Impracticable as my scheme had at first seemed, the way was thus opened for its execution.
When fairly committed to the purpose, however, the want of means and the magnitude of the undertaking almost disheartened me. My original plan embraced a canvas sufficiently large for a life-size group of the President
and entire Cabinet; to paint such a picture would consume many months, perhaps years.
Enthusiasm alone would never accomplish the work.
The few friends to whom I should have felt at liberty to apply for help were not wealthy.
Who outside of these could be persuaded that a work of the character and proportions contemplated, undertaken by an artist of no experience in historical studies, would not end in utter failure?
I had left my home at the usual hour one morning, pondering the difficulty which, like Bunyan
's lions, seemed now to block the way. As one alternative after another presented itself to my mind and was rejected, the prospect appeared less and less hopeful.
I at length found myself in Broadway
the foot of the stairs leading up to my studio.
A gentleman at this moment attracted my attention, standing with his back towards me, looking at some pictures exposed in the window of the shop below.
Detecting, as I thought, something familiar in his air and manner, I waited until he turned his face, and then found I was not mistaken; it was an old acquaintance who five years before lived near me in Brooklyn
, engaged in a similar struggle for a livelihood with myself, though his profession was law instead of art.
We had both changed our residences and had not met for years.
After a cordial greeting, he accepted my invitation to ascend to the studio.
I had heard that he had been successful in some business ventures, but the matter made but little impression upon me, and had been forgotten.
Suddenly there seemed to come into my mind the words: “This man has been sent to you.”
Full of the singular impression, I laid before him my conception.
He heard me through, and then asked if I was sure of President Lincoln
's consent and cooperation.
I informed him of the pledge which had been given me. “Then,” said he, “you shall paint the picture.
Take plenty of time,--make it the great work of your life,--and draw upon me for whatever funds you will require to the end.”