Men I Have Painted/Charles Ludington
MANY years ago, at Costa Lupara, in Alassio, I made a drawing of the young daughter of one of the visitors. Her expression seemed at the same time to penetrate the future, to recall the past, and to contemplate herself with a pathetic sadness. The look revealed itself in the drawing, if anything, more intensely than it did in the girl herself.
A stupid maid, with a dust-brush, whisked out the sketch, and it never could be retrieved.
When I went up to Mount Desert Island, on the coast of Maine, to paint Mr. Ludington, I now and then caught an expression in his face that was unlike that of other men, and I instantly decided that the portrait would not be successful unless this personal look could be obtained. Mr. Ludington had other expressions, more in harmony with everyday events, any one of which might have been delineated with much more certainty and security than this fleeting vision of an inner life.
After enjoying a few gay and happy days in the seaside village, full of young people bent upon sport and merriment, I settled down to work. First making a careful drawing, I began to paint. The work went on almost mechanically for a few hours, when Mrs. Ludington came in and sat down in front of the canvas, on which now was an almost finished head. After a minute or two of silence, she said, "I wonder if you know what you have here?"
For the first time I rose from my chair, to stand off and see from a distance what had been done. To my great delight, the look I wanted had come into the face. It had come unbidden, unsought, without any effort of mine to produce it.
Through long years of experience I have learned to believe that a perfect sitter is nearly a perfect man. It is a test of many qualities, of which goodwill is not the least, and patience and endurance not the best. When I have measured great men by this high standard, it is surprising how really few have been found wanting. But there have been some so disregardful of goodwill that they can only be considered as selfish churls.
Of all the men I have painted, that one whose motto should be suaviter in modo, fortiter in re is Charles Ludington. No one has ever seemed to be just as uniformly gentle or so relentlessly firm as he.
When generous and kindly acts are performed with grace and charm, even a higher feeling than gratitude inspires and elevates the mind. When I recall the great taste displayed by Mr. Ludington in the selection of some fine specimens of old Chinese portraits for the decoration of the panels in his room in the Curtis Building, then the secret link that binds men together in common sympathies begins to reveal itself.