British writer Christopher Isherwood, whose The Berlin Stories was turned into the film Cabaret, first met his lifetime partner Don Bachardy when Don was, in his own words "probably, 16."
They marked Valentine’s Day 1953 as the start of their relationship. Don was 18, Chris was 48.
In 1963, they broke up. From his despair, Chris wrote A Single Man which depicted a day in the life of George, a middle-aged, gay Englishman in Southern California whose younger lover died in a car crash.
George, who must hide his homosexuality from society as well as his anguish at the death of his lover.
It was a brave and shocking book in 1964, and Edmund White later called it "one of the first and best novels of the modern Gay Liberation movement."
Chris and Don survived their break-up. Chris continued to write and Don became a celebrity portrait painter whose subjects include Tennessee Williams to Anais Nin. They were together for 33 years.
When Chris became terminally ill with prostate cancer, they both decided to create a visual portrait of his dying. Over a period of six months before Chris' death in 1986, Don charted the final facial gestures of his lover's illness and death with loving cruelty in a series of line drawings.
“Chris was in a lot of pain towards the end," Don said in an interview earlier this year. "But he had sat for me so often over the years, and I knew this was something we could still do together.”
The last of the series was completed when Chris was already dead. Don remained alone with the body, sketching his lover's final farewell.
These drawings make me feel sentimental. They speak of pain and dying, but there is tenderness in each line. Perhaps it is in our deaths where we fully reveal ourselves and in these sketches, we see the portrait of a man the artist loved to his dying day.
Til' death do us part.
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