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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Kindred Spirits: Camaraderie, Influence, and Inspiration
Among Artists and Writers in Bohemian New York

By Deborah C. Pollack
Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved by the author.

Augustus Toedteberg, Ada Clare—
died March 4, 1874, drawing, 
Houghton Library, Harvard University, 
Call Number: B MS Thr 158.1.

Greenwich Village’s first wave of bohemian writers of poetry and prose enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with several well-known and obscure artists from roughly 1850–65. The visual arts also affected philosophies and motivations of Bohemia’s leaders. Rivalries and attractions permeated the coterie of enormous talent; yet during this tumultuous period in history they were together—each inspiring the other and bringing out the best of their work, and usually having remarkable fun while accomplishing this.

Manhattan in the mid 1850s was an easily manageable urban environment with a population of just over 500,000, and no high-rises. An abundance of culture in the city thrived, well before the establishment of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York Public Library. This stimulating milieu could be found on Lower Broadway, the center for the lively and fine arts. Culture lovers could listen to a concert or see plays at Niblo’s Garden at Broadway and Prince Street, or attend theater at Wallack’s Theater on Broadway near Broome, as well as P. T. Barnum’s American Museum at Broadway and Anne Street. One could also view fine paintings at the National Academy of Design on Broadway and Leonard Streets, the Art Union at 289 Broadway, and the Düsseldorf Gallery on Broadway between Spring and Prince Streets.

Ada Clare (1834–74), among the downtown group of talented writers and a close friend to several artists, praised the Düsseldorf Gallery, deeming it “the only place in town where a lady, in the toils of shopping, can at the same time rest from her labors and amuse her mind. In that respect it is invaluable.” An attractive young woman with thick, dark blond hair, Clare was born Ada Agnes Jane McElhenney in Charleston and escaped the stringency of elite antebellum South Carolina in 1854 after she stole funds set aside by her grandfather for a John C. Calhoun memorial and boarded a steamboat headed north.[1]

Anne Charlotte Lynch, from 
Thomas B. Read, Female
Poets of America 
Butler, 1849), plate facing 265.
Clare wrote to her friend and publisher Julian Mitchell in September that year from her Manhattan apartment stating, “I am enjoying myself delightfully in New York.” The primary reason for Ada’s enjoyment was that Anne Charlotte Lynch (Botta), the gentle sculptor/editor/author/poet/socialite and leader of the New York cultural realm, invited Clare into her Greenwich Village circle. From as early as the 1840s Lynch had welcomed both the esteemed and the unconventional into her group. A gracious hostess, Lynch had a knack of eliciting the talent from each luminary in her midst. She would also introduce emerging writers and artists to influential forces such as editors, critics, and art dealers who could help build their careers. Thus, the lively gatherings at her house became a networking dream. [2]

Soirees at Lynch’s brownstone included prominent musicians; literary minds, such as Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant, and Edgar Allen Poe; dazzling stars of the theater, including Edwin Booth; and renowned artists Asher B. Durand, Frederic E. Church, John F. Kensett.[3] At one of her parties, Church, Kensett, Charles Loring Elliott, George P. A. Healy, Thomas Hicks, Thomas P. Rossiter, Louis Lang, and William Trost Richards designed a series of living paintings (tableaux vivant) as entertainment. One of Lynch’s friends later commented, “It can easily be imagined what esthetic effects were produced by such an array of genius.”[4]

More than one of these fine painters illustrated Lynch’s published poems, and Durand’s oil paintings inspired her to write the poem aptly entitled Durand:

“Upon his canvas nature starts to life/Clear waters flow, majestic trees arise,
The earth and air with beauty’s shapes are rife,
And over all there bend his glorious skies.”

 Durand’s Kindred Spirits, depicting the artist and his friend and mentor William Cullen Bryant dwarfed by a majestic landscape, is reflective of the same sentiment. [5]

Asher B. Durand, Kindred Spirits, 1849, 
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 
Bentonville, Arkansas. Image courtesy 
Wikimedia Commons.

In her sculptural portrait work Lynch strived to maintain the ideal image of her subject, just as she lived her life. She later wrote in a letter, “I enjoy this practice of art and sculpture more than any other occupation; and if I could live in a studio for the rest of my days, engaged in it, I should be content.”[6]

By the end of 1854, Lynch’s support of Ada Clare proved fruitful, for she became celebrated and admired by Manhattan artists, poets and critics. The charismatic twenty-year old had planned to send her friend Julian Mitchell a daguerreotype of her but the Boston artist Alexander Ransom snatched it away in a violent passion. Ransom with his pupil, landscape painter Aaron Draper Shattuck, had moved to New York and both became members of the downtown cultural circle. [7]

Ransom’s theft of the daguerreotype could have stemmed from the fact that he was one of the first to implement them in the technique of painting portraits, thereby improving accuracy.[8]The artist also had Ada Clare pose five times before him and later exhibited portraits of her at the National Academy of Design and Boston Athenaeum. Ransom’s friend, Thomas Thompson, one of Boston’s first esteemed fine art collectors, purchased at least two of Clare’s likenesses.[9]

