MR. BARKER’S PICTURE.
BY MAX ADELER.
“Your charge against Mr. Barker, the artist here,” said the magistrate, “is assault and battery, I believe?”
“And your name is——”
“Potts! I am art critic of the Weekly Spy.”
“State your case.”
“I called at Mr. Barker’s studio upon his invitation to see his great picture, just finished, of ’George Washington cutting down the cherry-tree with his hatchet.’ Mr. Barker was expecting to sell it to Congress for fifty thousand dollars. He asked me what I thought of it, and after I had pointed out his mistake in making the handle of the hatchet twice as thick as the tree, and in turning the head of the hatchet around, so that George was cutting the tree down with the hammer end, I asked him why he foreshortened George’s leg so as to make it look as if his left foot was upon the mountain on the other side of the river.”
“Did Mr. Barker take it kindly?” asked the justice.
“Well, he looked a little glum—that’s all. And then when I asked him why he put a guinea-pig up in the tree, and why he painted the guinea-pig with horns, he said it was not a guinea-pig but a cow; and that it was not in the tree, but in the background. Then I said that, if I had been painting George Washington, I should not have given him the complexion of a salmon-brick, I should not have given him two thumbs on each hand, and I should have tried not to slue his right eye around so that he could see around the back of his head to his left ear. And Barker said, ‘Oh, wouldn’t you?’ Sarcastic, your honour. And I said, ‘No, I wouldn’t’; and I wouldn’t have painted oak-leaves on a cherry-tree; and I wouldn’t have left the spectator in doubt as to whether the figure off by the woods was a factory chimney, or a steamboat, or George Washington’s father taking a smoke.”
“Which was it?” asked the magistrate.
“I don’t know. Nobody will ever know. So Barker asked me what I’d advise him to do. And I told him I thought his best chance was to abandon the Washington idea, and to fix the thing up somehow to represent ‘The Boy who stood on the Burning Deck.’ I told him he might paint the grass red to represent the flames, and daub over the tree so’s it would look like the mast, and pull George’s foot to this side of the river so’s it would rest somewhere on the burning deck, and maybe he might reconstruct the factory chimney, or whatever it was, and make it the captain, while he could arrange the guinea-pig to do for the captain’s dog.”
“Did he agree?”