Letters from Paris
Utah Historical Quarterly
Vol. 54, 1986, No. 2
Letters from Paris
BY WILLIAM C. SEIFRIT
THAT THE STUDIES ENGAGED IN BY UTAH artists in Paris during the 1880s and '90s changed Utah's artistic development for decades to follow is scarcely arguable. The knowledge, skills, approaches to artistic production, and the entire Parisian experience enriched the artists individually and Utah's art history generally. Beginning with James T. Harwood's and Cyrus E. Dallin's study at the Academic Julian in 1888, and continuing in the 1890s with the arrival of John Hafen, John B. Fairbanks, John Willard Clawson, and Lorus Pratt, and still later by Edwin Evans and Herman H. Haag, these artists provided a cultural enrichment to the territory possibly unequaled before or since. The latter six of these eight artists were able to study in Paris in part because of a subsidy given by the Mormon church. The genesis of this unique financial arrangement will be examined later.
The appeal of study in art centers away from Utah began as early as the 1870s when Lorus Pratt studied privately in England. Cyrus E. Dallin was studying sculpture in Boston in April 1880; Marie Gorlinski began a three-year course of study in painting in Europe in 1882; and during the winter of 1882-83 John W. Clawson attended the National Academy of Design in New York City and took honors for his work. By 1887 James T. Harwood had completed two courses of study in San Francisco's California School of Design. Other Utah artists dreamed of studying with the then acknowledged masters of drawing and painting. For example, in 1883 John Hafen wTote to his friend Harwood:
I have a desire to go to San Francisco in preference to New York. The recommendations from reliable sources are overwhelmingly in favor of the former school at least for a landscape painter. Now James all that is left for me is to coax you to rig up and come with Lorus [Pratt] and I. About 3 or 4 hundred dollars will be all you need as you go west ... I would so much like to have you with us and I cannot bear the idea otherwise. Education in our profession means independence, happiness, and usefulness.
Within a few years Paris would become the dream destination for these artists.
Most of the Utah artists to study in Paris in the late 1880s and early '90s were active correspondents with family, friends, and sponsors. Scores—perhaps hundreds—of their letters are extant. Hafen and Fairbanks were probably the most prolific letter writers. Nearly every letter provides some insight into the experiences the Utahns were having. Prom comments on the prices of foodstuffs and housing to the intense interest in art shown by the French to the rigorously demanding requirements for entering some of the art schools to the self-revelatory estimates of their own artistic shortcomings and, occasionally, the small successes and advancements made by each—all reveal a broadening of personal horizons and a heightened artistic consciousness.
Harwood had already established a reputation as an artist of merit when he decided to go to Paris for further study. He had exhibited some landscapes and still lifes at the Salt Lake Easel and shown other works in the second annual Utah Art Association exhibition. In an 1888 interview he announced his plan to go to Paris and then held a studio sale or auction to earn additional funds before his departure.
Harwood described his initial reaction to Paris in a letter to Harriet Richards, whom he later married. He and some friends, including fellow art student Guy Rose of California, visited the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and a park:
We leisurely walked through beautiful walks with lovely trees, flowers and fountains, with beautiful statues placed artistically around. It seems like nothing is spared to make things perfect here. The buildings are more than I can describe and the streets are so clean that at night they reflect like a mirror.
He also described what may have been the stereotypic meal for art students:
Instead of taking our supper at a restaurant Marvine proposed to have it in our room, so we l)ought a loaf of bread about a yard long—yes it was that if not more. Then some coffee, sugar, sardines, butter, cheese and something in a glass can which wasn't very good. And I tell you it was a jolly meal and there wasn't enough bread so [Guy] Rose and Pape went out for some, and got it all right—But they eat so much they were very restless at night.
But Harwood had gone to Paris to study art, and he told Harriet,
I feel so very ambitious sweet one—I feel as though I could exist ten times better than I could before I came. I am so anxious to get to work. I want to draw for a whole year before I paint and then paint hard for a whole year and I think I will accomplish something.
By September 12 Harwood had been accepted into the Academic Julian. Admission to either the Julian or the Ecole des Beaux-Arts entitled a student to sketch from life from 8:00 A.M. until noon with a nude model from Monday through Saturday; afternoons, evenings, and Sundays were free. Some students elected to continue sketching weekday afternoons from models draped or in costumes, while others chose to study and sketch art in the Luxembourg Palace or the Louvre. Still others, including Hafen and Fairbanks, occasionally went to the French countryside for sketching. During the winter as many as sixty students would crowd around a live model, easel to easel, in an unventilated studio. The tobacco smoke and ribald comments frequently disturbed the Utahns to the point that they left the atelier and sought artistic opportunities elsew here.
