Why Artists are Impossible Husbands

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Why Artists are Impossible Husbands

What would now be considered humorous, was considered the standard view in 1910. Here is an article and is worth the time to read just to see how high society, and perhaps most of society, viewed Artists.

From the The Spokane Press, February 13, 1910
Details of the proceedings in the matrimonial week of Mrs Howard Chandler Christy (click on the More Info button at the bottom), and Mr. Howard Chandler Christy, the well-known illustrator. Mrs. Christy points out the unwholesome moral atmosphere of student life and studio work which few Artists can resist.


Why Artists are Impossible Husbands


To marry an artist is to begin life in a topsy-turvy world. Were I advising a sister, a friend, or my own dear little daughter, Nathalie, about the way to happiness, I should say: "Never marry an artist." For this advice I should have the best of reasons�a broken heart, a broken life, Ideals dead and hope shattered. Had I at nineteen, married, I will not say not Howard Chandler Christy, but a man of a different vocation than his, life might be for me now a beautiful thing, not a thorny place of despair.

To sum the whole situation up in advance, let me say that an artist is an impossible husband from the very nature and environment of the particular field of human endeavor in which he labors. From the very earliest moment until the end of his career he breathes an atmosphere which is unreal and out of harmony with the ordinary wholesome restrictions and restraints of civilized life. The artist is surrounded from beginning to end throughout his entire career with false conceptions and unreal ideals which other men are not entangled with. From the moment a young man begins to think seriously of art as his profession he hears that student life means a free and easy existence in a little world of Bohemia, where men and women are on equal terms and no questions are asked.

Timidly, perhaps, the art student begins his work, but he soon accustoms himself to undraped female figures in the "life class�. His next step is to feel no embarrassment in the presence of a mixed class of men and women students where unadorned models of both sexes pose.


The Glamor of the Latin Quarter

More and more he is thrilled with the wonderful tales of life in the great Latin Quarter of Paris, where students from all over the world assemble. Before long he finds himself in Paris, and, instead of the charming Trilbys which he has pictured in his mind, he meets the coarse, vulgar and abandoned women of the student quarter. He is disillusioned and disappointed, but he finds that other artists accept these creatures as their companions, and he soon comes to relish the life of abandon. There are no restrictions, nobody holds him to accountability, he goes and comes as he pleases; he lives where he pleases and with whom he pleases. He finds that "artistic license is a phrase which covers a multitude of sins.

Eventually the artist emerges* from the repulsive surroundings of French Bohemia and, perhaps, establishes himself in a studio in New York. 'Here he probably chooses a Trilby of rather more grace and more cleanly habits that the creatures of the Quarter in Paris. But the same moral blindness follows him to his studio in America.

And when the artist marries, and even If he Is very sincere and earnestly resolved to be a worthy husband, the very atmosphere of the studio and the necessities of his work are against him. It is not difficult to see that the free and easy relations of artist and, model in attic studios are not wholesome and do not make for decency and a higher appreciation of womanhood. Some artists, it is true, rise above the degradation of studio life.

I have known many artists. I have known almost none who really were good husbands. One of the foremost Illustrators is a bachelor and I have heard that he has told his men friends he intended to remain unmarried because, to quote his words: "I and my tribe are not fit to become the heads of families." I respect this handsome bachelor illustrator. He Is, at least, honest In his warped, irregular life. Better a frank sinner than a hypocrite.

Artists and Orgies

The artist lives in his world and is governed by his own laws, which means no laws. He is a moral anarchist. He tacitly accepts the rules that govern the conduct of other men, for the other men, but he has not the slightest intention of obeying them himself.

Regular meals, regular sleep, faithfulness to his marriage vows, abstinence from drink and other vices, are right for other men, but not necessary for artists. Oh, never for artists! He knows but one law the law of impulse.

The good husband, as every woman knows, is the man who prefers the quiet home life. Show me the artist who cares for his home and I will show you a glittering exception, a joke in. the artists' community.

The good husband is not "imperfectly but perfectly monogamous. He prefers his wife to all other women in the world, and he allows no other woman in the world to doubt it. No woman can even smile in her sleeve at the wife of a good husband. I recall no artist whose wife has not been smiled at by some woman, perhaps by several women. The wife may not be aware of it some women are strangely blind.

The good husband is always a good father. The artists I know are spasmodically good fathers. They love their offspring while they are about. When absent from them they quite forget them. To prove my case let me recall the most daring affinity man. Who was he? Ferdinand Pinney Earle, the artist. It was In the artists' colony In New York that the plan of calmly putting away his wife, and with her his child, for another woman, was first carried out. The man who coldly executed this plan, and whom the world loathes in consequence, was an artist.

