Settling in Boston
“[W]e spent the evening merrily talking of art and artists, of business affairs, and of works to be
published of which I would be the editor and designer.”
“In Paris I was a Parisian, here now I behave as an American. Certain things you don’t do, nor
do you talk about them. Here we are a nation of puritans and that is the way we must live, you
shall see. You shall see!” (Fellow artist John Ward Dunsmore to Juglaris, Fall, 1880).
“[I]t being Sunday and a holiday the laws do not allow you to do any work at all, not at home
nor in public and that we therefore had to go to church instead of hanging around to sketch and
paint…we returned home shocked and discouraged with a sense of pity towards that republic so
enslaved and dominated by contrary religions.”
Tommaso Juglaris arrived in Boston on Sunday, August 22, 1880. Despite its longstanding reputation as the “Athens of America,” Boston had not entirely escaped its Puritan roots. Moreover, the city was ruled by an elite caste of wealthy “Brahmin” families, who could be very insular in their outlook and less than open to outsiders.
Nevertheless, Juglaris received an initial welcome that seemed entirely warm and sincere. Personally greeting him at the train station was none other than his new employer, Louis Prang himself. On a subsequent factory tour, Prang explained his forthcoming duties. As artistic director, Juglaris would be responsible for selecting, revising, and even redoing all artwork. That night a Prang associate hosted a dinner at his home with Juglaris as honored guest. Full of talk about future projects, the evening was both congenial and auspicious. Juglaris was elated. The night seemed to validate every hope he had for a bright future in America.
After settling into lodgings near the Boston Commons and starting work at the Prang, Juglaris tried to look up two Boston residents he had known well back in France when they were all part of Thomas Couture’s circle at Villiers-le-Bel. Francis “Frank” Millet did not respond to his inquiries, but Juglaris was able to meet with young John Ward Dunsmore. Although in Paris Dunsmore had led a free-and-easy life complete with a mistress, he was now a very proper man. In his new role as Boston society painter, always trolling for portrait commissions among the city’s matrons, he was impeccably dressed and morally circumspect, not even willing to acknowledge that he drank anymore. Dunsmore warned Juglaris about Boston’s puritanical ways. “You shall see!” he said. Before long, Juglaris did see, learning first-hand what Dunsmore was talking about.
With his duties at the Prang firm limited to four hours per day, Juglaris was committed to devoting the rest of his time to painting “some works of art to exhibit and make myself known” to the Boston art world. One Sunday morning, inspired by the spectacular beauty of a New England autumn, Juglaris and a fellow artist from Prang, who could speak only a little more English than he did, travelled to nearby Brookline to paint the colorful fall foliage. They had barely set up their easels when a policeman accosted and arrested them. Hauled to a police station, Juglaris and his companion were promptly informed that working on Sunday was against the law. Fortunately, the pair was released with just a warning. But Juglaris was astonished that such Sunday restrictions should existed at all. Even more absurd was the notion that creating art was considered manual labor in Boston! According to Juglaris, his arrest in Brookline was the talk of Boston the next day.
That was not the last time Juglaris ran afoul of Boston's “Blue Laws.” Neighbors called police after overhearing him--in the privacy of his own quarters--wielding a hammer on a Sunday, unpacking cases containing his Paris Salon paintings. Juglaris quickly learned that in Boston he was not even the master of his own castle on the Sabbath.
What to Wear En Plein Air?
Although Juglaris and his Prang Company colleague got into trouble painting outdoors in the Brookline countryside, the practice of en plain air or open air painting was not foreign to Bostonians. In keeping with the philosophical Transcendentalism of native son Ralph Waldo Emerson who, decades earlier, had encouraged everyone to look for God in nature and to “acquaint thyself with deity at firsthand,” Boston artists were already drawn to France’s Barbizon School of painters with its emphasis on the direct observation of nature. Rejected at Barbizon and now at Boston was art conceived in the mind’s eye according to ideal or idealized forms alone, as previously maintained by classical, neo-classical, and early academic traditions. Like Juglaris, Boston artists planted their easels amid the immediacy of landscapes they felt called to visually record and represent.
At least one Boston merchant sought to cash in on the vogue for en plein air painting. In the Boston Evening Transcript for April 28, 1882, the G. W. Simon & Sons Company ran an advertisement advising artists how to properly outfit and equip themselves: “Norfolk Blouses, Loose Breeches, Tall Stockings, Slouch Hats, easy Canvas Shoes (lace or button), Flannel Shirts, Black Silk handkerchiefs for neckties, and everything the artist needs for the summer campaign can be bought at Oak Hill ready made, or order may be left to make for special measure!”
As someone who detested the yellow and lavender gloves of his dandified artist-colleagues in Italy, it is unlikely that Juglaris sported much of anything that the Simon & Sons Oak Hill store promoted for en plein air artists. However, by personal example and thereafter in his subsequent role as a highly influential teacher, Juglaris actively encouraged painting “from life,” whether indoors or outdoors.