Several weeks after his admission to the Academic Julian, Harwood met, quite by chance, Cyrus E. Dallin who had come to Paris a week or so after Harwood had arrived. They soon renewed their friendship. The two artists had shared an exhibition in Calder's music store in Salt Lake City some years earlier, an exhibition at which Dallin claimed that Harwood was the only one who sold anything. Eight months after their reacquaintance Dallin noted: "I see young Harwood quite often, and am glad to say he is making very good progress in his art, in fact he is doing remarkable well."
On Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1868, Harwood and Rose celebrated at home with steaks and their own coffee: "Rose didn't know how to say grace, neither did I—but we both agreed that we felt just as thankful as the longest prayer made through the day would express. After the feast we had an hour fencing. . . ."
Harwood continued at the Julian until the summer of 1889 when he prepared to take the examination for entry into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His account of the three-week examination reveals the highly competitive nature of art study at that school:
The examination is very hard. All are packed in one room and have to hold their work with the knees and one hand and draw with the other, the top of the sketch resting on an upright bar. After drawing the examination includes history, architecture, anatomy, perspective and modeling. The questions in history are given when all are placed, guards being stationed to prevent cheating, and the questions are taken from all the way between 2700 B.C. and 1889, A.D., soyoucan't very well look the matter over in the morning before. Then in architecture, when all are assigned to their places in boxes or stalls, the subject is given; this one was 'Christ at the foot of a Doric column in a chapel.' We had from eight a.m. till two p.m. to finish, hmch (which of course we had to pay for) being served to us like horses .... It is a very exciting affair. One feels like an ancient galley-slave with his guards over him.
The keen competition was heightened by the knowledge that every Frenchman who passed the examination would have two years' compulsory military service waived; for every foreign national like Harwood who passed, one French national would go into military service. Three to four hundred art students began the examination on June 24, and on July 17 when the results were posted, Harwood joyfully noted that he was the twenty-ninth of only seventy-five newly admitted students:
I am now furnished by the French government with free schooling for two years, with professors in painting, anatomy, history and other branches who are equal to any in Europe. It is a very great honor to be a member of the Beaux Arts, for they have privileges which others do not. . . .
Harwood began to draw in earnest at the Beaux-Arts:
My Prof., Benjamin Constant, told me one day that I had drawn long enough to go into painting. That pleased me very much, as I had wanted to start but felt a little timid about it. The next week we had a very interesting boy as a model and I went in for color with all my might. It brought very encouraging criticisms, and at the end of the week a fellow took a notion to it and bought my first painting.
The criticisms referred to by Harwood were given twice weekly by visiting professors and were very harsh. The absence of a negative comment was regarded by the students as implicit praise:
Criticism in a French studio is far different from that which one receives at home. The first idea of the French master seems to be to make the student fully realize that he knows absolutely nothing. That it is a presumption on his part even to ask for a criticism .... Only such criticisms are made on three days of patient labor as "look at the model, you are working from imagination," "bad in movement." "bad in construction," "entirely too pretty," "look for the character," and the highest praise ever given is "not bad."'"
Matters were also progressing well for Cyrus Dallin. While still a student at the Julian he received a commission from an American dentist, Thomas W. Evans, to execute a memorial statue:
I have a bronze model of an equestrian statue at the [Paris] exposition which I am to put up in the city of Paris. The subject is Lafayette, and is given to Paris by a rich American who lives here, and he has commissioned me to do the work, so you see that in one sense all goes well with me ... I will be the only American who will have a statue in Paris.
So, the first two of what would later become a small band of "Utah boys" had arrived in Paris and achieved, each in his own way, some degree of success. Harwood and Dallin went to Paris in the apparently true belief that they could obtain the best instruction there, even though both had received earlier formal training and enjoyed some public successes.
Meanwhile, other motivation for Paris study had been moving to the surface of artistic and ecclesiastic thinking in Utah. Sometime in the late winter or early spring of 1890 Lorus Pratt and John Hafen discussed the idea with George Q. Cannon. On Marc:h 25 Hafen informed Cannon what a year's study in Paris would cost: "I have since investigated this matter and found that it cost Mr. J. T. Harwood of Lehi (who has taken a year's course in Paris) a little over [one] thousand dollars per year. This included fare both ways, board and lodging." Hafen gave credibility to his estimate by adding that Harwood "is economical and not addicted to any bad habits that I know of, that is, such as are expensive." At the heart of Hafen's plea for assistance from the church leader was his concern for the Salt Lake Temple:
What are we going to do, brother Cannon, when one [our?] beautiful temple in Salt Lake City is ready to receive inside decorations? Who is there amongst all our people capable to do anything like near justice to artwork that should be executed therein? I must confess that it is impossible for me to see any other or more consistent course to pursue in this matter than to give two or three young men who possess talent to this direction, a chance to develope the same, in a way Bro. [Lorus] Pratt suggested in our conversation with you.
