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The Cover
June 3, 2009

Laurence at the Piano

JAMA. 2009;301(21):2189. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.661

In the late 1940s, the painter Fairfield Porter (1907-1975) and his family were living expensively in the City of New York, where his son Laurence, a gifted student, was enrolled in a prestigious private school. Porter's paintings had not sold well, so in 1949 he moved with his family to the nearby village of Southampton on Long Island, where he could continue to paint and where his children could be educated at less cost. The move was difficult for Laurence, however. His new school had little to offer him academically, and he made few friends. Southampton, a farming community seldom visited by people from the city, was wary of the Porters and their eccentric lifestyle. The Porter house was always in need of repairs, Laurence's father didn't seem to have a real job other than writing articles and poems and painting pictures that didn't sell, and his mother's volunteer work with migrant workers was viewed with disapproval. Artists and poets, people from the city often came to their house for dinner and stayed for hours, drinking red wine and pots of espresso. Laurence felt that the Southampton community perceived him to be tainted by his exposure to people of different cultural backgrounds, and he assumed that the local boys and girls avoided him for this reason. In this alien environment, music was an escape for him. When he played the piano he could shut out the world.