53. Painter in Vandeventer Place

A successful painter is so uncommon in this family of engineers, soldiers, professional men and farmers that Joseph Scott MacNutt of St. Louis may be the only example.  We are entitled to at least one painter, with the record of a career.

He is the son of a soldier: Albert Scott McNutt, elder brother of Francis Augustus MacNutt of Richmond, Indiana, Rome and the Tyrol.  Albert was born May 25, 1860 and was graduated from West Point in 1881.  On February 20, 1884, he married Helen, daughter of John and Eliza Patterson of Ridgeway, Pennsylvania.

Their son Scott Patterson, whose name later was altered to Joseph Scott and who today signs letters and paintings as J. Scott MacNutt, was born January 11, 1885 at Fort D.A. Russell (now Fort Warren) in Wyoming.  That is where the First Lieutenant in the U. S. Infantry was then stationed.  Six years later Lieutenant McNutt was directing a party of men engaged in tearing down a building at an army post in Arizona that had been ordered abandoned.  The summer weather was hot and the Lieutenant worked too hard.  He suffered sunstroke, followed by paralysis, with the consequence that he became a patient in a government hospital in Washington through a lingering illness that ended in death on May 8, 1901.

When Albert's grandfather Andrew Finley Scott had died in 1895 his will had provided a bequest equal to that left Francis Augustus, so the family of the stricken officer had economic security.  The son who now lives in St. Louis has one completed career in his past: that of a sanitation engineer.  How he worked from that into his present vocation will now appear.

His uncle Francis Augustus had no son, and after 1901 Scott had no father, so it was natural enough that a bond should be established between the two, with the younger man influenced in some degree by the elder.

J. Scott MacNutt was graduated from Harvard in 1906 with the degree of A.B. cum laude; then from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1908 as a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Public Health.  He was engaged with the Pittsburgh Typhoid Fever Commission in association with the Russell Sage Foundation in 1908-09, and was Health Officer of Orange, New Jersey, from 1910 to 1913.  He was a lecturer at M.I.T. in 1914-15 while carrying on research and writing in the field of public health.  One of his books, A Manual for Health Officers was

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the first of its kind and a standard text for many years.  Another book was The Modern Milk Problem, published in 1917.  In the first World War he was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the U. S. Army Sanitary Corps and served from 1918 to 1920.

Back in 1915 he had taken up painting with the idea that a career as an artist might afford more satisfaction than that of a sanitation engineer.  After his service with the Army he studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and privately in Paris, in 1920 and 1921; then he specialized in portrait painting.  He was an instructor in the St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University in 1927-28; member of the staff at Woodbury School, Boston and Ogunquit, Maine, in 1928 and 1929, and Associate Dean of the School at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1929-30.

He established himself as a portrait painter in St. Louis in 1921, and has remained there since except for his engagements as noted, and for several trips abroad, and summers in Ogunquit.  On May 27, 1924, he married Agnes Cady of St. Louis (b.  November 12, 1887), who had been having a career of her own as a dance director.  Daughter of Marshall and Clara (Romyn) Cady, she had been educated in the St. Louis schools and had taken her professional training in New York and Cleveland.  Then she taught at the public school playgrounds of her home city and directed the annual dance pageants of school children for a number of years.  She was also directress of dancing at the Community Center, St. Louis.  The newly-wed Mr. and Mrs. J. Scott MacNutt found quite easily that their interests in the arts were mutual.  Their children, Francis Scott and Margaret Alexandra, will appear later.

Mr. MacNutt has painted many portraits in Europe and the eastern United States, and many more in St. Louis.  Of his success and rank we find a glimpse in an article entitled "Solid and Changeless" that appeared in the Harvard Alumni Bulletin of February 26, 1949:

During St. Louis Art Week, held early in November, eighteen new portraits by J. Scott MacNutt, '06, were on exhibit at the galleries of the Artists' Guild.  Especially loaned from the Grand Hall waiting room of the Union Station was MacNutt's painting of the late Philip J. Watson, president of the Terminal Railroad Association.  Of the exhibit, Howard Derrickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote:

"Compared to the over-night celebrities and the imitators of the modernists MacNutt is as solid and changeless as the pyramids. . . . It's restful and reassuring to a man to know that his portrait is going to be an excellent likeness, with perhaps some appreciative insight into his character, with no danger of a Picassoesque displacement of the eyes, or an attempt to present him in full face and profile at one and the same time."

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His first painting of a Harvard alumnus was the portrait of Professor Walter R. Spalding, '87, which hangs in Paine Hall of Harvard's Music Building.  MacNutt later painted George T. Moore, '95, and the late George D. Markham, '81, but no alumni names have appeared recently in the portraits he has executed of many outstanding citizens in the Middle West.

Nowadays MacNutt is so busy with his commissions, the presidency of the Artists' Guild, and the chairmanship of the advisory board of the Vandeventer Place Association in St. Louis that he says he has time to use his early engineering training only on an occasional leaky faucet!

No present reader would be satisfied without some account of the relation that existed between the painter nephew of St. Louis and the picturesque uncle of the Schloss Ratzötz in the Tyrol.  When Francis Augustus MacNutt realized in 1925 that he had incurable cancer he wished to see J. Scott again and invited him to come with his family.  From a copy of the account the painter wrote a few months ago at the request of the Rev. Father Bonn, who wished more light on the expatriate's closing years, the following paragraphs have been extracted:
In his later years I believe Uncle Francis came to see that many of the things he had valued or striven for were, after all, the husk rather than the kernel -- the artificiality rather than the art of life. . . .

When my uncle was undergoing his illness, I with my wife and infant son Francis visited Ratzötz but once, staying there about three months in the summer of 1926.  We passed the winter of 1926-27 in Paris and returned to the United States in June 1927. . . .

