Thomas Starling Sullivant and his family summered often at Glen Haven; the local press noted their comings and goings between the years 1894 and 1901, and there may have been other visits as well. Mr. Sullivant was at the time a very successful and popular artist who dealt in caricature. His work appeared in Life magazine (the original), Judge, Puck, Harper’s Weekly and others, and for a time he was an editorial cartoonist for William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. His work was hugely popular.
Today, he is largely forgotten. But among those who remember him, he is described as an artist’s artist, “nothing short of a genius,” and “one of America’s most gifted draughtsmen.” He is acknowledged as a profound influence on early Walt Disney animation (especially the “Dance of the Hours” in Fantasia) and as a favorite artist of Walt Kelly of “Pogo” fame.
Born in 1854 in Columbus, Ohio, Sullivant spent much of his youth in Europe, where he studied art, before returning to the United States. In 1887, he studied with Thomas Eakins at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. He also studied with painter Edward Moran, and apprenticed with E. B. Bensell, noted for his pen-and-ink drawings and wood engravings.
Hippo: “Say, Bunny, I’ll toss you to see who pays for the lunch.”
Sullivant’s only tools were a pen and black ink, but he made them sing. He depicted his humans and animals with deftly exaggerated features that were said to be “grotesque yet believable.” He drew for his own amusement until the age of 33, when he submitted his first drawing to a magazine, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope for its expected return. It was unnecessary.
Sullivant used razor blades in his quest for perfection, scratching out work he was dissatisfied with, saving only the parts of the drawing he could not part with. It was perhaps this quest for perfection, combined with a huge demand for his work, that drove him to a breakdown, and thus the necessity for summers at Glen Haven, far from the city, where the pace of life fell into rhythm with the breezes in the trees.
Sullivant did provide an illustration for the Glen Haven Echo in 1897, but it is otherwise to be hoped that he relaxed and rejuvinated, while his children went on outings and Mrs. Sullivant chaperoned.
T.S. Sullivant continued to work until his death in 1926, leaving an extraordinary legacy of dynamic, animated, unique artwork for those who seek it out.