their bits each week. Planning has to be part of their process, or the end result would be chaos.
Artists work alone and usually finish a piece in a few hours, days or weeks. Then we move on to the next piece. Our planning is limited, and many of us resist it. “I’m a free spirit,” we tell ourselves.
Yesterday’s posttouched a chord. I messaged with artists from Mobile to Maine about how to write a strategic plan.

Apple tree swing, by Carol L. Douglas. One of my goals is to limit how many plein air events I do.

Here are the steps:

  • Find yourself someone smarter than you to work with. Lots of artists have business backgrounds; I don’t. Ask that person questions. Ask gallerists for advice. And don’t forget your spouse. After you, she/he is the biggest stakeholder in your process.
  • Identify what you want to make and sell. In my case, that’s landscape paintings, workshops, and a weekly class.
  • Identify marketing channels, including cost-free publicity. Social media marketing is so fluid that what works today will certainly notbe effective five years down the road, so be prepared to revisit this question regularly.
  • Julie Richardsuggests that you do a SWOT analysis. I didn’t, but I think it’s a good idea. That means you identify your:
  • My Acadia workshop is important to me both personally and professionally.
  • Many artists work other jobs to support themselves (including child care and homemaking). They need to figure out how many hours a week they can honestly give their art careers. Other artists are at retirement age or have retired spouses. You’ll be frustrated if you don’t face the limitation of time honestly.
  • Who are your target clients? Bobbi Heath and I drew up profiles of our clients based on our sales experience. We each realized we have two separate client bases, one for teaching and one for painting.
  • What are your objectives? Be realistic. When I first did this exercise with Jane Bartlettmany ago, I said I wanted to be earning $10,000 a year. (Money was a lot cheaper back then.) That seemed modest compared to what I was earning as a designer. I failed to make a fundamental calculation. At the price points I’d set for my work, I couldn’t possibly produce enough paintings to hit that goal. I was selling well enough, but still coming up broke.

    The answer to that, by the way, was not to raise my prices to an unrealistic level. It was just to ride through those years. Knowing they were coming would have helped my financial planning, though.
     

  • From your objectives, set some concrete goals. Commit to them. Most of my working week is spent working toward them. They keep me focused.
  • How are you going to make those goals a reality? By setting some action items. These may include:
    • A calendar of show applications with the dates firmly inked into your personal calendar;
    • An advertising schedule;
    • A work schedule as in, “I’m going to finish six large studio paintings by May.”
    • A budget—I realize that you’d like this budget to be zero, but that’s not practical. It costs money to make art and it costs money to advertise.
  • Write it down. It doesn’t need to be complicated; my current one is barely a page long.
  • Create accountability. I use Bobbi Heath’s system for managing multiple projects, but you might need an accountability partner. Make a system and use it.
  • Go back and look at the plan on a regular basis.
Give yourself room to be flexible. My watercolor workshop on the American Eagle is a new thing.

Does this mean you can’t be flexible? No. If you see an opportunity, grab it—as long as it doesn’t take you totally off track. if it does, ask yourself if your current plan is really your best plan, or does it need revision?

Want to make a living in the arts?

Pay attention to the numbers and develop a strategic plan.
Three Graces, Carol L. Douglas (courtesy Camden Falls Gallery). Wherever I go, that’s where the party’s at, especially on the Camden docks. That’s part of my business plan.

Yesterday, we started our day with a tsunami warning scrolling across our phones. Later, they issued a clarification; Accuweather had misread a test alarm. The mighty Atlantic floated serenely on.

