Elizabeth Cameron Blanchard is probably the only art collector who hides such treasures as a Sargent, a Twachtman, several Dodge Macknights, Edward Hoppers, Allen Tuckers, Charles Peppers, to say nothing of a Winslow Homer sketch, in a dark cupboard, taking them out occasionally only to be enjoyed.
Mrs. Blanchard is a decorator, another example of the hundreds of women who have developed professions for themselves from lifelong hobbies and natural gifts.
Mrs. Blanchard's work began by helping her friends choose pictures and redecorate their homes when she had no urge for a professional career. Later, at the death of her husband and the warm instigation of her friends, she converted a good natured pastime into a paying business. Mrs. Blanchard had done some of the most fashionable houses in New York.
"I get added thrills when I don't see them every day," she explained to a visitor; "besides, they must rotate. To hang them all I'd need a gallery instead of my small apartment."
"Come, see my favorite picture," said her motherherself a picture, mellow with eighty-three beautiful years, filled with choice memories of wide wanderings, some of which she has described recently in exquisite verse.
She led the guest to a window seat whence the northward sweep of Central Park was visited.
While tea was being served from a Georgian service the caller noted the eighteenth century furniture, quaint Hanoverian spinning wheel, ancient grandfather's clock, a signed photograph of Roosevelt, a miniature bronze of Lincoln by Victor Salvatore, a rare Wedgewood vase with oblong turquoise medallions, a jeweled iconnot many things, just enough.
"Tell me about the paintings here before I'm shown the hidden ones," the caller urged; "this 'old crome' looking fishing scene among Roman stone pines, for instance."
"Supposed to be a Poussin," she was told; also that it was "a permanent" for old association's sake, Mrs. Blanchard's infant eyes having first opened upon it, which doubtless accounted for her artistic bent. Other interesting canvases were a ripe, golden harvesting scene by George Bellows, a rosily draped maiden by Glackens, tulips by Eugene Speicher, two water colors, Crater Lake, Colorado, and a Massachusetts winter scene, by Dodge Macknight, and an arresting oil by Allen Tucker called "Four o'Clock in the Morning," Mount Desert, in peacock shades of blue and green. Next was a mischievous urchin by Luks, a Turneresque water color by August Sieger, a monk by a Spanish artist, exquisite white roses by Alden Weir and a portrait of Mrs. Blanchard's maternal grandfather, Thomas Amis, a South Carolina planter.
After tea the other pictures were brought forth. "Mother is horrified each time I buy new ones," laughed Mrs. Blanchard. "Since my husband's death I've been earning my living by decorating houses. Friends who approved my taste started me off, and now I can't stop. I've been amazingly successfulmore commissions than I can acceptbut perhaps hardly enough so to warrant acquiring a gallery. Still good pictures are sound investments, only I think, perhaps, I'd starve before I'd sell one. I've been offered ten times what I gave for my Sargent. That, however, has great personal value, as Sargent was a friend."
She has had flattering offers for others. George Bellows, wishing to possess two of her six Hoppers, said: "I don't know who Mrs. Blanchard is, but she's some picker." She is very pleased that, quite on her own initiative, she should have recognized the worth of Hopper, who "glorifies commonplace things" before he became famous. Also she showed two more of Macknights, by many called the greatest living water coloristEast Sandwich in autumnal garb and Bermuda, rosy with oleanders. Then came "Mount Monadnock," by Abbott Thayer, a water color replica of his oil in the Metropolitan; three more from Charles Pepper's wizard brush; then another oil, the rugged rocks of Northeast harbor, by Allen Tucker.
Next came a copy of Sargent's soldier picture, "On the Road," done by his sister, Emily Sargent, especially for Mrs. Blancharda unique happening, allowed only "for friendship's sake."
"Now behold my chef d'oeuvre, Sargent's water color of Frenchman's Bay, Bar Harbor," said the hostess.
And suddenly it was as though one were actually by the seathe beige and fawn reality of the coast foreground, the limpid pools in their shallow bedssuch strength, such beauty.
"I always think," Mrs. Blanchard was musing, "that the light in the sky and upon the water is like his smileso kindly, so benign. He was the gentlest, most unassuming of men."
"Decorator Developed Professional Career From Hobby," New York Sun (28 May 1926), 21.