Models as a class — Love
in the studio — An awkward contretemps — An amusing
incident — Earnings of models — The temptation to go wrong
— Black sheep — Artists marry models — Jealous wives —
Some amusing incidents — Love resuscitated — The "engaged"
couple — Amateur models — Chance acquaintances — Some
amusing incidents — Risks one ran — An exciting adventure
LOTS of people, I found, imagined because a girl sat
for the "altogether" that she must be a bad lot, and this I
was not long in discovering undoubtedly was a very erroneous
impression, for as a rule models I came across were a very
respectable and hardworking class. Anyhow that was always my
experience, especially with those who had been brought up in
the profession and been at it practically all their lives. An
artist who would have ventured to take liberties with his
model ran the risk not only of seeing her put on her clothes
and walk out of the studio, but also of her telling every one
of his goings-on. Of course I do not wish to infer that there
were no tender episodes in the studios, as there were
doubtless many models who were in love with artists they sat
for, and vice versâ; that was only human nature
after all. I refer to men who might have had the idea that a
girl sitting to him for the figure was "up to anything," and
attempted to act accordingly; more often than not he found out
his mistake, and had sometimes to make very humble apologies
to avoid a scene.
I remember something that an artist friend of mine told me
happened to him on one occasion, and which taught him a lesson
he never forgot. A very pretty girl, a model, called on him
one day, and she had such a glorious figure that he could not
resist the temptation to give her a sitting the following
morning. He was not quite decided what he should do from her,
so when she was undressed he got her to try various poses, in
all of which she looked so splendid that he couldn't make up
his mind how to paint her. Whilst suggesting different
positions they were chatting in quite a friendly manner, till
at last, and he couldn't quite explain why, he said, as he was
gazing at the lovely form before him she suddenly became in
his mind, what she really was, a very beautiful woman and no
longer a model. His admiration for her was responsible for the
introduction into the tones of his voice of a trace of
tenderness, and under the pretext of altering the pose she was
taking, he touched her lightly. She took no notice of this
apparently, so he felt instantly emboldened to go a step
further, and bending forward he gave her a slight kiss on the
neck. She started back as though she had been stung, and
"What do you mean by doing that? How dare you? If you attempt
that sort of thing with me I shall put on my things at once
and go — so I warn you."
He stood abashed, not knowing at first what to say, then
started making excuses for his lapse from decorum, all of
which she treated with scornful indignation; however, he
managed to appease her after a while, and she forgave him, but
she never sat for him again.
The mention of relations between artists and their models
reminds me of a story they told of a man who was on the best
of terms with a girl who sat for him — it was an open secret,
and they always addressed each other even in public in the
most endearing terms, such as "sweetheart," "ducky darling,"
and so forth. One day, however, an important client called
unexpectedly, and was shown in whilst a sitting was in
progress. The artist waited till the visitor had got well into
the studio, and turned with an air of importance to the girl
and said abruptly, "You can rest now, model."
"All right, artist," was her prompt reply.
You paid your model then, the same as you do now, namely, 7s.
a day and her lunch, so she didn't do so badly, if constantly
at work; but this was seldom the case, and probably at the end
of the month she would have only earned a starvation amount.
All the more credit to her, then, if she kept straight, and a
wonder to me always was that so many did. There were, of
course, as in every line of life, lots of black sheep amongst
them — girls who took to drink and went to the bad, and the
wonder was there were not a great many more, considering the
"fast" atmosphere of St John's Wood in those days, and the
numbers of gay women who lived in every street — the sight of
whom must have often given the poor models furiously to think.
Several artists I knew had fallen in love with their models
and married them, and in most cases the result was a very
happy one; but there were a few very much the reverse, where
the wife had developed jealousy of other models to such an
extent as to be almost unbearable, even if their husbands were
not good-looking and long past the age when they might have
had some excuse for mistrust. The curious part of it was that
the usual form this jealousy took would be a wild, unreasoning
suspicion of anything in petticoats that came to the studio —
sometimes even of the very charwoman — with the result that in
order to have peace at any price, the unfortunate artist would
end by sinking his individuality, and only painting subjects
his wife approved of. It was quite pitiful at times to watch a
man's spirit gradually being nagged out of him.
