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James Stillman letters relating to Homer Dodge Martin, 1882-1898

Contents and Arrangement

The collection is arranged as 1 series:

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Series 1: James Stillman Letters Relating to Homer Dodge Martin , 1882-1898
4 Folders
Box 1

Although the collection contains no letters from its creator, banker and art patron James Stillman, it documents Stillman's apparent committment to promoting the artwork of Homer Dodge Martin, and how he provided financial investment in and practical assistance with the logistics of handling Martin's pictures over a period of at least 16 years. The letters reveal the gratitude Homer and Elizabeth Martin felt for Stillman's "many kindnesses," and discuss shipment, framing, consignment, sales, and exhibition of Martin's work. They also show how Martin looked to Stillman for his opinions on his painting, and provide insight into his struggles to reach a wider and more lucrative audience for his work.
Written from Honfleur and Villerville, France, Martin's letters from the 1880s reveal his fear of being forgotten and his dismay when receipt of his paintings or letters goes unacknowledged. He discusses the advantages of painting outdoors from nature and the difficulties that ensue when the weather does not cooperate. In November 1886 he writes about his lack of productivity during the autumn due to various "mental and physical" problems, including a "nervous state of unrest" and resulting insomnia, and states that he is looking forward to his imminent return to the United States.
Later letters document Martin's move to St. Paul, Minnesota in late 1893. The painter writes of being "demoralised" by his physical condition and of a hiatus of 2 years prior to the move when he did no work. Nevertheless he appears hopeful that his paintings are being increasingly well-received. In an August 1894 letter, however, he writes of "coming to his senses" after having been "set up by an amount of praise for my recent work which quite turned my head," and expresses the fear that he has dropped in Stillman's regard because of this.
Two pencil sketches by Martin, of a view of Honfleur pier and of the house from which he saw the view respectively, are found with the 1884 letters.
Elizabeth Martin's letters document her key role in making arrangements for the shipping, framing, exhibition and sale of her husband's paintings and his physical demise due to liver and eye trouble. She also writes of his reticence to engage Stillman's assistance with the promotion of his work more fully, due to his fear of "wearing out your patience and seeming to impose on your friendship." Her letters reveal how Martin's pictures were being well received in the 1890s by critics and fellow artists, but how commensurate financial success was not forthcoming, and his "many discouragements" because of this. Her 1895-1896 letters mention her urgent financial need, and her last letters seek Stillman's assistance in finding employment for her son, Ralph.
In addition to letters from Homer and Elizabeth Martin, the collection contains 2 1898 letters from Bancel La Farge, documenting transmittal and receipt of a watercolor study, "Smack at Sea," and 2 letters from Homer Martin to Mr. Van Loon regarding payment for paintings.
Description Container Select
Letters from Homer Martin to James Stillman, 1883-1894
1
1
Letters from Elizabeth Martin to James Stillman, 1884-1897
1
2
Letters from Homer Martin to Mr. Van Loon, 1882, 1884
1
3
Letters from Bancel La Farge to James Stillman, 1898
1
4

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.