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Sterner, Albert (1863-1946)
Group of Love Letters to Flora Temple Lash, whom he married, with sketches and related ephemera

20 letters, 59 pages, several letters illustrated with sketches, letters dated 1922-1941, the bulk from 1923-1924, with 9 pencil and pen sketches, 17 printed and manuscript ephemeral items, including: exhibition lists, catalogs and pricelists, Christmas cards designed and printed by the artist, the ephemera dates from 1912-1941, with nine snapshot photographs, plus accompanying negatives.

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Collection of love letters from Albert Sterner, an academically trained artist, painter, draughtsman and print-maker, who as an older married man, at the age of 60, seems to have fallen hard for the younger Flora Temple Lash. Sterner divorced his first wife and later married Flora. The letters discuss Sterner’s artistic life and his relationship with Flora.

 

        [March 14, 1923] New York, to Flora Temple Lash, Philadelphia

         “Darling!

              If ever in my life I did what I longed not to do it was then when the door closed last night and I left you. I crossed the wet street and looked up at your windows but you were busy – undressing – going in your little bed where but a moment before you had lain beside me. It was heavenly sweet that quiet embrace – It was so close so dear so deep – The silences of it are still in my memory!

             I got a lower berth on the 1215 and went to bed and stayed there till 7 this morning I slept fitfully – had breakfast at the Pennsylvania Station and got here long before Norah arrived. I have been working on and off at the etching scraping out a large place – it is arduous the cutting of the copper – So I am not sending you a proof till the thing is corrected – and Jules just came with another photograph of your drawing – but it is worse than the other so tomorrow he will do it again. …”

 

         [October 1, 1923] New York, to Flora Temple Lash, Philadelphia

        “Dear Love!

            I have thought of you all through this day – Now it is night – and I long for you so I might kiss your dear eyes and just hear your lovely voice say “Albert” No one says it like you do, no one! Even over the phone when you are many miles away it bears me to your love – and I love it.

           I had dinner alone at the Arts Club, for the Players Kitchen is out of commission and we go next door and eat among the old ladies – they are all old ladies there men and women –

           This morning I printed a beautiful proof from my plate ‘the mask’ or ‘Now Unmask’ which title do you prefer. It is really a beautiful proof. I am more & more mad about etching and I find out more wonderful things about it every hour.  It is much more precious than lithography and much more difficult and longer to make and so one loves it more. It is more uncertain too and has more mystery. I want you to see this proof, so if you don’t come to New York at the end of the week I will bring it to show you and will try to print from your plate reading too. –

            A mad idea has been in my head of renting my studio and going to stay in Vermont … so I would not have to earn so much money and could go on etching – but it is only an idea and may never materialize. …”

 

          [Jan 7 1924] New York to Flora Temple Lash, Philadelphia

         “Dearest Love!

               … All this week every evening till Saturday I have to play the little Pirandello Play – and on Monday the 14 – I begin the portrait of Mr. Tyler at Elkins Park. I shall go to Philad. Sunday the other two drawings they ordered are to be done later. Tyler wrote that they loved the boy’s portrait. On the 17th I lecture at the Fellowship. Did you get the photographs & get them to Mary Butler? And on the 19th I give my lecture on drawing here at the Anderson …”

 

         June 27, 1924, Binghamton, New York to Flora T. Lash, Philadelphia

         “My Beloved –

             First how are you? You dear – I hope quite better and feeling allright. I never like to see you suffering. It gets right into me and makes me sad. I always want to do something to try to make you well & strong & peppy –

             I left New York at 2 thinking to make the train which was scheduled at 220 that turned out to be 3.20, so I sat in the Lackawanna Station at Hoboken 1 hour and 10 minutes – then the 6 hours on the train very alone – and here I am spending the night at the hotel as the Kerr’s could not meet me with the car & there is no connection with Whitney Point tonight… There is no news of course except that I got a letter from Content in which he details the facts which are that the decree was filed on the 26th and will be final automatically on Sept 26 when a copy of the final decree will be given me. A million wonderful things flood my mind in a great jumble – but I am too tired to write about them tonight. All I know is that I love you tenderly deeply – passionately – and that we can be happy in our love – and our work together…”

 

         [undated] Philadelphia to Flora T. Lash

         “Darling!

