**Walking Among Giants **captures a piece of history through the biography of a Painter.
MICHAEL S. MEUSCH
Walking Among Giants
A Painter in Paradise
A story of a Painter in the Paris in the 1920's
Michael S. Meusch
Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved by Author
To my good friend's, Chad & Carla Hutchinson. Our childhood explorations that inspired me and gave my writing its wings.
Dedicated to those who struggle to find themselves, their art, and style, the mirror of your soul will always give you the truth.
To my son, Caleb, may you never take the path that leads to convenience and complacency.
To Robert Henri, an Inspiration who helped shape my views on art.
To Leonardo da Vinci, whose imagination, and skill fueled my youth and beyond.
This book came into a conception and then reality by the mere will couple with my search for style and a sense of self. Both the artist and non-artist will benefit from the lessons throughout the pages. Aldus Huxley termed "seeing" in 1942 in his book, "The Art of Seeing." The Non-artist will learn the processes of how a work of Art comes into being. The character Robert Tauney talks about academia and warns of such traps and snares for the artist. Standing by this and simply point out that academia and schematics are not a means to an end and should not completely be relied upon through the whole artistic process. Keeping the word, "Seeing, "although the character would have no idea of Huxley's phrase or concept in that substitute. The places, names of establishments, historical sights, and description of architecture and buildings are described in detail based on Internet images, researched and vivid imagery by me. The idea of this creation was to have the reader look at life through a struggling painter in the 1920's. A painter in his mid-twenties seeks his own identity and tries to find his place in the complex social strata of the world.
The characters in this story are based on both fiction and non-fictional people that have assisted in shaping the world of art in the 1920's. Taking some artistic liberty giving characters' dialog with my fictional character Robert Tauney. Attempting to visualize what everyone might have said and in the proper tone of voice. Taking Liberty not to offend or degrade a character in any fashion. Playing upon their documented quarrels or trials and tribulations. The actress Camille is portrayed as a supporting role from the film Dandy-Pache. Camille and her Opium addiction are purely fictional. The drug use in the novel is purely fictional by nature and do not condone or support the use of any kind. The drugs in the story provide a stark contrast between the natural "Seeing Process" and artificially aided processes by one in an altered state of awareness.
Grandfather hid his private life from his family and spoke little of it in front of us. My father would try to pry into his past with without success. Each endeavor would come to a change of subject. He passed away in 1985. His life was shrouded in mystery until a few years ago, I had inherited grandfather's estate and had to clear out the family attic and house to prepare for a major renovation later that year. Much to our surprise, while entering the attic, we found a rather large green military chest labeled in large black bold letters bearing our family name. My better half opened the chest; it was a moment of discovery, a portal of another time to grandfather's scattered past suddenly came to light. Sketches and paintings, neatly rolled up canvases and supplies, old dried paint tubes and photographs of friends now long gone were layered in the chest. Then hidden under this paraphernalia of history was a manuscript with a green emerald bow. Finding the haunting memories of a tortured man. I blew off the remaining dust off from the top of the front page and watched it settle on the ground below. Opening the now yellowed pages and feeling the slightly frayed edges. The cover held a dedication and to my surprise, it wasn't to my Grandmother, Angela, who had passed away ten years prior. I brushed off the remaining dust and read the name, Alice Prin, "The unrequited love of my life." Who was this woman who he dedicated his work? It was as if grandfather knew that somehow a time capsule of his life would be open for all to see. I did some research on Mademoiselles Prin, scouring the internet and found tons of information on this icon of the Fallen Follies. I search every part of the house and the attic trying to find a shred of evidence linking my grandfather and Mademoiselles Prin. After several failed attempts, I gave up searching for more clues to my grandfather's flavorful past. Finally, a year later, while knocking out the wall to make way for a baby's room in the attic, My Wife came across an old shoe box he had taped and hid sometime before his death. The glue from the tape had made a permanent bond with the textured paper of the box and took some work to open. Finally breaking the seal of the box, feeling like an archeologist opening an ancient artifact. There was a white silken hanky covering a large stack of letters dated from 1925 to 1951. It was shocking that this man who was married to my grandmother had an illicit affair on paper, until Mademoiselle Prin's death in 1952. Here is an exert from his private letters to Alice Prin in written 1948.
"My love for you is universal and has no bounds, even after this life, it is eternal and unchanging." Later reading further about my grandfather, I discovered his life as a painter in Paris in the 1920's. The epic journey my grandfather had undertaken would change his life forever. Much later in his life, he was hired at a local university, where he taught the basic foundations of art. He quit his teaching job in 1945 at the university and opened a small bookstore in Summer-Brooke, Iowa. Thanks to my grandfather's writing, a veil to another time and place has been revealed. In his writing, he provided a glimpse into a different age.
This book has a wealth of information on the painting/ "Seeing", or what my Grandfather termed, "Omnipresent Viewing" processes used in the creation of Art. The reader may pick up subtle clues to the Artist creation techniques and materials and colors used in the artist's work. It is my sincere wish that the reader will not judge his actions while reading the memoir of his life. It was a different time and he was a young man exploring and escaping from the memories of the War.
