Art: Capturer of Whims

At Manhattan's National Academy of Design that day in 1894, the U.S. flag flew at half-mast. The artist who had just died was called a "giant," and the academy spared itself nothing to give him a giant's funeral. The casket of silver and velvet was lost among palm leaves and flowers, a bust of the dead man stood on a pedestal, and the grand stairway was draped in black. All this was fitting for an age that loved a good show, but it could not have been more inappropriate for the most unobtrusive of...

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