The Last Leaf

Behrman Character Analysis

An old and somewhat cantankerous artist who lives downstairs from Sue and Johnsy. He has been painting for four decades without any commercial success, but still hopes to paint what he calls his “masterpiece.” He is an alcoholic and earns money by posing as a model for artists in the neighborhood. Despite his gruff exterior, he has a soft spot for Sue and Johnsy. He is initially dismissive of the idea that leaves on a vine could have anything to do with Johnsy’s health, but ultimately goes outside on a cold and rainy night to paint a realistic-looking leaf onto the wall outside her window so that she will think one last leaf has miraculously survived the storm. As a result of this sacrifice, he catches pneumonia and dies—but Sue remarks that he had finally painted his masterpiece.

Behrman Quotes in The Last Leaf

The The Last Leaf quotes below are all either spoken by Behrman or refer to Behrman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hope and Health Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of The Last Leaf published in 1994.
The Last Leaf Quotes

Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress's robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it…He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece.

Related Characters: Behrman
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly business to come in der brain of her? Ach, dot poor leetle Miss Yohnsy.”
“She is very ill and weak,” said Sue, “and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me you needn’t. But I think you are a horrid old—old flibbertigibbet.”
“You are just like a woman!” yelled Behrman. “Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf been trying to say dot I am ready to bose.”

Related Characters: Sue (speaker), Behrman (speaker), Joanna (“Johnsy”)
Related Symbols: The “Last Leaf”
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:

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The janitor found him on the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn’t imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it, and—look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it’s Behrman's masterpiece—he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.

Related Characters: Sue (speaker), Joanna (“Johnsy”), Behrman
Related Symbols: The “Last Leaf”
Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:

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Behrman Character Timeline in The Last Leaf

The timeline below shows where the character Behrman appears in The Last Leaf. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Last Leaf
Hope and Health Theme Icon
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sue goes to visit their downstairs neighbor, an old, alcoholic, and unsuccessful artist named Behrman who earns a small income posing as a model for artists in Greenwich Village. Behrman,... (full context)
Hope and Health Theme Icon
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The doctor tells the women that he has to visit another patient—Behrman has caught pneumonia and needs to be taken to the hospital. The next day, Sue... (full context)