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#0693: Willa Cather to Duncan M. Vinsonhaler, August 27 [1923]

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My Dear Judge Vinsonhaler1:

(1) First let me acknowledge receiving from you a check for one thousand dollars, which shall be endorsed to Mr. Bakst3 as soon as the portrait4 is completed. The work has taken much longer than he thought at first, and both he and I need a rest from it. I had no idea that sitting for a picture was such hard work. I have not been in the best of health this summer, and now I am going down to Aix-les-Bains5 for three weeks. When I return I will have three more sittings with Bakst for details of the figure—he eventually did a half-figure, seated, with the hands. The face will be practically completed in tomorrow's sitting, and I think the likeness very unusual.

(2) I know that my parents6 will want to go up to Omaha7 to see the picture, but I don't know about asking them to unveil it. You know old people are sometimes very much fretted and wearied of doing something a little unusual, and both my father and mother are rather nervous people. Won't you let me put the question to them and then follow their wish in the matter? I know you would not want to put any sort of strain on them. I think it likely that they would much rather sit quietly by, with no responsibility, and let my little niece, Virginia Auld8, unveil the picture9. (By the way, Judge Vinsonhaler, I wish pictures didn't have to be unveiled! And won't you do what must be done just as quietly and simply as possible. I like to feel that you want my picture because of a feeling of friendliness, because I've pictured truthfully the life you know. Don't, please, let people like Mrs. Shotwell10 turn all this nice feeling into cheap newspaper copy and make me f heartsick about it.)

To return to my little niece, she is a great pal of mine, and I think ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩her grandmother would love to have her for an understudy. She's a charming young girl, and not a bit cocky.

(3) Bakst is to have an exhibition of his work in Philadelphia11, in D November, and in Boston12 in December, and he ask permission to exhibit this portrait among his other pictures. I don't feel that I can grant him this without the consent of your committee, but it is customary to extend this courtesy courtesy to painters and I hope to hear from you that your committee is willing. In that case, he will select the frame—a very important matter—though the frame would probably have to be made in New York13.

(4) As to the date of my return: I will probably sail late in October, but I don't know how early in the winter I can go west. I am afraid unless the importunate Mrs. Shotwell can be subdued I shall never go to Omaha again! She wrote a letter to Bakst which passes description, asking him what he had to say about my eyes and my nose, how he would define my personality, what flower he thought appropriate for me, etc. As if any painter would give an interview on the physical characteristics of his sitter. Why, the woman must be mad! I'm confident that you and your friends didn't want this picture in order to give and opportunity for columns of cheap, noisy publicity, and I'm sure I did not sit for it for that purpose. Won't you be a hero, a very heroic hero, and try to tell this lady that I hate such methods, that I don't want to be "boosted" in any way, and I don't like being made ridiculous. The less publicity, the better. When Mr. Newbranch14 and Miss Mahoney15 do me the honor to write about me, I am always pleased, pleased and proud. But this sort of vulgar horn-blowing really hurts me, and I know that it offends all people of good taste. It offends my own Father very deeply, and I care a great deal about that. If you will be noble and kind enough to use your influence in my behalf, ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ you might prevent what the diplomats call future unpleasantness.

I dine with the Hitchcocks16 tonight. I am staying in Paris2 now, but all my letters still go to my permanent address at Ville D'Avray17. Senator and Mrs. Hitchcock went out there for tea with me on Sunday afternoon.

Forgive me for my rhetoric regarding Mrs. Shotwell, but do put the soft pedal on her if you can.

Faithfully yours Willa Cather
Mr. Duncan M. Vinsonhaler1 First National Bank Building Omaha7 Nebraska U.S.A. PARIS-XIV AV. D'ORLEANS2 28 AOUT 23 2030 Via S.S. OlympicWilla Cather#1340