Anne Lynch married philosophy professor Vincenzo Botta in 1855. That year, rumbles of a bohemian lifestyle in New York came to the forefront by a working-class group known as the Fourierists, followers of the French philosopher Charles Fourier (1772–1837). The American version, a rather socialistic, avant-garde philosophy, was established in 1842 by Albert Brisbane, who believed in communal living, economic equality, and feminism, and created a plan for a utopian community (phalanx) in New Jersey.[10]

Brisbane was an art lover; in fact, “no man held a higher sentiment of art than he.” He studied painting and seriously considered an art career but his alarmed mother convinced him to banish the thought of it. Nevertheless, Brisbane’s influence would, like John Ruskin, later help instill in some New York iconoclasts the importance of art in their lives.[11]

Another proponent of Fourierism was the cynical, intellectual editor Henry Clapp Jr. (1814–75), a firm believer in sexual freedom and abolition, who worked with Brisbane as his secretary and helped translate Fourier’s writings. Clapp, along with Horace Greeley, publicized Brisbane’s American version of Fourierism, and Brisbane in turn influenced Clapp to appreciate art. Their relationship among artists and writers would soon cultivate the blossoming Greenwich Village bohemian milieu. [12]

After Henry Clapp returned from a trip to Paris, he set out to establish a Manhattan intellectual group based on French bohemians living in garrets and/or frequenting the Hotel Corneille. His literary weekly, the Saturday Press established in 1858, was an American adaptation of a French demimonde publication that commented on art, music, theater, and social mores. It became the voice of Bohemia, whose purpose was to “speak the truth…in a way that would amuse its readers and…cast ridicule upon as many as possible of the humbugs then extant and prosperous in literature and art.”[13]

When it involved artists’ careers, Henry Clapp could be a substantial help, primarily if he or his Saturday Press favorably reviewed their work; for instance calling an exhibited painting “exceedingly brilliant.” He could also publicize their particular paintings when using them as metaphoric comparisons in reviews of acting achievements on the New York stage. Additionally, he noted in his writings, in keeping with Ruskin’s aesthetic notions, the beneficial aspect art had on New York society, which also helped boost artistic awareness and income-producing sales.[14]

Critics at the Press lauded some art works but also believed that to foolishly flatter an artist was to do them a disservice. Thusly, the saucy yet serious weekly did not mince words when it came to caustic opinions of exceptional paintings exhibited at the National Academy of Design. In 1859 the Press deemed John F. Kensett’s famous Lake George, “vacant and uninteresting;” William Hart’s foggy Hudson River morning scene “insipid and tricky;” and another maligned painter’s work “altogether too original.”[15]However, the reviewers did praise a few artists, some who needed encouragement. At least one Press journalist was pleased to see many more women exhibiting, and commented “A new feature is a large increase of female exhibitors; and we hope that the fashion now set may turn the ladies aside from superficial piano-drumming, and lead them into pursuits that will abundantly reward them for their labor.”[16] Hudson River School member Susie M. Barstow particularly impressed the critics, who wrote that her landscapes “evince industry, a good thing in young women, and cleverness, which leads us to hope for better things.”[17]

In 1860 Clapp continued to disparage acclaimed male artists. One of his Saturday Press articles maintained that at the National Academy of Design annual exhibition, “Shattuck, Mignot, and Bierstadt, with all their merit, fail to make us blind to their defects.” Bierstadt “spends great power in vain; and over this class of pictures we spend time and patience altogether disproportional to their total value… while we express with firmness a sense of their insufficiency.”[18] Clapp and other critics also reviewed the exhibitions in artists’ studios; for instance the famed Tenth Street Studio Building, where the essayists provided commentary on Sanford R. Gifford’s luminous landscapes, Bierstadt’s Rocky Mountain paintings, Frederic Church’s panoramic vistas, and other notable works. At times the critics wrote that these masterpieces were too detailed and not poetic enough. Reviewers covered art shows at Dodworth’s Hall, as well, where in 1860, every month on the second Thursday, artists’ receptions took place. The exhibitions in both buildings were social highlights attended by the most fashionable women and literary figures, including the distinguished William Cullen Bryant. The Saturday Press thoroughly approved of the artists’ receptions at their studios and called this progressive notion of marketing, “a new era in American Art.”[19]

Ada Clare was one of the essayists of the Saturday Press and in her “Thoughts and Things” columns, she reviewed the arts with a feminist slant. For instance, she wrote about a controversial nude painting exhibited at the Düsseldorf Gallery on lower Broadway in 1859 by her friend, William Page, entitled Venus Guiding Eneas and the Trojans to the Latin Shore. The whereabouts of this particular version is unknown, but based on at least two studies Page drew ca. 1857 and the way it was described, the figure of Venus at the Düsseldorf Gallery was quite similar to his 1862 version in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.[29]

William Page, Venus Guiding Eneas and the Trojans to the Latin Shore, 1862, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Frederick C. Page and Lowell B. Page, Jr., 1983.88.