Hafen continued in this vein, expressing devotion to church and God and humbling himself. He told Cannon that if it "should ever fall to my lot to receive assistance ... and then return the same by decorating our beautiful temple or other necessary work ... I would esteem it the highest honor and the crowning point of my ambition."
Hafen could not have been unaware that much temple painting and decorating had already been done; Danquart Weggeland had executed a "grand allegorical painting" for the Logan Temple and had also worked in the St. George Temple in 1881. In 1883 Weggeland and William Armitage did painting in the Logan Temple. William C. Morris did work in the Manti Temple in 1888; and Weggeland and C. C. A. Christensen produced murals there in the same period. It is reasonable to conclude that Hafen was suggesting to the First Presidency that a new, fresher approach to mural painting for the temples was needed and that advanced training in Paris would provide him and other new-generation artists with the skills necessary to accomplish that purpose.
Hafen introduced one of these new artists, John B. Fairbanks, to Cannon in the following terms:
... he is talented, earnest and industrious and above all is a devoted servant to the cause of God. Why I bring him to your notice, is, if I should be one of the honored ones selected to enjoy the privelages of an education and Bro. Fairbanks should be barred out, I should look upon it as a calamity ... I would rather share one year with him and divide it between us, so that each could have a six month chance, than to leave him behind.
By April 25, 1890, Hafen, Pratt, and Fairbanks had determined that the three of them could study and work in Paris for a year for approximately $2,160. This sum was not to be divided equally; Hafen noted in his letter to Cannon that Pratt and Fairbanks thought they could support their families on their own, whereas he could not. Whatever specific financial arrangements were made, the important point remains that the First Presidency was willing to underwrite the cost of formal training for these three artists.
Hafen, Pratt, and Fairbanks found themselves in Liverpool on July 12, 1890. Hafen described the voyage to his wife Thora:
I will tell you a little of ocean life. Second cabin bunks are in a little room about as long as our pantry and a little wider[;] in this space there are 4 bunks or beds large enough for a person each. These little rooms smell so strong because of dampness that it is very disagreeable. Breakfast at 7 A.M. Porage, beaf potatoes and bread. Dinner from 11 A.M. to 2 P.M. Beaf rice potatoes, bread soup and some kind of pudding. Supper could [cold?] meat and bread [;] with all meals there is coffee and tea. Everything is poorly cooked.
After about ten days in England in the care of Liverpool Mormons, touring museums and galleries and attending meetings with other Saints, Hafen and Fairbanks departed for Paris on July 24.
On their first full day in Paris they received a happy visit and some disappointing news:
Early this morning C. E. Dallin came to see us ... . He located us in the art quarters, and now we begin to dive in at F'rench .... Friend Dallin will leave for Boston soon and Harwood is gone to Switzerland. Dallin told me that he, Harwood, would not return [to Paris] so we may be left to ourselves, excepting J. W. Clawson.
Hafen and Fairbanks lost little time in establishing their home base in Paris; they rented an apartment with bedrooms, a kitchen, and space suitable for use as a studio. Hafen also plunged right into art work:
I expect to go out in the country about 20 miles with friend Dallin this coming week and stay a few days to sketch.
I can send all the paintings [home] I want without duty by getting an order from the American Consul here; we can also be admitted to the Louvre to sketch statuary by getting an order from the same officer.
By August 1890 Hafen was deeply immersed in his art studies and adjusting to life in a foreign city. The little Utah band was reduced by one when Dallin left for Boston, but his departure offered an opportunity for the remaining artists:
We bought all of his things for our use. He was very kind to us and saved us a great deal of trouble and expense. This evening we hired one of those French hand carts to haul the furniture from friend Dallin's. I got in the harness and Johnny [Fairbanks] and Lorus [Pratt] pushed. In the room with the furniture was a little painting of stillTife with the following words written on the bottom of it, "To friend Hafen with regards from C. E. Dallin." He also gave me his portfolio and an anatomical cast of a man.
With this letter Hafen began sharing with his wife more details of what life was like in the Julian:
Today I commenced to work from life. I will tell you how matters are conducted here. About every Monday morning men and women models come and show themselves with the object of being engaged .... This is done by the man or woman entirely stripping off all their cloth[es] (one at a time of course) and get on the platform in full view of all the students, when the model will go through various posses after which a vote from the students will be called ....
One model stands for the same pose every day in the week from 8 AM to 5 PM poseing 3/4 of an hour and resting one quarter of an hour alternately .... Of course, as might be expected the females are a very tough set generally and some of the students not a whit better .... I have acted continually in harmony with the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and ... I can look upon and study those models without the slightest feelings of embarrasment.