There was one lady, the wife of a distinguished old painter,
whose whole life appeared to be taken up with watching her
husband, and from all accounts she was never really happy
unless she thought she was on the verge of catching him in flagrante
delicto. She positively reveled in her fancied
grievances against him, yet he was as guileless an old man as
one could meet anywhere; but now and again his beaten down
spirit would revolt against her bullying — a flash in the pan
as it were.
On one occasion, for instance, he was working very diligently,
when his wife rushed into his studio and accused him of being
familiar with his model — and the old man actually had the
pluck to retort angrily: "Good God, woman! How can I be
spooning with a person sitting twelve feet away from me?" He
was usually very meek and cringing, and once, rather than have
a row, he sent his model away and never finished his picture.
There was another artist's wife, also an ex-model — who had
conceived quite a brilliant idea. She had had a peep-hole —
with a sliding flap over it, which worked noiselessly,
somewhat similar to those used in prisons — made in the studio
door, so that she could look in at any moment and see what her
husband was doing, without his being aware of it. Perhaps,
however, one of the most curious affairs of this description I
ever heard of was about an old married couple who had for
years been living a cat and dog existence — always
quarrelling, or not being on speaking terms — suddenly
changing for some reason, best known to themselves, and
actually ending by falling in love with each other again. I
should never have believed it if I had not seen them myself,
sitting hand in hand, calling one another by endearing terms,
and looking as spoony as a pair of young lovers.
I am told that such cases are not altogether rare; but I don't
want to come across one again. It struck me, I remember, as
being positively nauseating.
Living en ménage, such as one saw so much of in
Paris, was very rare amongst the artists I came across in St
John's Wood. I knew two people who had lived together for a
number of years and shared the same studio; but they gave out
they were "engaged," and people pretended to believe them, and
so there was no scandal, and as they eventually got married,
when on the verge of old age, and were happy ever after, it
all ended in most conventional style.
The fact was, what in London commenced as a flirtation
generally ended at that outwardly; whereas in Paris there was
no halfway house — it was all or nothing, and no secrecy about
it whatever. If a man in Bohemia preferred to live with his
maîtresse to getting married, no one thought any the
worse of him. There may be a lot of hypocrisy about the
English view of these matters; but it seems to be better it
should be so, than proclaiming one's peccadilloes from the
What spoilt "modelling," if one may so term it, as a
profession was the number of amateur models. There is
undoubtedly a great fascination about a studio for the average
female, who probably associates it with endless romance and
mystery, and pictures to herself all young artists as
out-and-out Bohemians and devil-me-care fellows, and is
therefore easily persuaded to sit if "asked nicely."
In St John's Wood, when I was living there, one had no
difficulty in finding any number of pretty girls who lived at
home, and had nothing much to do during the day, who gladly
welcomed the chance of a break in the usual routine of their
everyday life by going for an hour or so to a studio.
My experiences in this respect were doubtless but similar to
those of many other artists who took the trouble to keep their
eyes open when strolling about the neighborhood. In this
relation I found that one had more chance than in Paris —
where if one got to know a girl without a formal introduction
the odds were she was a femme entretenue, or some one
who would speak to any one who spoke to her, and with whom it
was only a question of L.S.D.
In the Wood these chance acquaintances often turned out to be
quite respectable girls, with whom one became great pals, and
who looked upon it as quite an adventure to sit for a picture.
I may have been particularly fortunate, but certainly some of
the best friends I had in those days I got to know through the
introduction of ladies whom I met casually in an omnibus or
train, and who came and sat for me. Several of my most
successful pictures were painted from "friends," whose
acquaintance I had made in this unorthodox manner.
