Monday, February 23, 2009

more on Benjamin West, Stuart ...& Trumbull

We all adore the hyacinth, but do we know the tradition of how this lovely, sweet smelling flower came to be? According to Greek myth, the beautiful youth Hyacinth was friends with the sun god Apollo and one day the two were out playing with the discus. Looking jealously on, the god of the west wind Zephyr blew on the discus causing it to strike the head of Hyacinth. Where his blood flowed and soaked the earth, is where this lovely flower sprang up.

The Death of Hyacinth, oil on canvas by Benjamin West 1771
Swathmore College, Philadelphia
To refresh the memory: As troubles began to mount between England and its colonies Stuart, 19, sailed off to England disembarking (most likely) in London 1775. Hardy and self-confident he arrived with no 'letters of introduction', found himself a job as an organist, but finally wrote Benjamin West pleading for assistance. West hired him as a resident assistant to help finish the backgrounds of his large (primarily historical) paintings.

The following anecdote dates from this time-period: "Stuart and Trumbull were both pupils of West, and at the same time. Stuart was the senior pupil, and having made greater progress than his friend, thought it incumbent on him to assist his fellow-pupil in his studies. This he did, to their mutural advantage. Trumbull had the use of but one eye, and, singularly enough, Stuart found it out in this way. The story was told by Sully, who had it from Stuart, who, having been puzzled by one of Trumbull's drawings, said to him: "Why it looks as if it had been drawn by a man with one eye;" to which Trumbull, who appeared much hurt, replied: "I take it very unkindly, sir, that you should make the remark." Stuart, not understanding him, asked him what he meant. "I presume, sir," answered Trumbull, "that you know I have lost the sight of one eye, and any allusion to it in this manner is unkind." "Now," said Stuart to Sully, "I never suspected it, and only the oddness of the drawing suggested it."
The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart by George Mason p 14

No comments:

Site Meter