Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Draw Death

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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.

18 comments:

red the mod said...

The impassable frailty of life. The fact of senescence being existent amidst us all, reminds us how living fully each day is so beautifully, painfully, expedient.

rudeboy said...

Those sketches - and the whole exercise itself - are unflinching and yet curiously tender and yes, loving at the same time.

I can't help but wonder, though, for whom the post is for, Kane. Or need we ask for whom the bell tolls?

drew said...

Rudie, it tolls for thee.

Fickle Cattle said...

I don't find death fascinating, in the usual context of word 'fascinate'. But there is something about it that forces me to be introspective.

http://ficklecattle.blogspot.com/

engel said...

bittersweet.

Alterjon said...

i know a thing or two about scribbling and if there's one thing I haven't done about the trade so far is to sucessfully capture my lover's image on paper.

i fear there's something I'd compare us with just in case things suddenly changes in a twist..

Arian T said...

I read the book and it is a kind of piece that will certainly make you weep and you can't understand the feeling. Perhaps it's attachment, perhaps it's human nature.

True, Chris had to hide the issue of his orientation. Even in the book, the relationship of two boys was quite contained. "Friendship" it is.

eon said...

i found this very affecting.

Guyrony said...

How one's mind is perplexed as to the strength and courage the person must have taken in order to portray a love he lost.

There is vulnerability, yet, there is solemness.

Kudos, dear K.

ʎonqʎʇıɔ said...

It's undeniably interesting even though I tend to stay away from morbid stuff too early into my day. The final one didn't creep me out though. I was fully expecting to get scared but then it just made me really sad. Those lines have a way of creeping up on you.

I noticed you've been writing a lot about death lately. Is everything okay?

Silly_Sili_Kid said...

the eyes creep me out. piercing and full of helpless hopes.

Nimmy said...

this is painful and beautiful at the same time. grabe lang.

Désolé Boy said...

oh god, am close to crying when i saw the last sketch.
(there goes my melodramatic tendencies)

but to actually confront death, at this stage in my life, i guess....

i can't even find the perfect word.

Ex Jason said...

tagos sa puso yung huli. so much love and pain in a single image.

Kiks said...

after reading this, i yearn for a gay-themed filipino film without all the sexual innuendos.

i am pretty sure we're more than just abs flexed.

daniel said...

The artwork says it all, I love the artwork, you can really feel it.

Yas Jayson said...

another post to remember.

♥N said...

Many people never think to chronicle the last days of a loved one's life. We take pictures often, of us young and live and happy, but death and sickness are a part of life, too, and I am always in awe of those that are dimensional enough to realize that.

The last drawing gave me chills.