As a matter of fact, when one has a picture in one's mind, and
one wants some particular type of face for which one might
wait for ever, and not find a professional model to suit it,
the temptation is often irresistible to try and get to know
the girl you come across who is just the model you have been
"You have just the face I want for a picture I am going to
paint," may sound to the layman a very thin excuse for an
introduction, but it is generally founded on fact. It was well
known that Bastien Lepage made the acquaintance of the most
distinguished living actress in this way, and his name was
made through the picture he painted from her.
Mrs. Grundy may turn up her eyes at such unconventionally; but
it exists nevertheless, and always will exist, however much
she may condemn it.
But to return to the subject of amateur models. My experience
has generally led me to the conclusion that if a "friend"
takes sufficient interest in you or the picture, as the case
might be, she will generally do her best to help you make it a
success — whereas the average model looks upon the artist as
merely her employer, and there her concern ends. There may, of
course, be models who are not quite as indifferent, but I
imagine they are few and far between; their one anxiety is to
get the sitting over and be off. Of course it is not every
amateur model, however good-natured and willing, can keep a
pose for any length of time, especially if it is at all
difficult, so in that case one is bound to engage a
I have had many funny
experiences of the difficulties that crop up when painting
from amateur models — and doubtless many artists could
also relate curious adventures on this subject. A friend
of mine told me of one which was very amusing. He wanted a
particular type of little girl, and after searching for
some time in vain he mentioned it to his charwoman, and
she got a "lady friend" of hers to let her youngster come
and sit to him for the usual fee he paid. The child was
just what the artist wanted for his picture, and came to
him one Saturday for a sitting — but he soon found to
attempt to paint anything from her was useless; she
couldn't keep still for a moment, and chatted away the
whole time, till she nearly drove him crazy. After several
unsuccessful endeavors he gave it up as a bad job, and
paying for the sitting he told her to go home, and he
should not require her services again. To his surprise the
child turned up on the Monday morning.
"I thought I said you were not to come any more," he
exclaimed angrily on seeing her enter the studio.
"Yes," was the reply;" and you better not do it again. I
told my mother about it, and she was wild! "
I remember one of my own experiences with a would-be
model. A pretty girl came to me one day just as I was
going out, and said a friend of hers had given her my
address, and told her she could probably earn some money
by sitting for me. She was so nice that I asked her to
call on me the next day, and I would make a sketch from
her. This she did, and in the course of conversation I
gathered that she was not absolutely a prude, and might
perhaps be induced to sit for the figure; so I suggested
that if she would I would paint her as a nymph, or
something equally appropriate.
To my surprise she said, "No, I won't sit to you for the
figure." Laying such emphasis on the "you" I naturally
asked why she objected so particularly to me — as I had
not said a word to her that could by any chance be
construed wrongly. "Oh, nothing," she replied ambiguously;
"except that I have heard you lived in Paris."
I didn't pursue the subject, but often wondered what on
earth she meant.
There was a girl who used to come and sit for me
sometimes; she was quite respectable in so much as she
lived with her people, who were fairly well to do. She sat
for me purely for the fun of the thing she said, and would
not let me pay anything for it, although I had suggested
treating it as a matter of business. After a little
persuasion I got her to sit for the "altogether," as she
had a beautiful figure; but she had a peculiar perception
of modesty; she didn't mind my sketching her legs and feet
bare when she had all her clothes on, but nothing would
induce her to take her shoes and stockings off when she
was otherwise quite naked. I never could make out why, but
I suppose she thought she wasn't entirely nude so long as
she kept them on.
One ran a certain amount of risk in asking girls one knew
nothing about to sit for you, as I realized on one
occasion when an incident of unpleasant nature occurred in
I met a very pretty woman one evening whilst strolling
near the studio, and when she found out I was an artist
she offered of her own accord to come and sit for me if I
would paint her. As I was about to suggest this myself I
was delighted when it came from her.
The following day she came up, and I commenced a sketch of
her in deshabille as she had no prejudices on the
subject, and we soon became rather more than friends. I
may mention she had on her first visit given me an address
at Hampstead where I might write her, as she could not
receive letters at her home.
