Ever since I first visited Paris, at the age of sixteen, I've had the ambition to be a Rejected Artist. I wanted to live in a garret in Paris or Soho, paint works of genius like Vincent Van Gogh, then come back from Heaven to see what nice things people said about my stuff long after I'd gone.
Well, here's a rejected artist; Percy Wyndham-Lewis, standing outside the Royal Academy in London, in 1938.
- the cigar
- the well-made suit (but the awful faux-pas of leaving all three buttons done up)
- the silk scarf
- the patent leather shoes
- and worst of all, the spats on those shoes
And here's the reason for his rejection (only from the RA Summer Exhibition) - his portrait of T S Eliot, one of the most boring and inconsequential poets of all time.
The painting is good:
- the top half plagiarises a few clues from Gauguin (or some Vorticists)
- the middle part is a good portrait, in spite of a useless lot of effort to be Cubist.
But the bottom part? Well, it takes a lot of artistry to paint a famous poet with transparent trousers.
Is this an iconographic signal? Were Wyndham-Lewis and Eliot a little bit more than male friends?
Now here is what Wyndham-Lewis was trying to emulate: something like this Juan Gris cubist portrait of Pablo Picasso, painted 30 years before.
And here's why; my own 'cubist' portrait of Percy Wyndham-Lewis (complete with arrogant cigar) executed in about 10 minutes, using the Paint.Net program.
You won't recognise Wyndham-Lewis, but then you won't recognise the young Pablo Picasso in John Grey's portrait, either.
That's not the point. This is Art.