The Drawing Lesson, the first in The Trilogy of Remembrance ~Prologue
A figure, drenched in the rain, stamped his feet and banged impatiently on the door of my gallery, Helmsworth and Son. When I unlocked it, Britain’s finest landscape artist, Alexander Wainwright, stormed in and towered over me.
I asked as mildly as I could, “Where on earth have you been, Alex? I’ve been trying to reach you for days!”
Without answering, he tossed off his raincoat, which I caught and hung in the closet.
Poised in the middle of the gallery, he gave a deep and solemn bow. Then a sweet smile broke upon his face. “Out— finding beauty and harmony in the world, Jamie!”
As an art dealer, I know that artists are very different from you and me. We, who must earn our living in the mundane world of commerce, simply walk through a door and into a room. We can scarcely imagine how—in the mind of a highly creative person—the act of entering a shop can be fraught with so many dramatic possibilities! But I was always charmed by my dear friend’s energy and life.
Alex paused and, taking out a snowy white handkerchief, patted the raindrops from his grizzled face. “What can I do for you then?” he asked, eyeing the cabinet at the back. “A drink, perhaps?”
I poured two glasses of scotch. “I need your opinion on this new group show for next week—the one before your retrospective gala.”
Alex grimaced and then took a long drink.
“I have to cut out one of the artists. There’s simply not enough room.”
In an instant, Alex’s professional eye scanned the paintings. “Those ones.” He gestured at my favourites dismissively. “They should go.”
He slumped into the chair at my desk and fiddled with several pens scattered about.
“Jamie, about the retrospective of my work…”
I sat down across from him. “Yes?”
“I can’t do it.”
“What on earth do you mean?”
He reached across the desk and touched my sleeve. His eyes gleamed intently. “I’m afraid I’m losing my vision!”
Because I have heard many artists speak of their vision, I assumed that Alex was referring to his source of inspiration and so I was astounded when he described his plight.
“Just yesterday, I was walking along the Embankment to my studio and clouds seemed to roll in along the periphery of my vision until everything was almost entirely black. Of course, I was frightened—so I sat down on a bench a waited for it to pass, which it did within about five minutes.”
“Has it happened again?”
He shook his head. “But it did several weeks ago.”
Immediately, I reached for my address book. “Don’t fool around with this Alex.” I spoke sternly but tried not to let my emotions overtake me. Good God! Beethoven losing his hearing. Wainwright losing his eyesight! A tragedy for both the man and his art!
“You must see Dr. Hugh Robinson, an ophthalmologist in Harley Street.” I watched my hand tremble only slightly as I wrote down the doctor’s address and phone number. “He’s an old school chum. Tell him I sent you—and who you are. I’m sure he’ll see you right away.” I half-expected that Alex would smile and make light of my concerns, but he did not. Instead, he nodded and pocketed the note.
After downing his drink, he rose to go. As he put on his coat, he looked strangely at me and said, “Another surprise! I got a letter the other day from an old acquaintance back in Toronto.” He seemed to shrink into his coat. “Apparently—at least according to him—I may have a child.”
“Really?” Shocked, I could think of nothing better to say. “Boy or girl?”
Alex turned the doorknob. “He didn’t say. But I loved the mother very much—many years ago. She was my muse. It was my very best period of drawing.”
“Will you try to find this child?”
He tossed up his hands in frustration. “I have nothing to go on, Jamie. And perhaps it’s never wise to go back…”
I agreed. After all, what good could come of unearthing the past? But I only said, “Don’t forget Dr. Robinson, Alex.”
“About those paintings for the group show,” he said. “They’re not so bad, but the painter is still struggling to find what is in his heart.” He shrugged amiably, but when he turned away, he sighed, “But then, isn’t everyone?”
I shook his hand. “I’ll see you at the Tate Saturday night for the cocktail party?” I smiled grandly. “All in your honour–and the others on the short list for the Turner Prize.”
“But Rinaldo might just win, Jamie.” Buttoning up his coat, he shook his head. “I can’t say I understand his art, but he interests me greatly. But, honestly, I have never met a man who so effectively repels human sympathy!” Then he winked at me and disappeared into the late afternoon gloom.
As I closed up the shop, I reflected that much of Beethoven’s most original and soul-stirring music was written when his deafness was most profound. But how, I wondered, could a painter paint if he could not see?
My story of Alexander Wainwright begins on that day. Because I have been present at only a small number of events, substantial parts of this tale are hearsay. But think of me, James Helmsworth, his art dealer who, as a dedicated biographer, has done his best to check all the facts. I have pieced together this account of the past year of his life from a variety of sources—some personal, some media accounts and conversations with those who knew him well and those whose lives were deeply affected by him. Of course, Alex himself has, from time to time, been quite helpful and where there have been blank spots, I have allowed myself a certain artistic license.
What follows is the sum and substance of a remarkable year in a great artist’s life. He was at the pinnacle of his career when his art took a strange turn and I began to fear he had become possessed by some devil. But I was only beginning to understand the power of his passionate and hungry spirit, which nearly devoured him in his search for his new art—and his new life. I leave it to you to judge the value of his find.
Meet Alexander Wainwright and his nemesis Rinaldo in this video.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing. Presently, The Drawing Lesson is a Wattpad Featured novel which you can read in its entirety right here Wattpad.com
PLEASE NOTE: The novels do not contain the images displayed here.