Page portrayed Venus with a Titian-influenced palette, stark realism, and a direct look as she confronts the viewer—rather scandalous for the mid nineteenth century. In fact, it shocked many Victorian-era art lovers. One of the Venus renderings was banned from view at the Boston Athenaeum and another from a Paris show.[21]Artist/critic Benjamin “Paul” Akers stated, “The Venus of Page we cannot accept….”[22] But Ada Clare was not at all repulsed by the version at the Düsseldorf Gallery and shared her thoughts about the painting: 

I have seen Page’s Venus, and I do not think it immodest. I know that many people differ with me in opinion, considering it to be too immoral for the human eye to gaze on, without colored spectacles, or though a black gingham veil.

I was much amused by the behavior of the ladies with whom the Düsseldorf Gallery was crowded on the occasion of my visit. …Younger ones gave it a furtive, not indignant glance over their shoulders as they passed. …But your severe, antique maidens, whose age and Spartan virtue might have been supposed to put them beyond the danger of corrupting thoughts, stared…with that slaughtering look in their eyes that convinced me that they would have gladly undertaken to stone Page with their own hands, for the unpardonable sin of suggesting that a woman may be young, handsome, and productive.[23]

By then Clare had become a leader of the brilliant writers, artists, and actors who signified Greenwich Village’s bohemia. They were usually seen peppered with lively conviviality at an underground saloon called Pfaff’s.[24]Pfaff’s became popular amid those in the arts primarily because it was good food and drink for very little money, sometimes only a paltry amount of cents for a meal. This was appreciated by the artistic souls because, as explained by Pfaffian poet and assistant editor of the Saturday Press, William Winter, most of his brethren “were poor and…poorly paid.” [25]

The bar moved its location in its heyday; in the 1850s-60s, it was at 653 and 647 Broadway, near Bleecker Street. Charles (Charlie) Pfaff knew how to pick the best champagne, extend credit, and host the cluster of talented radicals. Some of the most famous figures in US history, such as Horatio Alger and Horace Greeley were visitors to Pfaff’s. One of America’s most consummate poets, Walt Whitman, mingled among the Pfaffians, who inspired him to write the unfinished poem “The Two Vaults” (one vault was Pfaff’s, the other a grave). In the very early years of the 1860s Whitman was yet to become internationally acclaimed and the group referred to him simply as the “genial philosopher.” Writers of prose included humorist Artemus Ward (Charles F. Browne, editor of Vanity Fair) essayist Mortimer Thomson, and New York Times critic Charles Bailey Seymour.[26]

The young and not-so-young anti-establishment group discussed the arts till the early hours of the morning, carousing, eating, and drinking along with the inner sanctum of literary royalty sitting at the “Long Table,” a precursor to the Algonquin Round Table. Presiding over these revelers, including Albert Brisbane, was the so-named King of Bohemia, Henry Clapp, with Ada Clare ruling beside him as queen. [27]The Pfaffian circle knew well that Clapp admired Ada and was physically attracted to her but his “aspirations” towards her were unrequited and merely a “joke among the fellows.”[28]

The opportunity to socialize with an influential critic at Pfaff’s may well have enticed painters and sculptors to visit the bar in hopes of advancing their careers. But others were there merely for the fun. In the smoke-filled rathskeller lit only by hazy gaslight and a brief flash of flame to a pipe or cigar, artistic patrons participated in enthusiastic gaiety, joyous singing, and witty quips. The columnists at the Long Table revealed hints of negative or positive critiques published in subsequent Saturday Press columns, perhaps alarming to visual artists, performers, and poets who overheard them.

William Clapp wasn’t always tolerant of artists sitting with his anointed group. The exception was portraitist and engraver William Edgar Marshall, considered a regular member of the Long Table. Marshall later attended meetings of an art student sketch club at sculptor Jonathan Scott Hartley’s studio that became the venerable Salmagundi Club, founded in 1871.[29]

Despite the criticism Bierstadt received from The Saturday Press, the acclaimed Western landscapist maintained a sociable relationship with Clapp and the other writers of Pfaff’s. But the artist was very good friends with poet Edmund Clarence Stedman, who visited Pfaff’s on occasion and interacted with the bohemians. Bierstadt and his colleagues inspired Stedman to write phrases such as:

And Kensett’s eyes will glisten
   And Lang shall sing our “Auld Lang syne”
And Gray the punch shall christen
…Bierstadt will leave his artist-throne
Among the Hudson breezes And Hunt and Thompson, famous grown,
Their architraves and friezes.[30]

