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Pilgrim Monument, line drawing by Ewa Nogiec

Provincetown - Through the Eyes of Mariana, Budding Artist

Written by Mariana Taylor Manning at age 79 on May 22, 1994, Raleigh, NC

(Mariana taught sculpture at the University of South Carolina under Catherine Heyward in 1940 and is still turning out two collages a week at 85. - E.R.T.)

 This summer of 1928 was a propitious one. George Coffin Taylor was off to England by steamer (on the Moritania?) to work on his "Milton's Use of DuBartus" at the British Museum. From Bedford's Place on Bloomsberry Square he wrote to the USA almost every day! The rest of the family, consisting of Anna Heyward Taylor and sister, Nell Taylor, my mother, first cousin, Goody Taylor, aged 11, a companion for Edmund of the same vintage, Eliza aged 15, and myself aged 13. Game plan was for Ana and Nell to drive the six of us up the Eastern seaboard to Provincetown, Massachusetts, situated on the hook of Cape Cod. Anna had been there as an art student and knew it was a renowned artists' colony. It seemed to me the car was an old grey/green Buick. Anna was a terrible driver, and mother even less coordinated and experienced! But Anna being a seasoned world traveler thought nothing of the undertaking. How we made it through the hearts of big cities like Washington, Philadelphia and New York, I'll never know.

         We stopped off at Anna's cousin, the Stewarts, a world renowned engineer with three beautiful daughters and a busy wife from Charlottesville, VA Ten miles before we reached the beautiful home in Essex Fells, New Jersey, Edmund got sick and since Eliza had been mean to him he decided to make it out of her window instead of mine. He missed.

         Poor mother arrives at the Stewarts with the sick, nauseated child. The rest of us stayed there, but Ed and mother took a motel room for three days until he recovered. Meanwhile Eliza and I played tennis on grass courts, a real novelty to us. I remember the food was delicious and Ann Stewart's baby was upstairs on a sleeping porch and we waked up the baby, also a novelty to Eliza and me, and made the Stewarts angry. Edmund says when he recovered, he and Goody took their slingshots, from which they were never separated, and killed a young dove which they knew they had no business doing. They hurriedly dug a hole in the ground and buried the dove to eliminate the evidence!

         We were so happy to leave! We did make it down the length of Cape Cod and arrived at Provincetown intact. Anna was visualizing a quiet summer to turn out eight or ten woodblock prints for an autumn exhibit in New York City. Little did she know. Our house was in the middle of Provincetown and up a delightful wooden walk uphill for about 60 feet to the cottage built against the sand dunes. It consisted of a screened front porch, a big living room, and kitchen behind and two small bedrooms. Eliza and I had one double bed and Nell and Anna two single beds. Up a flight of incredibly steep steps lived Ed and Goody on the left side in a big, huge kind of attic room with beams above and Anna had the big room on the opposite side with a northern light and beams - "her studio."

         And so, the most glorious, sun filled and happiest summer of my life began! Carefree. The arrangement was this: Eliza and Anna worked together on the meals one day, and Nell and I, the next day. The food was delicious and the huge round loaves of Portuguese bread were absolutely delicious! Anna was great at vegetable salads, and mother was good at the meat and vegetables. We were all ravenously hungry all the time. Sunshine, swimming in the ice water of the bay right below us every day, sleeping soundly and happily and drinking gallons of milk. Anna had a knack for making a room cozy and attractive with a few bright sofa cushions and a gorgeous deep red Japanese batique which covered the big table when we weren't eating. The sun poured in, the air was like wine, cool and 72 degrees all of the two months we were there.

         Anna took me on the second day to E. Ambrose Webster's studio a block away to the left on Commercial Street, the street we lived on. The studio was a grey shingle two-story building located on the yellow sand of the Provincetown bay (he rented the downstairs apartment) and up a steep flight of stairs on the outside we climbed up to his studio. It was a huge high ceiling room 60 x 30 feet with marvelous north light and a huge skylight in the center above the models stand. I was introduced to Mr. Webster, a 40, plump, brown-haired, bright-eyed agile gentleman I loved immediately! He called me "Mayne" and could not pronounce his "r's." Red was "wed" etc.

         Well, Mayne, let's set up a still-life and see how you get along." He produced paints, a pallet and a canvas and two rushes, sat me down in the small room overlooking the water, turned the canvas board over, and made a quick small 4 x 4 sketch of the teapot and round vase he had put on the table for me. The little room was filled with all sorts of objects to paint, bricks, teapots, little Greek statues, etc. I had the white china teapot with pink flowers and immediately plunged on to paint! Such joy! In an hour I had drawn and painted a good free fresh little painting and he praised me! And so my career begins, that summer! In the afternoon there was always a fine nude model posing, tactfully handled and controlled by Mr. Webster. His class that summer consisted of about eight students, professional artists. One, Katherine Critcher of D.C., a teacher at the Corcoran Museum, and another I can't remember. In the morning with these he had a noted Portuguese model and in the afternoon the nude for the life class. My brother, Edmund, posed for twenty-five cents an hour and said it was most uncomfortable sitting still. His very blond hair and skin contrasted sharply with the Portuguese models. He remembers my painting him and being shocked to see his face composed of nothing but colored triangles!

         So, each day Mr. Webster took me out in the town with my easel and stand and equipment and sat me down, drew a small charcoal composition on the back of the canvas board and left me alone for three hours to paint this composition. This went on for six weeks, paint in the morning and charcoal during the afternoon of the fine nude model! There I learned to begin to draw. He was a marvelous teacher.

         After class I would go home and take a nap. Eliza, meanwhile, was spending every morning taking piano lessons from a fine concert pianist named Jonas. Then she'd practice.

         Poor Anna only produced two prints the whole summer. She had agreed to divide the expense and we ate her out of house and home. But we had fun! Isabelle Duncan's biography had just come out and she had it and turned it over to Eliza and me when she had finished.   There we learned the "facts of life," a great book, Eliza and I thought. Then she introduced us to Jane Eyre. Every night after supper we walked into the heart of town and to the library, a puny, stuffy little building. The puny, stuffy little library we two loved. Then we got an ice cream cone at a drug store and weighed. I weighed 100 pounds to begin with, but 114 pounds at the end of the summer. Poor Anna!

         The two boys rented a small row boat and fished and swam all day. Their job was burying the garbage in the big sand dunes behind the house, sometimes sweeping the floor and setting the table. Their in-house sport was shooting the Portuguese cats that walked along a wooden fence below their room with slingshots made of dried dogwood and beautiful round stones picked up on the ocean side of the Cape. They stretched out on the swing on the porch and read Quo Vardis and Henty.

(Edmund, I wrote this at 12-2:00 a.m. when I couldn't sleep! This is the first installment. In case I don't finish it, here you are with some of the summer of 1928! Love Mariana)

 

Miriam M. Stubbs, Washington, DC
from "the extraordinaray exhibit" at Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum



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