February 9, 1908


Story of Local Man's Masterpiece,
Rescued by J. Logan Jones in
a Paris Dealer's Rooms,
and Brought Home.

Kansas City will have this week the first real opportunity it has ever had to pay an adequate tribute of appreciation to one of the gifted artists of the country who is living modestly and unobtrusively in this community. This man is John D. Patrick, whose great picture, "Brutality," which hung in the Paris salon of 1888 and was exhibited in the exposition the following year, will be on public view without charge in the Jones Dry Goods Company's art gallery on Wednesday and for a week or more.

Behind the announcement of this "exhibition" lies a story of intense human interest. The picture, a huge and graphic canvas, showing a brutal cart driver beating his horse, was the cause of the organization of the first French humane society. It was painted by Mr. Patrick in Paris twenty years ago, and has remained in that city ever since, practically in pledge for the materials with which it was painted. To the generosity of J. Logan Jones is due the opportunity of seeing this great work of art, which required six months of heartbreaking work in the mere painting, and which was praised by Meissonier. It has never been exhibited in this country, and Kansas City very fittingly has the first American view of it. It is not generally known that Mr. Patrick is the first Kansas Cityan to ever receive an art medal from the French government.

The canvas is a striking one. It is 10 x 12 feet in dimensions and it tells its story at a glance. With such marvelous atmosphere that the brutal cart driver and the magnificent Norman horse seem to be carved rather than painted, Mr. Patrick has set on unfading canvas his splendid sermon on humanity. Intense realism is the keynote of the work. The treatment is dramatic in the extreme. The great horse, of a breed that descended from the mighty Norman chargers of William of Normandy and far different from our street hacks of today, is rearing back upon his haunches in the pitiful effort to escape the rain of blows of his ruffianly master, who stands, cudgel in hand, his face blazing with cruel hatred. The picture was suggested by an actual occurrence.

This is the story of the Rosedale boy, now an instructor in the Fine Arts Institute art school, who, twenty years ago, while a struggling art student in Paris, pledged his future work to an art dealer, Fornier, for the price of his paints and painted a great masterpiece that set all Paris talking and won a medal at the 1889 exposition, where the painters of the world strove for honors and only fourteen Americans won that medal. Mr. Patrick was never able to redeem the picture and for twenty years he has mourned its absence as the loss of one dead -- this dead child of his genius which he thought he would never see again. But the resurrection was brought about by Mr. Jones, who paid the forfeiture, released the painting and sent it where it belongs -- home.

It was twenty-two years ago when Mr. Patrick, who had all but finished his course and was sadly out at elbows, was walking the streets of Paris one day and came upon the spectacle of a cart driver beating his horse, which was drawing a huge load of building rocks. Mr. Patrick's blood boiled, and to make a long story short, he gave the brutal driver a dose of his own medicine.

The young man went to his attic den and determined to show Paris what a brute it was, for horse beating was a common sight in that great, cruel city. But paints and materials cost money and Patrick had none. From dealer to dealer he went, almost begging materials and pledging his work for payment. He met with rebuff after rebuff, but finally Fornier gave him what he wanted. Then followed month after month of semi-starvation. All through the winter he froze and went hungry while he toiled and toiled, painting his heart into that great lesson of mercy.

"Olive Schreiner," in one of her beautiful "dreams," tells of a painter whose "reds" were so brilliant that they were the envy and despair of his fellows, until it was found that he opened his heart and painted with his own blood. That is what Patrick did -- he dipped the brush in his own heart. At last it was done and, too poor to hire men to take his canvas to the salon, he carried it there himself and submitted it to the judgment of the master, Meissonier, and Meissonier -- Meissonier himself -- praised it it and it was hung, despite the protests of those who feared that France would be held up to the scorn of the foreigner.

"If France deserves the scorn of the foreigner, then France must take it," was Meissonier's reply.

Patrick returned to America before he received the medal at the exposition and a series of misfortunes overtook him which brought him at last to the choice of going back to his art or staying with his mother. He stayed with his mother and the picture went back to the art dealer, who has kept it in pledge ever since, until Mr. Jones rescued it a few months ago.

None of this story comes from the lips of Mr. Patrick. Reluctant and modest verifications of facts learned elsewhere is all he will say. He was not talkative yesterday as he sat before his great work in the Jones gallery. He was thinking of the dead dream come back to life, of the long years of hunger, the weary, glorious months of ecstasy and starvation, of visions and cold and great hopes and cheerless streets when he dipped his brush into his heart and painted on and on.