Over and Over Again, and Always As If for the First Time


We visit the studio in which one of the greats of the last century worked. The rooms have been left as they were when the artist who wanted »the paint to feel like flesh« passed away. Tables and benches are piled high with brushes atop drifts of stiffened rags. The walls are painted brown in a shade of weak coffee recognisable from many of the portraits. Some are daubed with paint – the patterns formed look like a cross between palette and foliage. Presumably he studied the light that fell across faces and bodies best from these corners of the world. In one direction: the small garden, in the other: one of the thoroughfares that bisect Kensington. It is over a decade since the man who called himself »a sort of biologist« died. Strangers like us aren’t able to judge whether his ghost haunts the studio. Still, everything exudes calm, clarity, concentration. In a word: presence of mind.

Our host, who modelled for him over a period of twenty years, tells us how the artist had the habit of lying in the bathtub in the adjoining room up to four times a day. There are few other situations in which a person is more aware of themselves as a body. And none in which they are nearer their original state. Tevilah times many: how better to evoke the fleshing of paint, again and again, and always as if for the first time?