Hafen was frequently torn by the demands upon his time: drawing at school, sketching in the suburbs, taking French lessons, receiving private tutoring, and finding moments to write home. During the early autumn and winter of 1890 his artistic progress, with that of Fairbanks and Pratt, was mixed or irregular. He wrote on August 10: "It seems by what I hear that our drawing begins to draw some attentions and remarks inclined to be encouraging. Especially in my favor." Less than a week later he told Thora:
I have all and everything to learn in drawing; I know nothing at all. I know how I used to correct Herman [Haag?] in his drawings now the professors go for me here worse than I did for Herman. None of the Utah painters know how to draw the big toe of a foot. Even Willie Clawson is no where at all, he feels his nothingness just as much as I do. Johnny is steadily advancing[;] he works hard. I think he makes a decidedly better showing than Lorus.
The artists became enamored of a small village, Auvers-sur-Oise, northeast of Paris. Hafen made frequent day trips to sketch and draw there. Fairbanks and Pratt
were much elated over the place and want me to come and stay a week over there with them. I feel well satisfied in following my promptings. Though the course I pursue is different than my two companions, yet they begin to see the wisdom of it and are falling in line with me.
Of his own, nearly solitary experiences in Auvers, Hafen wrote:
What makes me go to the village to sketch is because Mr. Brown an artist whom Dallin made me acquainted with is out there and he is a good painter and is kind to me so I learn from him ....
I am sketching an old church, the architecture of which is eleven hundred years old. I am making mostly studies[;] none are salable pictures as yet. I am beginning anew as it were, a kind of experimenting, just as 1 have always wished to do.
Hafen's trips into the countryside led to an event possibly familiar to present-day travelers abroad. He had been drawing in "Chilleurs" for a few days, sketching an old windmill on canvas, when two soldiers demanded to see some identification that Hafen was unwilling or unable to produce. By pantomime he persuaded the soldiers to allow him to collect his gear and walk back into the village. The trio attracted a large following:
I soon noticed that all the men, women, children, cats, dogs, donkey etc., were out in the street. I suppose there was not more live stock left in the houses . .. the Mayor ... was also out with the rest... one of the soldiers stepped up to him and held a short conversation .... The Mayor seemed to think there was nothing in the matter. However we got to my aunt's place, as soon as she noticed us through the window she came to my "rescue." She had a good laugh at the soldiers and they apoligised and made the most graceful bow to me I ever had the honor of catching. Well, boys by the star spangled banner if they didn't take me for a Prussian spy!!
Although Hafen, Fairbanks, and Pratt (and possibly Clawson) were dependent upon each other for emotional, psychological, and spiritual support, matters did not always run smoothly, according to Hafen:
Both Johnny and I have had a rather hard time to get along with Lorus. By the time we were on the ocean I began to realize that it was no use to argue with Lorus .... But Johnny not being so well acquainted with him . . . would often . . . get into a dispute with him. You know how good natured Johnny goes at it ... .
Johnny got into a dispute with him one morning about a principle of perspective ... my opinion was asked and I gave it, but that didn't stop it. So matters rested . .. Johnny going to school. Lorus and I [went] to the Louvre On our way there Lorus brought up the subject and I tried to convince him of the folley in thus wasting time. He blamed Johnny saying that his position was false and he was going to stick up for the truth. I... landed on him with rather straight language... and a short quarrel followed.
We both felt ashamed ... he asked my forgiveness and I forgave him on condition that he would never engage in disputes any more on any subject. All has been peace ever since.
Edwin Evans arrived in Paris during December 1890 and shortly after entering the Academic Julian described his experiences to Danquart Weggeland. Evans had been suitably impressed by the art he saw in galleries in New York, London, and elswhere in England, but he claimed to have been stricken dumb by what he saw in the Luxembourg Palace and the Louvre: "This is the first place that I have struck that I have not passed some remarks or criticism; but these paintings are so far beyond expectation that I could only stand viewing them in blank amazement." Evans had quickly caught the spirit of art prevailing in Paris during the 1890s:
The public gardens are filled with sculpture, and in the public buildings also, in every design of architecture, sculpture has its share. Everybody takes a great interest in art. The air is full of it, and show windows are lined with it. Passers-by will stop and examine small illustrations that are hanging out on the sidewalk that our people would think nothing of if placed in show windows over there; but such is their love for it.
Evans's routine including drawing at the Julian six days a week; studying anatomy, French, and history in the evenings; and spending much of Sunday with the other Utah artists, holding "Sunday school in the morning and meeting in the afternoon, in which Brother Clawson and his family join with the four of us . . . enjoying the benefits granted through our most holy faith." Describing for Weggeland the varying skills of his classmates, Evans was pleased to note: "There is one thing sure in my case—I have not learned anything that will have to be undone, as some say they have, and they all say the best for a beginner to do is to come here." By 1890 recognition began coming to some of the Utahns:
. . . Mr. Clawson was warmly complimented by one of the foremost students in the school . . . and at a late weekly exhibition, on which occasion each of the several hundred students presumed to make a picture in oil of a given subject... Mr. Clawson's painting was given the post of honor, being marked No. 1.