Bierstadt and famed genre painter Eastman Johnson attended festivities at other Greenwich Village haunts, including one lasting until morning. Accompanying them at this particular party were sculptor Launt Thompson and the satirist/poet Fitz-James O’Brien, who surrounded himself with visual artists as well. Sadly, his promising career was terminated when he died from an infectious wound during the Civil War. [31]

Another one of Bierstadt’s friends was the bohemian writer of several varied works, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, often seen at Pfaff’s. Ludlow became drug addicted, leading to his best-selling book, The Hasheesh Eater, published in 1857. Ludlow admired Bierstadt and favorably reviewed his work exhibited at the Tenth Street Studio. A non-combatant, Ludlow wished to avoid fighting in the Civil War, and amid violent New York draft riots in 1863, he trekked out west with Bierstadt. The two colleagues camped together in several locales in an effort to bring to the public the essence of the American West—Ludlow in literary form and Bierstadt through the language of the visual arts.[32]

Fig. 3. Albert Bierstadt, A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie, 1866, based on sketches Bierstadt made in 1863, Brooklyn Museum, acquired through various funds.

The artist’s striking sketches in the Rocky Mountains resulted in monumental finished works. Art critic Henry Tuckerman, art historian Barbara Novak, and others have noted Bierstadt’s other-worldly quality in these landscapes, and while the artist may have added dramatic embellishments to promote sales alone, Ludlow’s imaginary references to the romantic, spiritual visions of the American landscape in The Hashish Eater found a kinship in Bierstadt, and may well have inspired him. Bierstadt named one of works, A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie after Ludlow’s pretty wife, for whom the artist held a strong attraction. A few months after the divorce between Rosalie and Ludlow in 1866, primarily because of his infidelities both in New York and California, Bierstadt married her.[33]

Artist Elihu Vedder, who supplemented his income through illustration in Harper’s and other publications, lived nearby Pfaff’s and was often part of the jovial group (called “the Boys”) at the subterranean bar. [34] Vedder was especially friendly with the already cited poet, author, and critic, William Winter. A friend of many bohemians, Winter had an affinity for the Barbizon-influenced artist and celebrity actor Joseph Jefferson, another Pfaffian, and wrote his biography.

Elihu Vedder, The Lost Mind, 
1864-65, Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York, 21.132.1.

An additional friend of Vedder’s was illustrator Edward F. Mullen (a. k. a. Ned Mullin), who provided drawings for Vanity Fair as well as sketches of Civil War battles for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated, namely, Antietam and the siege at Petersburg. The “Boys” of Pfaff’s nicknamed Mullen the “holy terror.” As Vedder became more successful, Mullen, artist Homer Dodge Martin, and the rest of “the Boys,”in hopes of demolishing any conceit Vedder might acquire, brutalized the titles of his paintings he had submitted to the National Academy of Design. For instance, Vedder’s hauntingly beautiful A Lost Mind became The Idiot and the Bath Towel.[35]

The iconic artist Winslow Homer once asked Mullen if he would join him for a drink. Mullen accepted eagerly and envisioned he would be ordering a neat whiskey, which is how he always drank it. Unfortunately, Homer meant for Mullen to accompany him for a drink at a mineral-water bar. Since Mullen never touched the stuff, he became ill after consuming it, and promptly walked Homer over to an apothecary where he told the druggist that Homer would like some castor oil.[36] Mullen was one of those wistfully recalled by Walt Whitman in 1881 as he toasted with Charlie Pfaff to the memory of the Paffians who were no longer around.[37]
Henry Clapp, from William Winter,
Old Friends: Being Literary Recollections of Other Days
(New York: Moffat, Yard, & Co., 1909), 56.

As for Vedder’s relationship with Henry Clapp, the artist admired the writer’s intellect but wrote in a later memoir that Clapp was so unattractive, “his face was indeed a living attestation of the truth of Darwin’s theory.” Nevertheless, Vedder added that Clapp could talk off someone else’s handsome visage within “fifteen minutes,” and the two often discussed art in depth.[38]

The British author, New York Herald journalist, and diarist Thomas Butler Gunn held the same awe of the beauty of the Catskills as Walt Whitman and members of the Hudson River School. Gunn first visited the Catskill Mountain House when brought to the area by his friend, Alfred Waud, lithographers named Dillon and Hart, and two other artists. While the landscape painters began to sketch, Gunn described the natural scenery in his diary with a painter’s enthusiasm:

Through forest paths, by a small lake, past a deserted sawmill, above trees and flowering underwood …with sylvan beauty…wild strawberries in the grass, huge daisies and butter cups, and beautiful flowers…. Sweet scent in the air, sunlight and glad sky, and great mountains all around. We are in the heart of the Kaatskills. … So grand, so peaceful, so lovely, no…care or trouble left in…nature.[39]

Gunn also agreed with Henry Clapp in admiring Eastman Johnson, at that time known in the press as a portrayer of Southern African Americans. Gunn called Johnson “a painter of deserved celebrity.” His Negro Life at the South, completed in 1859 and exhibited at the National Academy of Design that year, especially brought Johnson fame among The Saturday Press critics.[40]

Eastman Johnson, Negro Life at the South, 1859,
New York Historical Society, Robert L. Stuart
Collection, gift of his widow Mrs. Mary Stuart.