Well, one day she turned up at the appointed time, and we
were getting on with the painting when there came a
violent ring at the bell — one of those hard,
unsympathetic rings that betoken no friendly feeling. My
model, as I will call her, to my astonishment jumped up
with a whispered exclamation of alarm.
"Who can it be?" she queried.
"Most likely only a bill," said I nonchalantly; but I
smelt a rat, all the same — "I will see" — and going over
to a sort of peep-hole I had contrived in the door in
order to see who my visitors were, I looked out and saw a
stranger, a big, heavy man, waiting by the bell.
"Let me see who it is," said my friend, who had suddenly
become strangely excited, and, pushing me aside, she
peeped through. "It's my husband. I thought it would be.
My God! What shall I do?" she gasped out.
"Your husband!" I exclaimed; "you never told me you were
"Well, I am, and if he catches me here with you he'll kill
me. Where can I go? What shall I do? Think of something
quick, there's no time to lose," she continued
hysterically as the bell rang out again stridently, and
she began putting on her clothes in feverish haste.
Here was a pretty predicament for, as may be imagined, I
didn't want a scandal in the studio. Suddenly I remembered
the back exit through the garden. Hastily I told her of
it, and explained I would ask her husband into the studio;
that she would have to make her escape as noiselessly as
possible at the moment she heard him enter. Of course she
agreed to do this. So pushing her hat and cloak into her
hand, and without a word of good-bye, I let her out and
bolted the door, and then hid the picture I was painting
The bell rang out again, and I heard footsteps coming up
the pathway, and there was a loud knock as though with a
stick at the studio door. An idea occurred to me to
explain my delay in opening. Pulling off my coat and
waistcoat I went into the lavatory, and wetting my face
and hands and roughing my hair I called out, "All right,
whoever it is, I won't be a minute," and then after a
pause I went to open the door, towel in hand, as though I
had been disturbed whilst having a wash. "Oh, I thought it
was a lady friend of mine," I said, as though surprised at
seeing a stranger, adding, "And what can I do for you,
"I want to know what you are doing with my wife in your
studio," he yelled out.
"Your wife!" I repeated. "Are you mad? I haven't got your
wife in my studio."
"Oh, haven't you? Well, I know better, and I have had her
followed, so let me in," and before I could stop him — he
was, as I said, a big, heavy man — he pushed me aside and
rushed into the studio like a raving maniac. By Jove it
was lucky he didn't find her there, for I really believe
there would have been murder done.
A glance round was sufficient to prove to him there was no
lady in the place, as the curtains across the alcove were
drawn back and the inner door wide open. He stood still,
looking round in amazement.
I heard a faint sound as of footsteps hurrying down the
pathway towards the street. I had to give her time to get
away, so pretended to work myself up into a violent rage.
"Are you mad or drunk, coming here like this? Who are you
and what do you mean by it? What's the game?"
"So she's not here," he said half to himself; then turning
to me, "There must be some mistake. I hope, sir, you will
accept my apologies for intruding on you like this, but I
was informed that my wife had been seen coming to your
studio, and I determined to catch her — and you too," he
added with a grim laugh. "However, I am very glad indeed
it is not true. I hope you will accept my sincere
apologies, and I am very sorry if I have caused you any
I could see that he was overjoyed at not finding her in
the place, so I pretended to be mollified, and told him I
quite understood his feelings in the matter. He turned to
make his way out — at the door he offered me his hand, and
with a tremble in his voice he said, "We've only been
married a couple of years, and I love her more than
anything in the world, and the mere thought of any one
fooling about with her drives me positively mad, and I
could kill her." Then after a pause he added, "You
understand, I am sure."
He seemed a jolly, good, honest fellow, the very chap to
deserve a good wife; but he had had no luck in the
lottery, and I felt very sorry for him.
She never came to see me again, but curiously enough about
a year later, when I had almost forgotten the incident, I
had a letter from her; it had a black border to it. In it
she told me I would "be sorry to hear" she was a widow,
that her husband had died suddenly, and that she was going
to live with a sister in Canada.
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