            Mrs. Brinton came to Philad. Yesterday afternoon – and came this morning to the house. I was so pleased to see her that I kissed her and she liked my kissing her – it was a real friendship kiss – but most of all I want to jump and tell you that she is overwhelmed by the work and thinks it wonderful & beautiful And dear Flora – I know you will like it and be proud of your little Albert – Once you said you didn’t think I knew enough about walls &c – do you remember? Well now you won’t say it anymore and I want to tell you now Lady Slavedriver – that I adore this work and shall move heaven and earth to get more to do. For the first time in my life I feel that it is worthwhile being an artist – having struggled to know a lot and keep vigorous and spontaneous and unsuppressed and joyous. Because these walls already in their unfinished state have some of those qualities on them. I have to watch Lella like a lynx – He is round and fat and every touch he makes is round and fat – and so not smart but he is patient and takes criticism intelligently. … Lella has gone to his wife over Monday – She wrote him a letter saying she hated him to be away from her – and couldn’t eat ?? Married 6 weeks! Her name is Luisa she is an Italian – from a da warm hotta place. I am going to dine with Mrs. Brinton tomorrow evening – and have work to do tomorrow on the walls.

            Considering the strenuousness of the work – mainly of course the climbing and standing on planks – I am not too exhausted – and if you were here and I could play a little and distract my mind… clinging on to the scaffold makes me use certain muscles in my feet which are not usually in use…” [the letter has two ink sketches by Sterner]

               [undated] Philadelphia, to Flora T. Lash,

         “Dearest Love!

             I am better now – I have been so sad and had to work through it all – Don’t hurt me my Flora! – never ! I know I have all kinds of faults but if you love me they will all go and I will be a little stupid perfect ducky angel and will never do anything wrong but if I were that you wouldn’t love me and I would die and you wouldn’t like that either – so there! – I can’t wait now till I jump at you and hug you so tight that you gasp – and I will not stop …” [letter has small ink sketches by Sterner]

 

          [Undated] Hilldale, Tuxedo Park, New York to Flora T. Lash, Philadelphia

         “My Beloved!

             Your dear letter was just handed to me it is 6 oclock and I have worked virtually all the day – and am tired - , but I think the work is allright. Mrs. Mitchell likes it and two of the servants have just looked at it & thought it wonderfully like her- and that is something! She is difficult to do – uncertain age – (42) –

            There are going to be people for dinner tonight Anson Beard – and Mrs. Havemeyer Butt – (who wants a drawing) –

             … I wish you could see this house. It is so artistic and well appointed and there is a grand English Butler (Ballard) who looks like a tall weak Greek God and uses long words, beautifully and such a voice.

            And there is an English governess blond as blond can be with no eyebrows and a too pink complexion and round wondering eyes something like that but pink [small sketch in letter]

           I shall finish the portrait tomorrow. The Davie head has to be put off till some following week end. So I shall probably be in NY Thursday …”

 

         “Born in London, Albert Sterner began taking drawing classes in 1875 at the Birmingham Art Institute while still attending King Edward's School. Although his family moved to America, Sterner stayed with relatives in Germany until about 1879 or 1880. Rejoining his family in Chicago, he began working for a lithography firm and also painted stage scenery for the Grand Opera House, as well as doing some illustration. In 1885 Sterner established a studio in New York and began working for magazines such as Harper's, Scribner's, Century, and Collier's. He traveled frequently to Europe and in 1888 enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris, where he studied with Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre. He continued to do illustration while also studying with Jean-Léon Gérôme at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1891 Sterner first exhibited at the Paris Salon and received an honorable mention. In 1918 he returned to America and began teaching at the Art Students League in New York. Sterner was one of the founders of Painter-Gravers of America. Among the many institutions that presented exhibitions of his work were the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Carnegie Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He also specialized in portraits of famous patrons such as the Vanderbilts, Whitneys and Wideners. He also won several major awards, including the Carnegie Prize at the National Academy of Design in 1941.”1

 

        1. Joann Moser Singular Impressions: The Monotype in America (Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1997)

       See: Sterner’s obituary in the New York Times, December 17, 1946, p. 31