Johnson’s portrayal of the dignity of the black culture appealed to most bohemians, as many of them were abolitionists. However, Gunn in the 1850s had deemed slavery a “necessary evil,” and in October 1862 he declared in his New York Herald column, “If this is going to be an abolition war I shall resign.”[41]

While Gunn was a fixture at Pfaff’s, he also did not agree with many of the bohemians’ lifestyle choices, especially some of the women in the arts, including the sexually-free Ada Clare, who had a well-publicized, obsessive affair with musician Louis Gottschalk and gave birth to an “illegitimate” child by an unidentified father. Gunn considered Clare and her close female friends “self-outlawed from decent womanhood.”[42]

Along with Alfred Waud, Gunn’s cohorts included Waud’s brother, William, Winslow Homer, Thomas Nast, and others who also worked as illustrators covering the Civil War for Harper’s Weekly and other periodicals. The Wauds had the ability to swiftly sketch a scene as if frozen in time, much like a photograph—useful while illustrating battle scenes.[43]

Nast created the Democrat and Republican icons of the donkey and elephant, and derived the popular image of Santa Claus. He often added humor to the bohemian circle who laughed with him as well as at his expense. In 1861 he courted a woman named Sally Edwards, who had other suitors as well. Gunn and Edwards often immersed themselves in deep discussions about Nast, and one evening when they were involved in yet another tête-à-tête, Nast became miserably jealous and married her shortly thereafter.[44]

Gunn admired the attractive and witty cartoonist Frank Bellew, who drew one of the first caricatures of Uncle Sam and portrayed Abraham Lincoln as thin and long as a pencil. Bellew did his share of entertaining the jovial gathering of witty, artistic souls at Pfaff’s. Known as “The Triangle” for the way he signed his name, Bellew had discussed Fourierism with Henry David Thoreau and was later highly praised by Charles Dickens, who had an affinity with several of the downtown bohemians.[45]

Frank Bellew, Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries,
Volume 11 page 228,
circa 1859, Mississippi Historical Society.

Fitz-James O’Brien commented that Bellew's “imaginative power and sense of humor are not surpassed, perhaps, by any living caricaturist.” Although Bellew had provided several illustrations for Vanity Fair, his debut in Punch on December 8, 1860 made him feel that he could command higher prices for his work. A self-promoter, Bellew asked New York publisher Jesse Haney to then help sell his illustrations to whoever would bid highest, and to also share his drawings with Fletcher Harper. This resulted in Bellew becoming a frequent and successful Harper’s artist.[46]

Bellew’s fond association with Ada Clare at Pfaff’s prompted marital troubles when his wife, described by Gunn as unhappy and domineering, became jealous after learning that Clare described Bellew as the most handsome of the Pfaffians.[47] Bellew and Nast also admired each other but they parried with their pens in the most outrageous caricatures, especially when it came to Bellew’s drawings of Nast. But much later, when Bellew was ill and poor, he received monetary assistance from Nast.[48]

Frank Bellew, The Henpecked Husband Works Late in the Office, 1865,
courtesy Edward and Deborah Pollack Fine Art.

Jewish artist Solomon (“Sol”) Eytinge Jr., a friend of Gunn, Vedder, Winter, and other denizens of New York bohemia, was most well known as the delineator of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Dickens declared that Eytinge drew the finest illustrations for his novels and the artist created one of the best portraits of Dickens following his return to the United States after the Civil War. Eytinge also illustrated many of his fellow Pfaffians’ works.[49]

Solomon Eytinge, Charles Dickens, 1866. From Frederic G. Kitton,
Dickens and his Illustrators (London: Redway, 1899), frontispiece.

Another illustrator, poet/journalist/novelist often at Pfaff’s was Bayard Taylor, who remained friends with Edmund C. Stedman; both gentlemen also had frequented Anne Lynch Botta’s soirees. Taylor was not considered a bohemian follower of Henry Clapp; however the artist certainly associated with bohemian poets. In New York, Taylor formed a poetry group which included Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Fitz-James O’Brien, and Hudson River School painter, poet, and novelist, Christopher Pearse Cranch. Formerly linked with the Transcendentalist Movement (started in part by Ralph Waldo Emerson and scorned by Edgar Allan Poe), Cranch joined the poetry club after he returned from Europe in 1863.[50]

William Page of Venus notoriety was among the Pfaff’s enthusiasts but on Sundays when Pfaff’s was closed, Page and others attended soirees at Ada Clare’s brownstone on West 42nd Street. These included Walt Whitman; artist/actress/writer and former southern belle Adah Isaacs Menken (née Ada Bertha Theodore), who studied sculpture technique while living in Ohio, as well as with Andre De Beauville in New Orleans and Antoine-Louis Barye in Paris. Menken counted Dickens as an admirer of her literary work. She claimed she was Jewish, spoke Hebrew, and bore a strong affinity with the religion. Known as one of America’s first superstar actresses, she created a sensation by appearing onstage wearing nothing but a body stocking and thigh-length tunic, while strapped to a horse.[51]

Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835–68, “in 8 seductive reclining poses,”
photograph by Napoleon Sarony, New York, ca. 1866,
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

They all celebrated the arts at Clare’s home and, as true bohemians, ate and drank with extraordinary relish until the early morning hours. Among them was miniature painter Anna Mary Freeman (Goldbeck). The daughter of miniaturist George Freeman, she exhibited at the National Academy of Design in the 1840s-50s. Critics called her a “genius” in her own right. The first female artist accepted as a tenant in the Tenth Street Studio Building, by 1858, she maintained a studio there but by 1860 she had moved into her own private atelier on Broadway.[52] The “beautiful and brilliant” Freeman was also a writer; her poems and stories appeared in the Saturday Press, the Knickerbocker, and other publications. Beloved in the bohemian group, she married musician and composer Robert Goldbeck, who accompanied her on the piano as she read poetry to an audience. [53]

Actress/writer Rose Eytinge, Sol Eytinge’s cousin and another good friend of Ada Clare’s, often visited the private bohemian soirees and agreed that Clare was the queen of her realm. Eytinge portrayed another queen— Cleopatra—on Broadway, and the portrait of her in that role by painter and lithographer Joseph E. Baker served as a theatrical poster. At one time Baker owned a lithography business with Winslow Homer, his mentor, and Baker also rendered a notable work of Abraham Lincoln. [54]

Joseph E. Baker, Rose Eytinge, lithograph published by
Armstrong & Co., 1877, image courtesy Library of
Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Distinguished portraitist Charles Loring Elliott was among the older regulars at Pfaff’s cellar and Clare’s home. Called by one of his peers as “the best portrait painter of his time” and respected in Saturday Press columns, Elliott created the portraits of several luminaries of the day including a distinguished likeness of Asher B. Durand in 1860. This painterly acknowledgment to the esteemed landscapist, who influenced so many other artists as well as poets, captured the essence of Durand’s persona, fulfilling the artistic quest proposed by Henry Clapp, that in portraiture, it was simple to copy facial features in detail, but the more important task was for the painter to “make these features represent the soul.”[55]

Charles Loring Elliott, Asher B. Durand, 1860,
Walters Art Museum,
  Baltimore, Maryland, 37.70.

Elliott was an entertaining raconteur and avid drinker. He once had been commissioned to paint Daniel Webster’s portrait in Massachusetts, and was so thrilled with the job that he drank heartily for days. His “artist friends” worried about Elliott keeping such a prestigious appointment, and with the help of a large rat they sneaked into his house, they determined to frighten him so much that he would become sober enough for the job. A startled Elliott saw it scampering about the room but couldn’t get any acknowledgment of it from his buddies, so he pretended he had not seen the rodent at all. Thinking he must have been in the midst of delirium tremors, Elliott gave up drinking. He then traveled soberly to Massachusetts to paint the likeness of Daniel Webster, “went fishing with him, got blind drunk every day with him for three weeks, and came home without” painting the portrait.[56]

Elliott rendered at least one likeness of America’s first woman actor/manager, Laura Keene, who hired Ada Clare and artist/actor Joseph Jefferson for her troupe of performers. In order to escape scandal, Keene, from England, had to conceal the fact that she was a mother and estranged from her husband. Not only was there a strong stigma attached to a divorced woman at mid-nineteenth century, Keene’s ex-husband, Henry Taylor, had evidently done something exceedingly wrong to have been banished from England and sent to a penal colony in Australia. She therefore instructed her daughters to call her “Auntie.” In April 1865 Laura Keene was in the midst of performing the part of Florence Trenchard in “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater when John Wilkes Booth ended Abraham Lincoln’s life. [57]

Keene’s daughter, Emma, married Pfaffian artist, writer, and much-wedded Albert Leighton Rawson. According to a descendant, Rawson allegedly had seven wives and was not always married to one woman at a time. Rawson achieved some note when he later wrote his reminiscences about the lively Manhattan bohemian group.[58]

The idealistic coterie of artists and literary iconoclasts was bound to disperse. No such inspired and perfect camaraderie lasts for more than several years. The Civil War and its aftermath prompted Pfaffian artists and writers to find there way elsewhere. It caused some to perish from war’s battles, such as O’Brien, or change their focus due to war’s distress. Several of the Pfaffians, including Ada Clare and Adah Menken headed west by 1864 to pursue their fame. Others, like Bierstadt, became so successful they relinquished their old comrades, or, like Mullen, died young from ill fortune and bad health. Later, artists and writers established themselves in alternative hierarchies and more structured convivial groups. But the point is, an abundance of creativity grew from the inspiration and influence between these rebellious New York painters, sculptors, illustrators, actors, and authors, who all held an enthusiasm for life and a profound love of art.