This was no isolated incident. In early 1891 Hafen told his wife that "Bro. Pratt has succeeded in making a drawing last week good enough to take into the concour[s]. Johnny and Edwin say it was an excellent drawing." He then explained what the concours was and by implication how important it was to have one's drawings so noticed:
A concour[s] consists of the best drawings selected each week out of the school until one month is up; then, judges decide which out of those is No. 1 and No. 2 etc., generally numbering 8 or 6. The balance are not numbered but put on exhibition which takes place once a month.
Pratt's initial success was so important to the Mormons that they celebrated wildly: "Last night Lorus treated us to an oyster supper in honor of his last weeks success. We ate 7 dozen raw oysters between us four and some raisons and nuts."
A charming exchange of correspondence occurred when J. Leo Fairbanks apologized to his father for not having written sooner. The delay was caused by the eleven-ycar-old's effort to compete for prizes in an art competition sponsored by the Juvenile Instructor. Leo copied the published review of his entry and sent it to his father:
We received from Leo Fairbanks of Payson, a drawing of a horse and dog, which show that he is a real artist, although only eleven years old. We shall publish his picture in a future issue, and give our readers an idea of what excellent artists we have among our young folks.
The response was typically loving, instructive, and proud:
My Dear Son Leo,
With pleasur I excuse you for not writing when you have been engaged in such a good cause. I was more than pleased to hear from you and of the success you have had in your drawing.
You must not forget to draw with squares and angles and you will meet with better success than if you draw the forms round at first. I am glad that Bro. Cannon is taking the course he is in encouraging young artists. I hope you will do your best and get some more of your work in besides getting the prize ....
I read your letter to some of the students [and] they think you are getting at it early and are sure to succeed if you stick to it.
J. B. Fairbanks was probably the first, and perhaps the only, one of the LJtah artists to witness a demonstration of photo-locomotion in Paris when he attended an evening at the American Club rather than the Julian Ball at which latter event the presence of "the demasmonds" (demi-monde) had been assured.
I attended a lecture at the American club last night, One of the finest things I ever saw and heard . .. there were magic lantern illustrations of horses, oxen dogs, cats, elephants cammels, monkeys, men, women, babies, ect, all showing the different positions when walking, troting, pacing, running, ect, then he had a kind of machine which puts them in motion, every motion wasgixen just as natural as life its self. He showed the difference of the true position and the false (which is often given in pictures.
Utah's Parisian art community members, each struggling with his own difficulties, must have had their outlook brightened by George Q. Cannon's letter of March 7 in which he stated, "We have decided to send you $500., which we direct to Brother Pratt, to be used for the benefit of you all, and we shall remit more in a short time."
Even with their ever-present financial difficulties eased, the work proceeded slowly, especially for Fairbanks. "My criticism this morning was as favorable as any I have had I think, but I realize that I have much to learn yet before accomplishing what I desire. I still hope to get a drawing upon the wall." Possibly Hafen and certainly Pratt had each sent in a painting to be juried for the Salon, and Fairbanks expressed hope that they would be accepted. Meanwhile, John Hafen was experiencing his own angst:
In regard to my intended Salon painting I can not say anymore than last time, I wrote, unless it is to say that I don't understand how it is going to end now that the time is so near at hand it looks impossible to finish in time. But I can not go in trusting the God who overrules all things for our best good .... Every day this week I worked at it all day until this afternoon when I quit as there was nothing in me.
The struggle of the artists to have drawings selected for the concours, much less the Salon, occupied them throughout the spring of 1891. Fairbanks was especially torn between the need to have his work favorably noticed and maintaining a humble spirit:
... J. H's drawing has been chosen for the concore I am very pleased to state. That is two out of our number. Now if the Lord will help me I will be pleased. I am pleased any way but it will please me more.
The boys all thought my last weeks drawing would go in but I am not good enough yet for that, it appears, but if I can get in in the next two weeks I will be satisfied. No I will not for I want one of mine to get on the wall, if it is the will of God, but if it is not his will then I desire not to get one on the wall.
The Utahns generally praised each other's work; and from time to time each would acknowledge some improvement or progress in one or more of the others. When such progress was noticed by an artist outside the Utah group, it was truly something to write home about: "Last week Mr. Woodberry an artist from Boston told me that one of the best artists in school said it was marvelous [the way] those mormons were improving, when they came they could not draw at all but now thay are going right along."
Clawson, Hafen, Evans, and Pratt had drawings chosen for the concours; that left only Fairbanks without a work chosen that year. Fairbanks tried to conceal and then rationalize his disappointment:
... I think if others win prizes why not I, but when I consider where I started I feel that I have no reason to be discouraged and yet at times in spite of myself I can not but feel a little peculiar to think I am the only one from Utah who has failed to get a drawing in the concour[s]. Still I could not help it[.] I did my best, it is not because they have studdied harder than I for I have studdied as hard as I could. Well I will lett this matter rest now . . . .