A tsunami would have messed up my plans, which were to drive to Ellsworth to attend the Maine Arts Commission’s Arts Iditarod.
I’ve writtenabout my own strategic planning. It’s tremendously important for the artist who wants to go from dedicated amateur to professional. I was chuffed to hear Julie Richard, Maine Arts Commission Executive Director, ask how many artists or organizations have a strategic plan. I wasn’t so chuffed by the response, which was pretty spotty. In fact, I was the only working artist in the group who had such a plan.
Parker Dinghy, by Carol L. Douglas. A commission from a day on the Camden docks.
A strategic plan is just a disciplined exercise in developing goals and objectives for your business venture. If you’re a Maine artist who wants to take that all-important step in self-development, I encourage you to attend the last of the meetings, at Lewiston on February 14. You can register here. Mush!
Artists, for the most part, operate outside a corporate structure. For us, a blueprint is critically important, and yet we’re loathe to embrace planning. When I did my first strategic planning, it seemed a strange and wondrous concept. Twenty years later, I get it. Don’t let the oddity of the process deter you. It really works.
Athabasca glacier, by Carol L. Douglas. My plan never involves giving up fun.
About 22,000 Mainers make their living in the arts, and we’d do a better job of it if we were more organized. That starts with facts about our target audience. There are, of course, a similar set of facts for every locale. If you’re not in Maine, you’ll need to ferret them out on your own.
Arts and cultural tourists tend to spend more, stay longer, and come back more frequently than other kinds of visitors to Maine, according to Maine Cultural Tourism Coordinator Abbe Levin. They’re also more likely to move here after retirement. The Maine Office of Tourism is a big player in drawing them here, although most of their efforts are invisible to us Mainers. 95% of their marketing is done out of state. This year, VisitMaine will have around 3.5 million hits, and the office will send out mailings to a list of more than 800,000 visitors.
“How many visitors are too many?” asked a participant. While that’s something that occurs to us in July, the coastal economy needs people from away.
Russ Island at High Tideby Carol L. Douglas. It was painting off the American Eagle that inspired the Age of Sail workshop this June.
Maine currently sees about 40 million visitors a year, with annual growth of 8-9%. To compare, New York City, which is America’s top-drawing tourist destination, sees 60 million visitors a year. Yosemite gets 4 million people a year. We are, in fact, a very big deal, but we have the capacity to accommodate more, according to Levin. That’s particularly true during the shoulder seasons and in places farther up north.
The question for Maine artists is how to engage these visitors. Is it with more gallery representation, a self-run gallery, signage, advertising, painting on the dock or chatting up tourists?

#metoo and the artist’s model

Rules for working with the nude women in your life.

Couple, by Carol L. Douglas. It’s no big deal to ask a figure model to model clothed, but it’s decidedly a big deal to ask a portrait model to strip.

I’ve written before about working with model Michelle Long—ironically, in the wake of sex abuse allegations against photographer Terry Richardson. That was in 2014, before #metoo. Today, artist Chuck Close is in the spotlight for making models uncomfortable with inappropriate comments.

The balance of power is vastly disparate between a superstar painter and his models. However, whenever one person is clothed and the other is nude, the relationship is always unequal. Stupid comments, gestures and suggestions that would be trivial in any other setting take on different meaning when one person is clothed and the other isn’t.
Death of Boudicca, by Carol L. Douglas
It rolls both ways, by the way. I vividly recall a model discussing her boyfriend’s schlong from the model stand. She was never called back. There are other models whom I used downtown but not in my home studio; they creeped me out a little too much to have them know where I lived.
Michelle, of course, was always the consummate professional. That’s more than just an attitude about students; it means she could take and hold a pose, was reliable, and was a partner in the intellectual process of developing the painting.
Artnet recently published The Dos and Don’ts of Working With Nude Models: 6 Steps for Keeping Things Professional. If you work with nude models, it’s important reading.
Reclining figure, by Carol L. Douglas
Communicate up front whether or not the model will pose nude. 
The assumption for most figure-drawing classes is that the models will pose nude. For portrait classes, the assumption is that the model will be clothed. Don’t switch this around without discussion.
Don’t touch the models.
There are times you just want to grab the model’s foot and pull it forward three inches. But you simply don’t manhandle other people. Be patient. I’m not a hugger, which saves me infinite trouble. The same affectionate gesture that’s meaningless between two clothed persons is different between a model in a thin robe and a fully-clothed artist.
The Beggar, by Carol L. Douglas
Put the model’s comfort before the artist’s interests.
The model for The Beggar was physically strong. I expected she would tell me if she was in pain, but she didn’t. She came out of that pose in tears. That was when I realized that some models won’t complain no matter what’s asked of them; their perception of our relationship is different from mine. Never again did I ask a model to hold such a difficult pose. I also rigged up a trapeze so that models could support their bodies in vertical poses.
It ought to go without saying that you provide space heaters, you wash linens and the model stand between every session, you pad the model stand, and you provide a private changing space. You prohibit traffic in and out of the studio while the pose is in session.
Don’t ignore red flags.
I had an idea that I’d wrap my models in plastic to paint them (it didn’t work out like I thought it would). I talked about it with them beforehand, because treating a human being like a vegetable was, frankly, weird.
Decide what environment is most comfortable for you.
I know there are studios that strictly enforce a ‘no talking’ rule. That wouldn’t be mine; you try keeping high school students silent. I have ended up knowing every model I’ve worked with. They’re not slabs of meat. Other artists and models prefer silence.
Don’t take pictures.
Artnet said “don’t bring your cellphone,” but what they really mean is, “don’t take photos.” I have broken this rule when something has confused me in a live session. But I never revisited these photos anyway. Taking photos of the model is a ghastly faux pas and an invasion of the model’s privacy. It should never be done in a classroom setting. Never.
Note: I’ll be at What’s Nude in Boothbay Harbor Saturday, February 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.

Monday Morning Art School: Repoussoir

If your landscape is flat and delicate, you can introduce drama using this framing device.

Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877, Gustave Caillebotte (courtesy Art Institute of Chicago). 

