By E. E. King
It was a time of light, a time of shadows, a time of translucence and opacity. There was the hardness of cubes, there was the roundness of landscape, there was a myriad of color and shades of umbra.
Artists swarmed in schools like fish. The whole was greater than the art. Paintings were points; the brush made the line, the line the composition, the composition the painting, the paintings the exhibition, the exhibition the group.
Rarely did a single artist grab fame. In unity was the individual expressed. Thus was the art scene in Paris, and Paris was the world of art.
There was one group of painters, composed of the younger progeny of poor gentility and the scions of the nouveaux riches. They had nothing to say, and they were saying it boldly in broad strokes and bright colors. When these works were not enthusiastically received, they produced another exhibition of subtle hues and somber tones. The single reviewer they had managed to tempt to their exhibit wrote: “A tour of Newcastle at night, while drugged, sleeping, and blindfolded, would be more stimulating.”
They attempted landscapes, plein air, still life, and collage, but their greatest success remained the Newcastle show; at least there, they had received a review.
They were almost ready to give up, to throw down their brushes and go into business or do something equally foolhardy, when they discovered Rémi, a penniless orphan of haunting beauty.
Gazing at his hopeless grace, the group realized they had not yet attempted portraiture. Without much faith and scant enthusiasm they set to work, each producing a series of pieces, which they entitled Young Man Sitting.
Promising to forswear the art enterprise after this final exhibition, they extracted a few last favors from their long-suffering relations. One of the group had a cousin who was a publisher and could thus produce free pamphlets, and another an uncle who was a brewer. Thus they were able to draw a few thirsty art critics to their latest and probably last offering.
“If youth is beauty and beauty youth, then this is the only show to see, or that you need to see,” raved a critic.
No one was more surprised by the success of “The Group” than the group, except perhaps their forbearing families.
The group was delighted, their relatives less so, as this small success would doubtless lead to further requests for brushes, paints, rent, free beer, and flyers.
The group immediately began work upon a new portrait series of a young girl, but alas, this display was totally ignored.
They once again approached Rémi, but the glamor had dissipated and he was no longer interested in posing. They remembered the exuberant grand opening, while he remembered the long, cramped hours of sitting motionless.
He was placated by an offer of dinner, and after much beer, a bargain was struck.
The second show, Young Man Sitting II, was once again received enthusiastically.
Then began the most exciting time for the group. Show after show was received with adulation. Success piled upon success, glory upon glory. They were the toast of the town, the caviar for cosmopolitans, and the wolverine’s pajamas.
Rémi, however, was not enjoying their success; while they painted, he posed; while they were acclaimed, he was cramped.
He wanted his freedom. He would model no more.
“The Group” is now almost forgotten, their name only a miniscule entry in obscure art books.
Their successful shows read thusly, Young Man Sitting, Young Man Sitting II, Young Man Sitting III, Young Man Bound to Chair, Gaunt Young Man Bound to Chair, Decomposing Young Man Bound to Chair, and the final series of their brief success, Skeleton in Chair.
Nothing is known or recorded of Rémi.