He was not the only one keenly disappointed at his failure to have a sketch chosen for the concours. When Lillie received his letter she responded: "I was washing. I felt so bad that my tears mingled with the suds. O, I felt so bad. You spoke of the good news, of all the others being chosen, it was not very good news for me."
Meanwhile, Hafen had returned to Auvers for sketching and sightseeing and had written off his Salon effort: "The painting I worked on for the Salon looks silly to me now .... Thus it goes ... .
Hafen had decided to go to Switzerland during the summer recess and asked Fairbanks to accompany him; the latter agonized over the prospect. He complained to his wife about the expense of such a venture and what a prolonged absence from Paris might do to his progress. She replied: "You may never have the chance again, and when you are so near ... I would like you to see Switzerland, and get sketches, you will not be losing your drawing .... She also advised him that Herman Haag was going to join them in Paris and that his studies were paid for, in part, by his brothers to the amount of some nine hundred dollars.
In late May 1891 Fairbanks was still attempting to determine his artistic future. The failure to place a drawing in the concours weighed heavily upon him, but, as he told his wife: "... I have no reason to be discouraged. I have been blessed. I have improved. Bros. Pratt and Hafen have each been working at art many years. Bro. Evans is a gifted young man and especially in drawing I think."
On May 26, 1891, Hafen advised Cannon that he thought he was ready to return to Utah to begin an art career. He proposed traveling through Switzerland before sailing for America, and asked for additional money:
I will need three hundred dollars more, means to carry me through, which (with my share of the 500 which was sent us lately . . .) will make $466 ... I have greater expenses in the course of study I pursue than my brethren. They use only charcoal and paper (they only draw in school). I use paints, canvases, stretchers and moddles, etc., which is more expensive than the former. I have only about 12 francs left so I will borrow from my brethren until some can be sent me.
Fairbanks resumed sketching at "Chilleurs" where he met a Mr. Schultz who gave him criticisms while they both sketched. The tone of Fairbanks's letters became markedly more relaxed the longer he stayed at "Chilleurs." He was relieved to be away from Paris and the "corruption that there is in school."
Hafen stayed with Fairbanks and Schultz for a few weeks, and the trio had an apparently productive and enjoyable time together. They did attract some attention, however:
Last night after supper we were still talking ... at the table when one of the girls of the Hotel who was standing on the out side asked me to open the window. I did so and there were four other young women standing there. They wanted me to sing, after a while I sang Johnny smoker. It tickled them very much. We have an engagement to sing again tonight.
On another occasion two young French boys followed Fairbanks and Hafen out for a day's sketching: "They just wanted to hear us talk." A few days later, on a rainy evening, the three artists went walking:
We took an umbrella, JH and I took our sketching umbrellas. They are made of buff cloth and are about twise as large as an ordinary one. We could see heads at every door and nearly every window. The people seemed very much amused. When we got outside the village we started to run a race. J. H. wooden shoes came off and he stepped in the mud with his socks. In a few more steps Mr. Schultz's came off also.
Shortly thereafter Hafen returned to Paris to prepare to go to Switzerland. Fairbanks had decided against joining him. In Paris, Hafen met J. T. Harwood, his fiance, and her family, and savored Harwood's comments about his (Hafen's) painting: "I find out through James that I am in the same box as he is in style of painting. He expressed his pleasure at the complete change that has come over me in my style of work and assured me that I would be astonished at the difference when I got home."
In a belated response to Hafen's letter of May 26 to the First Presidency, Cannon wrote to him in Bern:
Please find enclosed a check for $300., the amount which you have desired to enable you to settle up your affairs and to return home. ... [We hope] that you will find that the advantages which you have had through your residence in Paris will prove of great value to you in your future artistic career.
His return to Utah was duly noticed in the press:
Mr. Hafen returns well pleased with what he has accomplished in his studies in Paris. While there he was under the tutelage of several of the greatest painters, among them Ben Constant and Jules Lefevre, who received Mr. Hafen and his two student companions from Utah, Mr. Lorus Pratt and Mr. J. B. Fairbanks, cordially and dismissed them with words of highest commendation and encouragement.
Hafen's study abroad was the briefest of all those who went to Paris from Utah, and there would be hints later that he regretted his early departure. However, his presence in Utah afforded him the opportunity of working with the First Presidency and the architects on plans for the general decoration of the Salt Lake Temple and the special requirements for certain ceremonial rooms.
Meanwhile, the artistic environment in Paris had changed markedly. Fairbanks told his wife: "Bro. Evans and I talked till 12.30 o'clock. It seems quite lonesome now [with] J. H. gone. Bros. Pratt & Haag have moved nearer the school so Bro. Evans and I are here alone." Fairbanks also had his decision not to accompany Hafen to Switzerland validated: "I got a letter from John. He said don't come to Switzerland to sketch, there is nothing here, our own mountain homes are better than this country [!]."