Repoussoir is a compositional technique where an object along the left or right foreground directs the viewer’s eye into the composition. The bracket is often done with a tree, but sometimes it’s a person. In Paris Street; Rainy Day(above) the man with the umbrella on the far right of the canvas drives your eye up. Note that he’s a simplified and non-distracting figure compared to the complexity and detail of the rest of the canvas.

The Art of Painting, 1665-68, Johannes Vermeer (courtesy Kunsthistorisches Museum) 

Repoussoir was an important special effect of the 17th century. Vermeer used it in The Art of Painting, above. The great dark shape of the drapery drives our eye to the traceries of the map on the far wall.

El Río de Luz (The River of Light), 1877, Frederic Edwin Church (Courtesy National Gallery of Art)

The Dutch Golden Age painters particularly loved repoussioras a way to pop drama into the flat, Dutch landscape. So did the Hudson River Schoolpainters. The example above, is by Frederick Edwin Church. Church was keenly interested in the flora and fauna of the tropics. There’s a canoe in the distance and waterfowl in the middle-foreground, but the tree on the left conveys most of our factual information about the scene. But it’s still a framing device, and what lies beyond is even more important. That’s our impression of the terrifying sublimity of the steaming riverbed beyond. (You can look at the painting in detail here.)

Nunda Farm, by Carol L. Douglas. This is not repoussoir, but rather a path drawing you into the composition.

Repoussoir is still extensively used in modern photography and landscape painting. It is a different effect from creating a path into the composition. I’ve given you an example of that in Nunda Farm, above, where the corn stalks draw your eye through the composition.

Repoussoir gone bad, by Carol L. Douglas. Why do you think the evergreen on the right fails to draw you into the composition?

I’ve also given you a failed sketch by me as an example of how repoussoir can go wrong. I was searching for a way to give perspective to a scene of unbroken snow and darkness. The small pine at the right doesn’t exist in the real scene. I abandoned this composition because the tree conflicted with, rather than enhanced, the main subject. Why do you think it didn’t work?

Hedgerow in Paradise, by Carol L. Douglas. I’m deliberately blocking the viewer out here. Why do you think that is?

Hedgerow in Paradiseis a painting of a farm in Bloomfield, New York. This is an area of delicate beauty, where the flat lake plains are tentatively breaking out into gentle rolling hills. I intentionally chose to let the long view sit alone, giving the viewer no framing and no path into the subject. In other words, there’s no real foreground, just a scene set in the middle distance.

Hedgerow in Paradise, reimagined with repoussoir. How does it change the composition?

Above, I’ve imposed a tree in the foreground. Does it add to or distract from the subject? How does it change the meaning of the composition?

In your work, do you have something similar to Hedgerow in Paradise? Your assignment is to do a sketch based on that painting or drawing, reframing the composition using repoussoir. If you don’t have a painting like this, use a photograph from the internet. I’m interested in the before-and-after. I used Photoshop, but you can do a simple sketch. It doesn’t need to be complicated. How is the scene changed with repoussoir? Do you like it better or not?
Repoussoir is a technique that’s particularly applicable to the midwestern plains and to ocean views. I’ll be stressing it at my Rochester workshop because of the delicacy of the glacial landscape at Mendon Ponds, but it works well with water, too.

Four workshops this summer

One might be coming to a town near you.

American Eagle and Heritage, photo by Carol L. Douglas

I’m teaching four workshops this year, which is the most I’ve ever taken on. (I’m already in training, hiking around Rockport to get my endurance up.) They’re in different places, appealing to different tastes and budgets. If you’ve ever wanted to study with me, this would be a great year to do so. Who knows? All this exercise might kill me soon.

Yours truly, painting at Rye (photo by Brad Marshall)

Rye, NY, May 11-12: Rye is a quick jaunt out of New York City for those of you who want a pastoral workshop but can’t travel to Maine this year. I’ve painted in Painters on Location for many years, so I know the village and its boats, beach, buildings and waterfront. We’ll meet at the Rye Art Center and move out from there to explore locations around town. This class is for all levels and all media, and will focus on simplifying forms, planning a good composition, gathering the necessary visual information from life, and interpreting color relationships.