About the Author: Deborah C. Pollack’s books include Visual Art and the Urban Evolution of the New South; Palm Beach Visual ArtsBad Scarlett; and the award-winning Laura Woodward: The Artist Behind the Innovator Who Developed Palm Beach. Essays include “Sisterhoods of Spirit,” in Central to their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection; and several in the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.Articles have appeared in such periodicals as the American Art Review, Tequesta, and The Tustenegee.


[1] Ada Clare, “Thoughts and Things,” Saturday Press, March 17, 1860, 2 (Saturday Press articles have been digitalized in their original format by Lehigh University, “Vault at Pfaff’s,”; Edward McCrady, attorney of Ada’s father, journal entry, Thursday, June 29, 1854, South Carolina Historical Society; Gloria Goldblatt, Ada Clare, Queen of Bohemia: Her Life and Times, 13, 57,
[2] McElhenney (Ada Clare) to Mitchell, September 25, 1854, Mitchell Family Papers, South Carolina Historical Society; Vincenzo Botta, et al, Memoirs of Anne C. L. Botta: Written by her Friends (New York: Tait, 1893), 7, 25, 227; Goldblatt Clare, 14.
[3]  Botta, Memoirs, 13-16.
 [4]  Ibid.
 [5] Anne C. L. Botta, “Durand,” Poems by Anne Charlotte Lynch (New York: Putnam, 1849), 180
[6] A. C. L. Botta to Mlle. Badèr, April 27, 1883, quoted in Botta, Memoirs, 308.
[7] McElhenney to Mitchell, November 12, 1854, March 12, 1855, Mitchell Family Papers, South Carolina Historical Society; Peter Hastings Falk (ed.), “Ransom, Alexander,” Who was Who in American Art (Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1999), 3: 2703; Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists, American Artist Lives (New York: Putnam, 1867; reprint New York, James F. Carr, 1967), 360-361.
[8] “Portaits,” [sic] New York Times, December 26, 1854.
[9] McElhenney to Mitchell, March 12, 1855 and New York Historical Society, National Academy of Design Exhibition Record, 1826-1860 (New York: New York Historical Society, 1943), 2: 83, and lots 1391 and 1581, portraits of Ada Clare by Alexander Ransom, Leed’s Art Galleries, Thompson Collection Auction (New York: John Polhemus, Jan. 24-Feb. 7, 1870), Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, reel no. N312: frames 1031-1036.
[10] Carl J. Guarneri, Utopian Alternative: Fourierism in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 165, 361; Goldblatt, Clare, 26-27.
[11] Albert Brisbane, Albert Brisbane: A Mental Biography (Boston: Arena, 1893), 143-144, 146; “Brisbane’s Life and his Ideals,” New York Times, January 7, 1894.
 [12] Brisbane, Brisbane, 165, 361; Joanna Levin, Bohemia in America, 1858-1920 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010), 28.
 [13] William Winter, Old Friends; Being Literally Recollections of Other Days (New York:  Moffat, 1914), 57; “Lights and Shadows: Bohemia,” Golden Era, June 2, 1860.
[14] “Exhibition at Goupil’s,” Saturday Press, June 16, 1860.
[15] “National Academy of Design,” Saturday Press, April 23, 1859, 2 and May 7, 1859, 2.
 [16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid., April 23, 1859, 2.
 [18] Clapp, “Walt Whitman and American Art,” Saturday Press, June 30, 1860, 2.
[19] “Fine Arts,” Saturday Press, March 31, 1860.       
[20] The two studies are also in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
[21] William Gerdts, Great American Nude: A History of Art (New York: Praeger, 1974), 79.
[22] Paul Akers, quoted in Tuckerman, Book of the Arts, 299.
 [23] Clare, “Thoughts and Things,” Saturday Press, October 29, 1859, 2; Goldblatt, Clare, 57.
[24]  Louis G. Megaree, “Round Table of Knights,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 4.
[25] Rawson, “Bygone Bohemia,” 96; New York correspondent, “Bohemian Ruins,” Augusta Chronicle, Sunday, May 3, 1874; Winter, Old Friends, 92.
[26] Megaree, “Round Table of Knights”; Charles Stoddard, “Ada Clare: Queen of Bohemia, National Magazine, September 1905, 638, quoting Walt Whitman; “Specimen Days,” August 16, 1881; Fitz-James O’Brien, “Vault at Pfaff’s,”, accessed January 20, 2016; clipping, Gunn Diaries, Vol. 13, 83, summer 1860, with identifying notations in ink by Gunn.
[27] Rawson, “Bygone Bohemia, 98.
[28] Gunn diaries, vol. 12: 13, 14, 18, January 7, 8, and 13, 1860.
