Painting: Meticulous Mandarin

"He was quite the most interesting person we knew," wrote Novelist Henry James of his friend John La Farge. In fact, La Farge convinced James that he should write rather than paint, then used his brother, Philosopher William, as the model for St. John in an uncompleted altarpiece. La Farge also succeeded in smuggling a touch of the Renaissance back to the U.S., revived the art of stained glass, and visited Tahiti with sketchbook in hand before Gauguin got there. Unlike many of his well-educated countrymen, such as his contemporary Whistler, who...

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