That writers “write” is meant to be self-evident. People like to say it. I find it is hardly ever true. Writers drink. Writers rant. Writers phone. Writers sleep. I have met very few writers who write at all.
I’ve also been reading John Richardson’s magnificent biography of Picasso for some research. Picasso, what a brute, what a charmer. Twice I’ve been asked why I’m so interested in the guy, and it’s true, I don’t think he is my favorite painter, but when I look at his work as a stream of images, I do feel like there are too many of his paintings that changed the way I thought of light, shape, and color when I first saw them… It saddens me to think that Richardson must be in very poor health, and that the fourth volume of the biography is forever forthcoming (I can only imagine the frustration, as the writer; Richardson was surely saving some of the best for last), especially because Francoise Gilot (above) is a fascinating woman, and she always seemed the strongest, maybe also a bit like Picasso’s first great mistress Fernande Olivier. But I always looked at Gilot and thought that she knew exactly what she was getting into… Or at least that’s how I imagine her to be.
(P.S. This has a very similar composition to a #selfie, don’t you say?)
I’m obsessed with Misia Sert. Muse, hostess, gifted pianist, painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, friend of Verlaine, Rilke, Proust, best friends with Chanel, Diaghilev’s soul mate, the list goes on and on. Clive James says in his excellent essay about her biography:
Misia was in the thick of it, stirring the magic, helping make life itself a work of art — something artists are usually too busy to do.
She also shot Morphine straight through her clothes (ummm) and first heard “The Rite of Spring” in her living room, no big deal. She also never bothered to open some of Proust’s letters (WHAT). James also writes:
Misia survives only in the work of others. … But the personality itself has been long gone. In a way that no artist can ever quite understand but nearly all of them find irresistibly attractive, she did nothing with her capacity for beauty except live. Yet the human personality, which dies with the memory of individuals, and the work of art, which lives on in the collective consciousness, are different forms of the same thing — a truth made acutely visible by Misia’s portraits, which, if they do not capture her, certainly capture uncapturability. She gave the artists the gift of her sublime ephemerality and they made it last. That true sacred monster the Comtesse Anna de Noailles wrote herself an epitaph which would have done much better for Misia: ‘I shall have been useless but irreplaceable.’
You have to have a certain detachment in order to see beauty for yourself rather than something that has been put in quotation marks to be understood as “beauty.” Think about Dutch painting, where sunlight is falling on a basin of water and a woman is standing there in the clothes that she would wear when she wakes up in the morning—that beauty is a casual glimpse of something very ordinary. Or a painting like Rembrandt’s Carcass of Beef, where a simple piece of meat caught his eye because there was something mysterious about it. You also get that in Edward Hopper: Look at the sunlight! or Look at the human being! These are instances of genius. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it.
Is design an organizing principle of your collection, The Muse? Are the stories in thematic conversation, and in direct conversation as well?
I love design. But I love it as an aficionado. An amateur. And I’m obsessed with aesthetics. And the way in which art making is in dialogue with aesthetics. So my collection is circling around those themes. I have one story about an artist’s muse. Another about a quartet. Another about two painters. Another about a model. Another about a critic. I think they all speak to each other, but they are also simply stories about people, you know? I’m hesitant about declaring one’s own themes as a writer. Sometimes I believe your work is merely a chronological and distorted reflection of you. And you’re lucky if something else emerges from that.
Isadora Duncan. On somedays one wants to be from another era…
So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years […]
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one had only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it.
Mini me. #tbt