LEFT PARIS IN APRIL, 1925. Beaten, broken down, and my life much like my brush was dipped into hidden catacombs of Paris's despair, heartache, and, loss. Leaving Paris as a painter who found his voice, surprisingly not with paint, but with the pen.
One of the many privileged voices that walked, lived, and drank at the brassieres, caf, and studios once inhabited by great minds and giants among men. The dust has now settled over my life and I'm now nearing the end of my journey. Having finally come to some peace with my past, I write these lines down as my own, 'Piece de Resistance'. My rich fluid words like oil and turpentine flow effortlessly through my pen, setting upon paper my life as a Painter in Montparnasse, Paris. These pages are my canvas and my pen the brush, exercising the will. The sum of my work recorded in these pages where paintings once lost, return to former beauty. In some cases, being conceived before the reader's eyes. I welcome the reader to my own personal gallery; an artist exhibition of images, feelings, and experiences. As with works of art, the artist lays down his memorable impression. There are lines, which move effortlessly and appear to be floating above the canvas; timeless and un-reproducible. Others lines are hard and incongruent, yet purposeful in the work's creation. Everything comes together as a whole, complete statement. Memories sometimes conjure the image for me of the taste of soured wine, being brought about to drink willingly once again for the reader, with purpose and intent. Some parts of the story contain painful and unbearable memories and over time the bitter wine has turned to rancid vinegar. "Trials and tribulations are the ink which fuels the pen." With this, I hope to make an indelible mark on this parchment and preserve special moments and bring back to life what was once full of color, vibrant with life and teeming with energy. Only clips and figures moving about on film and tarnished photos yellowed with time. The camera missed the small movements that made the figures, graceful and elegant. There were subtle movements of the neck and a flow in proper proportion; perfectly timed and delicately seamless. Accentuated long legs and limbs and proper lighting, which helps enhance the aroma of our lives were missing, illuminating the true creations God intended. The cars, buildings, and clothing were exploding with reds, yellows, and blues. Oh, how the Camera and film oft-skewed our perspective, making not men, but machines. Untimed and out of sync with our given reality, it's my desire for the reader to walk through this Exhibition of each page and view my work hanging upon the walls of words and gaze at the metaphors and analogies that made a life. Each man has a unique story like a fingerprint, a one of a kind, unique stamp upon the earth, our birth right to immortality.
Art doesn't apologize or hide its naked body from the public eye. Nor can the Author make any apologies and changes in a single word or phrase to make it more palatable for public viewing. A dear friend told me once, "Tauney, without conviction to the canvas, there can be no such thing as a true painting." Let me digress and start from the beginning, before the paint settled and dried onto my canvases many decades ago.
Becoming a student of the arts, enrolled at Academy of the Arts in New York. Classes brought about the long days of sketching and recording the figure. Each passing of the hand and stroke of the brush edged me on. Seeing the figures start to have form and substance were exciting and thrilling. Immovable for hours in the studio working with a plaster cast and occupied by elements of light, shade, cast shadows, and rim lighting. Each year that passed, my hand became more certain in skill. After nearly photographic reproduction with my own art. Concentrating mainly on portraiture, while practicing as a student at the Academy. Finding freshman girls teaming with innocence coming to me wanting their portrait for themselves, parent, or a dear loved one. The portrait business was a bothersome one and the client never seemed satisfied. Having a career as a portrait artist was happily a short one and when complaints were made I simply stated:
"Madame, there is a photography studio just down the road from here. They will be happy to assist in catching your likeness.'
The canvas and brush when honestly committed without pretense or judgment do not lie. If seeing an inner sadness in the sitter and emphasized their faults, which gave the picture character, the clients did not appreciate my work and honesty. Bringing about the features and faults brought balance and a sense of beauty. As a student trying to make painting my staple income, I began looking at the master's works. I must admit in hindsight, I wish I had established my own personal style before embarking on such a daunting task. Using one's own set style and comparing contrast to let's say, Leonardo or Raphael would have been a better way to go; taking bits and pieces from them, small extracted kernels of knowledge and comparing it to my style and thus improving upon it.
Finally, after years of hard work and effort, finishing the required studies. The Academia proudly stamped its stamp of approval on my forehead.
My classmates and I would always meet for drinks at, Speak Easy's, to discuss our variety of different subjects including, Nature, Art, Impressionism, Romanticism, Post-Impressionism, and any other 'ism' that has occurred since the conception of Art. Our minds did not even fathom or comprehend three words that would snare me and bring me to my eventual writing of these pages. These words were conviction, convenience, and complacency. I was lost and looking for that hue infused sanctuary called, style. Schooling is not the means to end. It teaches one how to build the human figure on paper through logic, analysis, charts, diagrams, and measurements; a Golden Mean, a playground for the followers and faint-hearted. Contradictory to anyone who chooses his or her own path. Not to bash my trade, but many artists I read about eventually had to fight and struggle to just find the very tool they started with. A traverse map leading to that very question that started artist brushes in motion. Creation.