“It’s done. I’ve signed a lease for six months.” Eden poured herself a cup of tea and filled it with sugar. “Bette agrees with me.”
“Bette isn’t your instructor though,” Eleanor said carefully. “I saw M. Lefebvre at Durand’s last week and he said you’re undisciplined.” Eleanor frowned. “This is going to confirm his opinion.”
“M. Lefebvre is a dull old man who resents me because I am a woman and under eighty.” Eden stirred her tea but didn’t drink it. Instead, she picked up the end of a baguette, spread jam over it and popped it all into her mouth at once.
“I don’t think he resents you at all. And he isn’t eighty.” Eleanor sighed. “I doubt he is even seventy.”
“He wants me to do everything the way they did 100 years ago. No one really paints that way anymore. Not since Cezanne,” Eden protested.
“You are probably right, but that does not mean there is not something to be learned by studying the tradition first.”
“I will,” Eden assured her friend. “I’ll learn ‘the tradition’ in M. Lefebvre’s studio and I’ll paint my own way in mine.”
“What is your way?” Eleanor asked now.
Eden frowned. “I’m not certain yet. But it isn’t M. Lefebvre’s way. That I am sure of,” she answered. “Bette says I am just like her when she was my age. She says I need my own studio to find my real vision.”
Bette again. Eden had met her, of course, at one of Liz’s parties. Eleanor ought to have predicted that Eden would fall into an instant infatuation with the American painter who had come to the Academie Julian nearly twenty years ago, but had abandoned it almost right away to open a studio of her own.
She had been Beth Nourse from Cincinnati in the days when they were both nearly as young as Eden and had met one another by chance in Paris. She had shown such skill upon arrival that her own instructors—M. Lefebvre in fact, had been one—had encouraged her to leave the academy to do her own work. But Lefebvre had suggested no such thing to Eleanor regarding Eden, though he had said much more than she had admitted. In fact, he had smiled warmly at the mention of Eden’s name. He had called her prodigiously gifted…but undisciplined.
To Eleanor’s relief, Eden didn’t go so far as to leave the academy. Instead, she began painting one way for Lefebvre and searching for another at her new studio in the rue d’Assas. And Eleanor wasn’t sure, but she guessed Eden was probably taking as much instruction from Bette as she was from anyone at the academy.