Uncle Frank was always a reserved man, even when he appeared to be most frank and open.  Even with myself, who was a kind of foster-son, he was never really intimate, and it was somewhat so, I suspect, in his relation to Aunt Margaret.  He never got over-the habit of playing a part on the stage of life, and it seems to have been only with certain minor characters in his drama that he allowed himself that freedom of intercourse which might lead to confidences.  My wife was one of these. . . .

Uncle Francis had very little fortune of his own, but he was of great help to Aunt Margaret in the use of her wealth.  Whether it was in the enlargement and adornment of Ratzötz according to his rather baroque taste, or in benefactions to the Church or individuals, she relied very largely on his judgment.  They paid the cost of building, or reconstructing, the Diocesan Museum, in which a wealth of historic material, folk arts, etc., was installed.  [Also portraits of Francis Augustus and his wife Margaret, painted by their nephew.]

He always liked motoring [in a big Isotta-Fraschini touring car].

Francis Augustus MacNutt, according to his nephew's account, selected his own burial place at the foot of the tower in the churchyard of the nearby Milan parish church, and probably arranged also for the

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plain marble slab with simple inscription, to be placed later on the top of the tomb.  He died at the end of December 1927 in the Castle Ratzötz, a few days before his sixty-fifth birthday.  In his will, everything was left to his widow, with instructions to pay various legacies, to servants, local religious houses, and to the Prince Bishop of Brixen for the poor.  A portrait of Anne Carter of Shirley, mother of Robert E. Lee, was bequeathed to Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.  Margaret Ogden MacNutt survived her husband only a few years and was buried beside him.  And that completes the nephew's story of them.

Mr. MacNutt has his studio on the top floor of his home, one of the great old houses in Vandeventer Place, St. Louis.  On both sides of a narrow park intersected by one street are the mansions that were new perhaps in the 1890s, built so well and strongly that age gives them distinction and no air of faded grandeur.  This is particularly true of the houses below the intersection, which never can be shabby so long as they are as well kept as now.  Vandeventer Place is a little like Gramercy Park in New York or Louisbourg Square in Boston, in that it is a quiet retreat surrounded by a tumultuous city that has crowded all sorts of diverse elements about it.  A community association guards its welfare, and in its counsels the painter has a part.  Vandeventer Place perhaps may be seen most appreciatively under the mellow sunshine of an October afternoon, with fallen leaves lying on the grass or skittering before a breeze.  Autumnal colors go well with the old houses of an earlier day which collectively, with their strip of park, almost persuade a visitor he has stepped back half a century in time, at least.

To the house at 72 Vandeventer Place return the son and daughter of the household, whose childhood rooms retain their books, the collections they made, and the pictures they drew when they were youngsters full of bounce and the early urge to self-expression.  The two are named for the uncle and aunt who have filled the preceding chapters.

Francis Scott MacNutt, born in St. Louis on April 22, 1925, educated in the Community School and the John Burroughs School, completed pre-medical studies at Washington University, and won an A.B. cum laude at Harvard in 1948.  He had entered with the class of 1946, but served in the recent war as Surgical Technician (T/5) in the United States Army.  At Harvard he was on the staff of the Lampoon, and a member of the Ornithological Club, Junior Varsity baseball team, Cross Country squad, and his House baseball team.  He held Harvard College scholarships, and won second prize in the Boylston Oratorical contest in 1918.  His field of concentration was English.

The young man's father takes a degree of pleasure in a story printed in The Deacon's Testament, yearbook of Kirkland House at Harvard for 1947-48.  Headed "It's the MacNutts" it says:

With the baseball season just three games old, the rest of the [inter-House] League fervently wished it had never heard of Kirkland.  For the Deacons had already smothered Lowell, Adams, and Dunster . . . . [behind the superb pitching of Frank MacNutt] . . . . Lowell didn't have a chance as MacNutt yielded but two hits.  The Adams game was much tighter but MacNutt slammed the door on any Adams House hopes as he pitched a no-hitter . . . . to the final 2-0 count. . . . Dunster House managed to look more like the Keystone Kops than a baseball team. . . . McNutt allowed only one hit.
"That's nothing!  Nothing at all!  " says the young man of these inter-House games, but a no-hitter is a no-hitter in any league, thinks a father who sets store by the maintenance of the old vigor.

After Harvard, Francis Scott went on to postgraduate studies in Speech and Drama at the Catholic University of America in Washington, leading to a Master's degree in June 1950.  His special interests there were theater, writing, and music.  And baseball.  The Washington Star of May 10, 1950 reported a game which Catholic University had won from American University by a score of four to three.  The winning pitcher was a tall and thin young man with a mop of long hair allowed to grow because he was about to play a gangster in the spring musical show, "Lucky Day."  He was Frank MacNutt, six feet three, 150 pounds, who had a no-hitter for seven innings.  Then he relaxed, but not too much.

Margaret Alexandra, born January 1, 1929, attended the Community School and the John Burroughs School; then Wellesley College for two years.  She might have gone longer but chose to marry on June 11, 1949, J. Richardson Usher, a son of Roland Green Usher of Washington University, a well-known teacher, writer, and commentator in history.  In childhood Alexandra had a passion for drawing, evidenced by examples preserved at home, that developed into interests in art and music.  She has given many performances, in person or by radio, singing folk songs and ballads to the guitar.  They call her Alexandra out of respect for the Virginia colonizer.  Mr. and Mrs. Usher live in Ithaca, New York.

With the parting remark that J. Scott MacNutt is a member of the St. Louis Art Commission, this chapter on the portrait painter of Vandeventer Place ends.  Despite differences in environment and occupation, he is like other great-great-great-great-grandsons of old Barnard of Massachusetts in essential ways.  Steady and responsible, neighborly, and pleased with his children.

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