Fairbanks spent the bulk of the summer sketching and drawing in and around "Chilleurs"; this was probably the happiest time of his entire French experience and the most productive as well:
I consider that my time spent has been very profitably spent and I will be well prepared for another winter of hard work in school. I think I have learned more here than I could have done in school for I have been out studying nature, and I have had my professor [Schultz] with me all the time .... I think I have helped him, in getting out, to work. He says it has been the most profittable summer he has ever spent in sketching.... I should think in all I have made 125 or 130 [sketches].
Some of the most remarkable correspondence deriving from the experience of Utah artists in Paris came from Lillie Fairbanks. For example, when she happened upon John Hafen shortly after his return to Utah, she told her husband about her reaction:
We met in the foto gallery. I tell you I felt that I came near to you, when receiving [your] letter,, and then seeing John. He dont look as well with his beard, as he does with out it.
Well John you will want to know how I felt, well I was glad that it was not you, and that you have concluded to stay longer, that sounds funny for a wife to talk like that, but if we start out to do any thing what is the use of stopping when half done. If there is any honor or credit atached I think I knead some of it ... .
She went on to advise Fairbanks that several months earlier she had had a quarrel with his mother about his going to Paris initially and about staying longer than first planned. While encouraging him to stay until he felt satisfied that he could be a successful artist, she poignantly voiced her own emptiness:
Well I have had to live alone a good deal. I hope the time is not far distant when I can live with you, and have a companion to share my Joys and sorrow, I don't like to live a lone any better than any one else. I don't apercerate being my own boss. I am afraid I will get so used to it, that, I will be trying to boss you, but I guess you will be willing to come and wont be afraid of me.
In September Fairbanks reiterated his commitment to staying as long as he could and learning as much as he could. He also suggested that John Hafen may have erred in returning when he did:
... he would like to have stayed but he felt that he could not afford to stay. I feel that I cant afford to go home. Yes Lillie I think John is missing it very much. I dont know whether he thinks so or not. Talk about being advanced in art why Lillie the very best of us has barely got started. Even Willie Clawson feels as though he knew nothing. I have no doubt that Harwood advised Hagg to come to Paris and it is the best time for him to come while we are here but he is not so far advanced but what Harwood could take him much farther. Herman does some . . . good drawing, but nothing extra.
Fairbanks went on in that vein and then made one of the most perceptive and revealing statements in all his letters: "I find that I have come to begin the study of Art and not to finish it. I do not expect to finish my study of art on this earth."
Interest in the progress of the five "church artists" still in Paris remained keen in the minds of church leaders. The artists had applied for additional funds, and the matter was presented to the Quorum of the Twelve:
We then considered the situation of the young men (Lorus Pratt, John Fairbanks, Herman Haag, E. Evans and Willard Clawson) who are studying art in Paris, France, and need some assistance if they remain to complete their course. It was voted to send them $500 to assist them in their labors and studies.
The artists did not always write home just for money. In September 1891 they had at first asked permission to enter works in the upcoming Utah Territorial Fair and then withdrew their request because of anticipated delays in clearing customs.
By late December Fairbanks had begun making tentative plans to return to Utah the following summer. Although he could not have been fully aware of it, his decision was a timely one. The Mormon church may have been beginning to feel the early symptoms of what would become a worldwide economic depression by 1893. In January 1892 Fairbanks and the other artists were down almost to their last dollar: "When the money came we had about $1.00 each, I dont know what we would have done if it had not come when it did."
Money was a concern at home as well. Fairbanks advised Lillie: "I have written to bro Cannon for $30.00 per month while I stay for you. So if I stay you will be provided for and if you are not provided for I will return." Lillie was not willing to be dependent on largesse from the church; she had been living cheaply and supporting herself, in part, by making and selling corsets:
John you say you will write to Canon, well I dont think you had better write to him, for I think I can live along all right until fall .... I have $50.00 on hand. I sold $150.00 worth of corsets. I made from 75C to 1.95 on each. I had to pay freight and of cores I sold more of the ones that I made 75C on ... .
Lillie's faith in and support of her husband were indeed remarkable. Her letter continues:
I have not got all my hay in yet but I think I will be all right. I think I will canvass [solicit orders for her homemade corsets] a little this summer and by . . . saving I can get along all right. I would rather you had that extra pay, from Cannon, than me. I would rather you had it, to complete you in your studies. I would like you to stay the summer, if it is any benefit to us both . . . but no longer than fall can I consent to.
However, a few weeks later she reconsidered matters:
John I feel different . . . than I did in my last letter, about the money affair, for if they [the F'irst Presidency] can furnish Evans and wife, with means, and Prat and wife, and Herman [Haag], then I think I am as worthy as they. We have more children, more in [the] family than eny of them, then have to do with less, and be so saving, and scheam, and work, and who thinks eny more of me, or you, for it. . . .