Cost: $350 for the two-day workshop. Call the Rye Arts Center at (914) 967-0700 for more information.
The Devil’s Bathtub, on a wetter, woolier day than we’ll be experiencing. (Courtesy LazyYogi)
Rochester, NY, June 2-3: I’ll be teaching at Mendon Ponds for two days under the auspices of Greater Rochester Plein Air Painters. I’m excited about the location, since it’s a designated National Natural Landmark because of its glacial topography, which includes a kettle hole, eskers, a floating sphagnum moss peat bog, and kames. Here, we’ll concentrate on painting the drama in the landscape while remaining true to the subject. We’ll concentrate on skies, slopes, and reflections. The fundamentals of design, composition and color will be stressed.
Cost: $200 for the two-day workshop, with an early-bird discount before March 1. The flyer is here, and the registration form is here.
American Eagle in Penobscot Bay.
On board American Eagle, out of Rockland, ME, June 10-14: “There are many painting workshops on the Maine coast, but The Age of Sail  promises to be the most unusual,” wrote Maine Gallery Guide. This four-day cruise aboard the restored schooner American Eagle is a great way to loosen up your brushwork. We’ll work fast, concentrating on reflections on water and the powerful skies of the Maine coast. All levels of painters are encouraged to join us. It’s an all-inclusive trip, including meals, berth and your materials for water media.
Cost: $1020 all inclusive. Visit here for more information, or email me.
Corinne Avery happily painting at Schoodic.
Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula, August 5-10: My long-running Sea & Sky workshop remains ever-popular, with many returning students over the years. We spend five days in the splendid isolation of Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula, far from the crowds on the other side of the bay. There’s wildlife, surf, rocks, jack pines and more. A day trip to the working harbor at Corea, ME, is included. Our accommodations are at the Schoodic Institute—located deep in the heart of the park—and include all meals and snacks so that we don’t have to stop painting.
Cost: $1600 all inclusive. Visit here for more information, or email me.

A great master is censored in Manchester

What hath #metoo wrought? Removal of a very beautiful 19th century masterpiece by John William Waterhouse.

This morning, I’m heading down to Boothbay Harbor to deliver two nudes to What’s Nude in Boothbay Harbor at Studio 53. These belong to a body of work I did for a duo show with Stu Chait at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Dyer Gallery in 2014. The show was closed after administrators took a gander at my nudes.

Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896, John Williams Waterhouse (courtesy Manchester Art Gallery)

I felt badly for Stu, but it did give me the experience of being censored. Today, I’m joined by the illustrious Victorian painter, John William Waterhouse, whose Hylas and the Nymphs has been removed from the walls of Manchester Art Gallery. As usual, the administrators have put the best possible face on it, making the painting’s absence a ‘dialogue’ and asking patrons to comment on Post-It notes pinned up in its space. That’s a clever trick. You can’t write much on a Post-It note.

Curators explained that this was being done in connection with a current debate on historical cultural depictions of submissive women, calling the painting a “Victorian fantasy.” If that’s their criteria, then all their pre-Raphaelite paintings are destined for the dustbin. The pre-Raphaelites are the heart of Manchester’s collection. They’re unlikely to burn any of them as zealots did during the Protestant Reformation; they’re too valuable. Still, it’s a worrisome trend, in part because it’s so uninformed.
The Servant, Carol L. Douglas, will be on display at Studio 53, Boothbay Harbor, February 9-11, 2018.
Hylas is a character from Greek mythology. He was Heracles’ youthful spoil of war, lover, companion, servant and fellow Argonaut. Hylas was kidnapped by nymphs—who are neither human nor prepubescent—of the spring of Pegae, Dryope. Broken-hearted Heracles and his pal Polyphemus went off to find him. The Argo sailed on without them. Heracles never found Hylas, who was blissfully happy in his spring with his nymphs. The story has been retold in art since about 300 BC.
Unlike Balthus, there is no indication that Waterhouse had any improper relations with his models. He was a quiet, private man who was married to a woman he met at his parish church in Ealing. He died after a long, suffering illness with cancer, in 1917.
We have little information about his models for Hylas, but we do know something about the women who sat for him. His sister Jessie is believed to be among his first models. His sister-in-law, Mary Waterhouse Somerville, posed for The Lady of Shalott in 1888, and his wife Esther also sat for him.
Reading, by Carol L. Douglas, will be on display at Studio 53, Boothbay Harbor, February 9-11, 2018.
Muriel Foster first modeled for Waterhouse in 1893 at the age of fifteen, decorously draped in a long gown as La Belle Dame Sans Merci. She was probably one or more of the nymphs in Hylas, although the nymphs are pastiches of different faces and forms. She sat for Waterhouse until his death.
Beatrice Flaxman modeled for Waterhouse from 1906 to 1916. She modelled for Ophelia, 1910, Penelope and her Suitors, 1912, Annunciation, 1914 and I am half sick of shadows, said the Lady of Shalott, 1915.
Gwendoline Gunn was the daughter of the Waterhouses’ friends, Marcus and Mary Eliza Gunn. She modeled for him in the early 1900s, but more importantly, became a friend of the artist and his wife in her own right. She and her daughter took care of Esther Waterhouse until her death in 1944.
Waterhouse also worked with the same stable of professional models as used by his pre-Raphaelite peers. Many of them were notorious for their intimate relationships with their models, particularly Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
So why Waterhouse?