A man of original and deeply interesting character, an artist of exceptional facility, possessed of a fine imagination and great warmth of feeling, passed from the world, in the death of my old companion of many years, Sol Eytinge, — an event which befell on March 26, 1905, at Bayonne, New Jersey. In his prime as a draughtsman he was distinguished for the felicity of his invention, the richness of his humor, and the tenderness of his pathos. He had a keen wit and he was the soul of kindness and mirth. The aggregate of his works is large, but, individually, they are widely scattered. The most appropriate [317/318] pictures that have been made for illustration of the novels of Dickens, — pictures that are truly representative and free from the element of caricature, — are those made by Eytinge, and it is remembered that they gained the emphatic approval of the novelist. The portrait of Dickens that is included among the illustrations of this volume was made by Eytinge, and it is the best portrait existent of that great author — because, while faithful to physical lineaments, it conveys expression of the mind and soul. The artist loved, reverenced, and understood the man whose semblance he had undertaken to create.
A life dedicated to "the serene and silent art" is seldom eventful. That of Sol Eytinge was exceptionally tranquil. He was born in Philadelphia, October 28, 1833, and there was educated. In June 1858 he was married, in BrookIyn, to Miss Margaret Winship, — Rev. Henry Beecher performing the marriage service, and the American humorist Mortimer Thomson, whose pen-name was E. K. Philander Doesticks, P. B., acting as groomsman; a clever writer and a good fellow, almost or quite forgotten now. [318/319] Sol's circle of artistic companionship, then and in after years, comprised Elihu Vedder, George H. Boughton, Cass Griswold, Charles Coleman, W. J. Hennessey, William J. Linton, Albert and William Waud, and A. V. S. Anthony, — names that tell their own bright story of fine achievement and honorable distinction. It was a gay company, and many a happy hour do I remember, of festive communion with it. Many of those old friends have passed away. Vedder and Coleman, veterans now, are dwelling at Capri, in Italy, — Vedder in the "Tower of the Four Winds," whereto I waft a greeting, across the world. The grave of Sol Eytinge is in New York Bay Cemetery, Jersey City. His widow, who survives, in serene age, long ago made a name in letters, by reason of her exceptional humor and her expert invention, particularly as a writer for the young, and to think of her is to recall many a convivial occasion that her generous hospitality provided and that her kindness and her genial wit enriched.
The pictures that Eytinge made for embellishment of the poet Lowell's "Vision of Sir [319/320] Launfal" are especially significant of his sense of romantic atmosphere and his sympathetic perception of poetic ideals. He was a man of independent mind and genial temperament; he was devoted to the ministration of beauty; and his conduct and manners had the charm and simplicity of genius. He was very dear to me as a comrade, and so I give myself the pensive pleasure of gracing my pages with his name. Over his grave might well be written the lines that Dr. Johnson wrote, of Hogarth:
The hand of him here torpid lies
That drew the essential form of grace;
Here closed in death the attentive eyes
That saw the manners in the face.
Winter, William. "Sol Eytinge." Old Friends: Being Literary Recollections of Other Days. New York: Moffat, Yard, & Co., 1909. Pp. 317-319.
Last modified 25 October 2010