[29] Rawson, “Bygone Bohemia,” 98; William Henry Shelton, The Salmagundi Club: Being a History of Its Beginning as a Sketch Class, It’s Public Service as the Black and White Society, and its Career as a Club from 1871-1918 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1918), 5, 6.
 [30] Edmund Clarence Stedman, “Ad Grahamum Abeuntum,” 1866, in Laura Stedman, and George Milbry Gould, Life and Letters of Edmund Clarence Stedman (New York: Moffat Yard, 1910), 1: 405.
 [31] Fitz-James O’Brien, “Vault at Pfaff’s;” clipping, Gunn Diaries, Vol. 13: 83, summer of 1860; Mark A. Lause, The Antebellum Crisis and America’s First Bohemians (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2009), 126.  Lause briefly mentions some of the visual artists connected with bohemian writers.
[32] Stephen Rachman and Fitz Hugh Ludlow, The Hasheesh Eater: Being Passages from the Life of a Pythagorean, xxii, 141.
 [33] Barbara Novak, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Harper & Row, 1969, reprint 1979), 22, 94; “Divorce of a Well Known Writer,” Daily Albany Argus, May 9, 1866; Gordon Hendricks, Albert Bierstadt: Painter of the American West (Garretson: Crescent, 1988), 113-114.
[34] Elihu Vedder, The Digressions of V.: Written for his own Fun and that of his Friends (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1910), 227-228; Rawson, “Bygone Bohemia,” 102, 104.
 [35] Vedder, Digressions, 241-42; “Edward F. Mullen,” The Becker Collection: Drawings of the American Civil War Era,, accessed January 4, 2017; Natalie Spassky, Kathleen Luhrs, et al., American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art), 503-04. Over the years the title was changed from A Lost Mind to The Lost Mind.
[36] Vedder, Digressions, 219.
[37] Walt Whitman and Edwin Haviland Miller (ed.), The Correspondence, Vol. 1: 1842-1867 (Collected Writings of Walt Whitman) (New York: NYU Press, 2007), 84.
 [38] Vedder, Digressions, 232.
[39] Gunn Diaries, Vol. 6, 16 (1853).
 [40] Ibid., vol. 18, 86 (1861).
 [41] Ibid., vol. 6, 183, vol. 21, 5, October 1862. The print after Negro Life was titled The Old Kentucky Home.
[42] Gunn Diaries, vol. 11, 161, November 29, 1859.   
[43] Louis Morris Starr, Reporting the Civil War: The Bohemian Brigade in Action, 1861-65 (New York: Collier Books, 1962), 293.
[44] Gunn Diaries, Vol. 12, 51 (1860).
[45] Stephen Hess and Sandy Northrop, American Political Cartoons: The Evolution of a National Identity, 1754-2010 (Montgomery: Elliot and Clark, 1996, reprint 2011), 47.
[46] Fitz-James O’Brien, “A Paper of All Sorts,” Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1858, 513; Bellew to Haney, December 8, 1860, Manuscripts and Archives, New York Public Library.
 [47] Winter, Old Friends, 308-309 and Gunn Diaries, Vol. 18, 168, January 13, 1862 and Vol. 19, 22 (1862).
[48] Albert Bigelow Paine, Thomas Nast: His Period and His Pictures (New York: McMillan, 1904), 265.
 [49] Winter, Old Friends, 66.
 [50] Ibid., 177-179.
 [51] Rose Eytinge, Memories of Rose Eytinge (New York, Stokes, 1905), 21-22; Rawson, “Bygone Bohemia,” 102; Falk, Who was Who 2: 2248; Renée M. Sentilles, Performing Menken: Adah Isaacs Menken and the Birth of American Celebrity (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 23, 34–35 115, 131, 134, 242-245, 264.
[52] George C. Groce and David H. Wallace (editors), “Freeman, Anna Mary,” New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), 242; Rawson, “Bygone Bohemia,” 102; Shauna Martineau Robertson, Anna Mary Freeman’s Room: Women and Art in Antebellum America. Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, December 2004, 51-55, 63; “Sketchings,” The Crayon, January 1858, 25; and “Art Items,” Saturday Press, January 22, 1859, 3.
 [53] Eytinge, Memories, 22; “Miss Freeman's Readings from the Poets,” Saturday Press, January 29, 1859, 2. See also “Anna Mary Freeman Goldbeck,” Vault at Pfaff’s, Lehigh University, (accessed August 24, 2013).
[54] Eytinge, Memories, 22.
[55] Henry Clapp, Jr. "Imitation in Art." Saturday Press, June 2, 1860, 2.
 [56] Rawson, “Bygone Bohemia,” 104.
 [57] Matthew Baigell and the Montclair Art Museum, Three Hundred Years of American Painting: The Montclair Art Museum Collection (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1989), 146; Evelyn Mills (Albert Rawson’s great granddaughter and Laura Keene’s great-great granddaughter), telephone interview with author, August 7, 2012, 7:30 P.M.
[58] Mills, interview.

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