What orgy in New York which has not had an artist as its originator? "The girl in the pie" dinner took place at the studio of an artist.

The nameless scenes described by Evelyn Thaw in the hideous unfoldings of the notorious Thaw case took place in studios.

From the time he begins to think of becoming an artist until he ceases being an artist, or until he dies, the young man who lives and works in the studios lawless being. He does what he likes because he likes it. He cares for no one but himself, and the vagabond life which he covers under the name of art He begins his artist life at some art school in this country and then he begins to like the rapid life. He takes out naturalization papers in the land of Bohemia. He drifts naturally to the Latin Quarter in Paris, which is the capital of the Land of License. There he acquires a new costume, new habits and an entire disregard of the decencies of life. He acquires even a new vocabulary, whose first and last words are vice. He buys a velvet coat, a slouch hat and a flowing tie, and when he puts them on he feels that this queer costume makes him a man apart, one who is above and beyond the ordinary observances of life. He takes some frowsy companion of the underworld. He eats at irregular times. He sleeps at Irregular times. He works at irregular times. He becomes a pirate on the high sea of life, flying the blackflag of license.
Picturesque But Unkempt

Any of the "decent hostesses in Paris will tell you that I It Is an ordeal to have at dinner the unkempt creature from the Latin Quarter who has happened to paint an unusual picture, and gotten himself talked about by the critics. His clothing Is not neat. His manners are bad, he Is half man, half beast. Even the habits of cleanliness have been forgotten. He usually has lost regard for all the conventions, event that of cleanliness. But suppose that the artist finishes his Latin Quarter education, suppose he turns his back upon the hideous life. He intends to reform. He does reform. He marries a good girl. They start their own little altar fire. He intends to lead from that time a model life.

But how can he? The man in another vocation may succeed in living down his foolish, fevered past. He signs the pledge and forgets the sprees of his college days. In time he becomes a fairly fit mate for the honorable girl he has married, a fairly fit father for the children the years bring to them. But not so with the artist. He cannot put his college days behind him. When he matriculated in the Latin Quarter it was for life. The hideous spectre of the old life pursues him. Sometimes when he is alone in his studio with some heavy-lidded, long-limbed, conscienceless woman, the spectre becomes flesh and blood and tempts him. The baleful influences of the studios have followed him. It overtakes and in some cases ruins him. All his surroundings make for Bohemian life in its lowest sense.

I do not say that there are not among models some good, honest girls.. But I do say that their lives do not tend to make them so, and that there are evil, conscienceless, vampire women among them. The artist, his moral sense weakened by the Latin Quarter life, falls easily a victim.

The good husband is the man of routine. The artist loathes routine. He hates to be asked when he will be home to dinner. It throws him into a rage to be asked where he has been. Yet the man who won't tell where he has been, has been somewhere where he should not be. The first step on the road to divorce is the husband's assertion, Don't ask me where I have been, for I won't tell you.

Sometimes the artist's wife, to hold his affections, tries to keep up with him. She tries to drink with him. She tries to meet his Bohemian friends and to like them for his sake. She tries to adapt herself to his irregular habits, which are not habits but caprices. And so, some times, the poor, miserable wife goes to the wall of disgrace and Infamy with him.

Sowing wild oats are bad for a man. They are worse for a woman. Her delicate organism will not stand the test of the wild sowing. She may sink a victim by the roadside, while he staggers on to the end. This is a dark picture, but true. The artist does live, in a topsy-turvy world. Measure his life by any practical standard and see how awry it Is. Compare It with the business man's. The business man's first thought is for provision for the future of his family. The artist scorns such material considerations. Never marry an artist.


Copyright. 1910, by American-Examiner. Great Britain Right* Reserved.

Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952). Christy had become one of the most recognized magazine illustrators of his time, reaching a total audience of approximately 64 million Americans through an average of 4 magazine subscriptions per household. By 1910, Christy's estimated annual earnings reached $50,000. A single contract with William Randolph Hearst in 1912 paid him $18,000 a year. Magazines in New York such as McClures, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Collier�s and Hearst�s commissioned Christy's illustrations for their articles. During this period he also developed strong relationships with book publishers Bobbs-Merrill and Moffat, Yard and Company.
Christy's first marriage was to one of his models, Maybelle Thompson, in 1898. Their relationship was a stormy one, documented in several newspaper gossip columns of the day. In 1908, after separating from his wife, abstaining from alcohol, and turning to Christian Science, Christy and their only daughter, Natalie Chandler Christy, left New York City and returned to the family farm in Duncan Falls, Ohio.