Portrait of a Russian peasant. from Through the Caucasus. written by Ralph Meeker.
As competent as these drawings are, Frank Millet was every bit as good a writer as he was an illustrator. In fact, he wrote articles and stories which he did not illustrate. There were other times when his illustrations appeared in stories written by others. The portraits are a case in point. Obviously, Millet had travelled to the Caucasus but whether it was in the company of the writer is not known. A search on the Internet for Ralph Meeker will only turn up links to the well-known actor of Hollywod films and the Broadway stage.
Portrait of a Russian Jew.
As Henry James has written of Frank Millet,
“. . . . he sent striking sketches from the East, as well as capital prose to the journals I have mentioned. He has always been as capable of writing a text for his own sketches as of making sketches for the text of others. He has made pictures without words and words without pictures. He has written some very clever ghost stories, and drawn and painted some very recognizable realities. [Millet exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1888 in London.] . . . .
Millet's 1877 portrait of author Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain). Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch donated the portrait to the Hannibal, Missouri Free Public Library. Photo courtesy of Dave Thomson.
“He knows the art schools of the Continent, the studios of Paris, the ‘dodges’ of Antwerp [we can only guess what that means], the subjects, the models of Venice, and has had much aesthetic as well as much personal experience.
Portrait of a young Circassian woman.
Portrait of a Circassian.
“He has draped and distributed Greek plays at Harvard, as well as ridden over the Balkans to post pressing letters, and invented English villages [Broadway, one can assume from the title of the article] where susceptible Americans may get the strongest sensations with the least trouble to themselves. . . .”
“Springing from a very old New England stock, he has found the practice of art a wonderful antidote, in his own language, ‘for belated Puritanism.’ He is very modern, in the sense of having tried many things and availed himself of all of the facilities of his time . . . . he is a striking example of what the typical American quality can achieve. . . .”
A bit jingoistic, and predictably said for an American popular press. However flowery, it was appropriate for the time when it was common for a dozen words to do the work of two or three.
Millet's home was in the town of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, a village not historically significant since 1676 when Capt. Benjamin Church and its plucky citizenry drove the marauding Metacom (King Philip) out from the town to be eventually captured and slain to end the bloodiest war in colonial history.
Frank Millet's life ended abruptly on 15 April 1912 as a first-class passenger on Titanic when it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic enroute home to the United States. His body was recovered and logged as No. 249, male, estimated age 65, hair-grey. His remains are buried at East Bridgewater Central Cemetery.
We are indebted to Encyclopedia Titanica (www.encyclopedia-titanica.org) for this information and that which follows.
In a letter to a friend, posted at Queenstown (now Cobh) Ireland, he described his fellow passengers in the same manner he reported skirmishes in a war:
"Queer lot of people on the ship. There are a number of obnoxious, ostentatious American women, the scourge of any place they infest and worse on shipboard than anywhere."
"Many of them carry tiny dogs, and lead husbands around like pet lambs."
However, he was last seen on deck giving up his life preserver to women passengers.
Next: Norman Rockwell's Pretty Women