Lillie was indeed a strong woman; without her emotional support, her honesty in the expression of her feelings, and her unexceptioned faith in her husband, one might doubt that Fairbanks could have stayed in Paris for more than a year.
Lillie frequently urged her husband to invest in a camera, a "codac," to photograph scenes he enjoyed or that were artistically inspirational. She also, naturally enough, wanted visual souvenirs of scenes he had described to her. Then, a much more practical motive appeared when she suggested that he "take views of the . . . friscoe paintings" and other decoration inside buildings, "for that is what will be required of you, and what you was sent for . . . ."
Fairbanks would soon learn that her advice was most timely. In a letter telling Lillie of Harwood's success in being the first Utah artist to have a painting accepted for the Salon, he went on to note:
I got a letter from John Hafen saying that the temple would soon be ready for the painters [and] that he was going there soon to make arrangements to begin work. To think of us doing work in the temple has given all of us the blues to some extent. We feel so incompetent the longer we stay the more we feel that way.
These feelings of inadequacy must have been heightened by news from Hafen and George Q. Cannon. Fairbanks reported:
We received a letter last week from John Hafen asking us to send in some sketches, for the temple decorations, one Subject the Garden of Eadin the other the lone and dreary world. The one who sends in the best sketch will be given the contract to do the work with the privilege of inviting his brethren to help. We also received one a short time since from the First Presidency, stating that they would like to have those of us who feel qualified to come home and work this fall and winter in the temple . . . .
The letter from the First Presidency advised the artists (Clawson, Pratt, Fairbanks, Evans, and Haag) that John Hafen would be given some works to do immediately, "but [we] shall reserve other important rooms until we hear from you concerning your intentions, whether you intend to remain longer than next fall or to return at that time." The message to the artists was clear: the Salt Lake Temple was to be dedicated in April of the following year, and the ceremonial rooms would have to be ready.
Fairbanks and presumably the other artists who were to work in the temple began preparing themselves for the project. Plans and specifications of the ceremonial rooms were sent to Paris, and Fairbanks reduced the time he spent at the Julian and devoted more time to sketching landscapes—frequently in the company of an artist named Rigelot. On July 27, 1892, Fairbanks wrote his last letter from Paris, advising his wife of his plans to travel to a few cities in France and England, to spend a little time in New York and two days in Chicago, and then to be off to Utah.
Of the other artists, Harwood, Pratt, Clawson, and Haag all returned to Utah during the summer of 1892. Haag had requested and been sent additional funds in two installments, "owing to the stringency of the church finances." Edwin Evans received an additional $350 at the direction of the First Presidency in September 1892. That sum was probably used by him to reach a suitable stopping point in his studies and to provide means for returning to Utah. By December 1892 he was established in a studio in Lehi, Utah.
What identifiable results came from the expenditure of time, money, and effort by the eight artists and their several sponsors and supporters? Obviously, Cyrus Dallin's reputation continued to grow; his statue of Brigham Young and the equestrian Signal of Peace were exhibited at the Utah building during the Columbian Exposition of 1893. The latter work was purchased by the city of Chicago for placement in a park. Clawson, Evans, and Harwood had paintings accepted for the Columbian Exposition.
Several rooms in the Salt Lake Temple were painted by the returned artists—the Creation, Garden of Eden, Lone and Dreary (or Telestial), Terrestrial, and Celestial rooms and possibly a sealing room. This work was done by Fairbanks, Pratt, Evans, and Hafen, the latter being nominally in charge.
Following two years of relatively informal collegiality and two exhibitions, seven of these eight Utahns who had studied in Paris formed the Society of Utah Artists. This organization became one of the prime promoters of art in Salt Lake City until 1899 when the legislature created the Utah Art Institute. The two organizations coexisted until the 1930s when the SUA gradually became extinct.
Art education in the public schools, academies, and institutions of higher learning received more intense attention. The Latter-day Saints College established an art department with Herman H. Haag in charge. Hafen, Fairbanks, and Evans were responsible for the art department at the Brigham Young Academy in Provo; and the University of Utah established an art department with Harwood and Haag as the principal faculty members.''
What began initially as the desire of Dallin and Harwood to obtain advanced instruction and of the Mormon church to have professionally executed work done in the temples produced results that no one could have foreseen. The experiences of the initial group of Utah artists in Paris stimulated artistic productivity and artistic consciousness that altered for the better the development of Utah's artistic heritage.
Dr. Seifrit is a historian in Salt Lake Caty. This article is part of a larger, unpublished manuscript. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Vern G. Swanson, direc tor of the Springville Museum of Art, in providing copies of the Hafen and Fairbanks letterscited herein, and the assistance of Will South, curator of the IJountiful-Davis Art Center, in providing copies of Harwood's unpublished letters.
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