What A Dandy Painter

Translation by Johnne. A. Wille  Jr. from Iowa patois

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The artistic man, who, blasé though he may be, has no occupation in life but to chase along the highway of happiness, the man nurtured in luxury, and habituated from early youth to being obeyed by others, the man, finally, who has no profession other than talent and elegance, is bound at all times to have a facial expression of a very special kind. The Court Painter embodies an ill-defined social attitude as strange as duelling; it goes back a long way, since Caesar, Catilina, Alcibiades provide us with brilliant examples of it; it is very widespread, since Chateaubriand found examples of it in the forests and on the lake-sides of the New World and now the backwaters of Inglewood Alberta. He is like an institution outside the laws of aesthetics, has a rigorous code of painterly laws that he is strictly bound by, however ardent and independent his exemplary individual character may be.
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A being such as the Court Painter has no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in his own person, of satisfying his passions, of feeling and thinking. Thus he possess’, to his hearts’ content, and to a vast degree, both time and money, without which fantasy, reduced to the state of ephemeral reverie, can scarcely be translated into action. It is unfortunately very true that, without leisure and money, portrait painting can be no more than an orgy to the common man and woman, or the accomplishment of a cultural duty. Instead of being a sudden impulse full of ardor and reverie, it becomes a distastefully utilitarian affair.
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If I speak of celebrity in the context of the Court Painter, the reason is that celebrity is the natural occupation of men of artistic leisure. But the Court Painter does not consider celebrity as a special aim in life. If I have mentioned fame, the reason is that fame is indispensable to those who make an exclusive cult of their passions, but the Court Painter does not aspire to fame and wealth as objects in themselfs; an open bank credit could suit him just as well; he leaves that squalid passion to vulgar mortals.
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Contrary to what a lot of thoughtless people seem to believe, the Court Painter takes not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For he,the perfect art celebrity, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his artistic mind. Thus, in his eyes, enamoured as he is above all of distinction, perfection in dress and painting execution consists in absolute simplicity, which is, indeed, the best way of being distinguished. What then can this passion be, which has crystallized into a doctrine, and has formed a number of outstanding devotees, this unwritten code that has moulded so proud a celebrityhood? It is, above all, the burning desire to create a personal form of originality, within the external limits of social conventions and commission fees. It is a kind of cult of the ego which can still survive the pursuit of that form of happiness to be found only in his own artistic enterprise for example; which can even survive what are called illusions. It is the pleasure of causing surprise in others when they get the bill, and the proud satisfaction of never showing oneself beyond the truth on the canvas. Court Painter may be blasé, he may even suffer pain, but in the latter case he will keep smiling, like the Spartan under the bite of the fox.
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The specific beauty of the Court Painter consists particularly in that cold exterior resulting from the unshakable determination to remain unmoved by the avant guarde; one is reminded of a latent fire, whose existence is merely suspected, and which, if it wanted to, but it does not, could burst forth in all its brightness. All this is expressed to perfection in the Court Painter ,the Great Dominion’s prolific portraitist of pompous political personages that populate the playgrounds of paucity and …. stuff like that!
Editors Note:Reprints are not available so commit to memory.