Thursday, October 04, 2012

Romanticized Portraits

Artist Dick Heldar returns to 1890s England from the war in the Sudan after sustaining eye injuries and turns to painting for a living. While his realistic paintings of scenes from the war in Sudan slowly achieve a certain popularity, he ekes a living painting romanticized portraits. Eventually, the old war injury to his eyes starts getting worse and Heldar realizes he is going blind. Before he completely loses his sight, Dick resolves to paint his masterpiece, Melancholia, using a prostitute named Bessie as a model. He drinks heavily to keep his eyesight going. Dick deliberately drives Bessie to hysteria to get the right expressions.

Dick's eyesight fades just as he completes his masterpiece, and he collapses in exhaustion. Bessie returns and destroys the painting in revenge, smearing the still wet paint across the canvas. When Dick invites his friend, Maisie, to view his masterpiece (which he can no longer see), she cannot bring herself to tell Dick about his ruined canvas. Bessie returns and reveals she has destroyed his masterpiece.

That’s from the
Wikipedia synopsis of

“The Light That Failed”
by Rudyard Kipling

A Project Gutenberg edition
“The Light That Failed” is available.
The HTML version is here.

“Don't cry,” he said, and took her into his arms. “You only did what you thought right.”

“I— I ain’t a little piece of dirt, and if you say that I’ll never come to you again.”

“You don’t know what you’ve done to me. I’m not angry—indeed, I’m not. Be quiet for a minute.”

Bessie remained in his arms shrinking. Dick’s first thought was connected with Maisie, and it hurt him as white-hot iron hurts an open sore.

Not for nothing is a man permitted to ally himself to the wrong woman.

from “The Light That Failed”
by Rudyard Kipling

Of all the novels I’ve read in my life
I wouldn’t hesitate to try to write
a story using a similar plot,
except for two books: Hesse’s “Siddhartha”
and “The Light That Failed,” by Rudyard Kipling.

And of those two books I am most in awe
of “The Light That Failed,” by Rudyard Kipling.

The blind painter embraces the woman.

“You don’t know what you’ve done to me,” he says.

But he holds her. And tells her not to cry.

I know someone who thinks computer games
will put the film business out-of-business.

That person couldn’t care less about books.

Books aren’t even in their equation.

Anything I wrote about that person
I would call a romanticized portrait.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Reduction Of The Muse


Point and counterpoint:

The real “Maisie” read the novel
and wrote:
"If you happen to read
this singular, if somewhat murky
little story you are very likely
to rather wonder if real people
could be quite so stupid and
objectionable as this crowd."

-- Flo Garrard

quoted in The girl he left behind--
Jad Adams reflects on the lost love
that inspired Rudyard Kipling's first novel

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Did you know you can shorten your links with Shortest and make $$$ from every visit to your shortened urls.