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SOME LADS I For two hundred years no one paid attention, Now two hundred million dollars wouldn't buy one. His wife had to give up his life's work To pay the baker and butcher after he died. He made about thirty small paintings All near perfect-- Don't be misled by the few forgeries (for what museum would admit to the mistake, and accept that degree of financial loss). Proust rose from his death bed, Bolstered with extra morphine, Held up by his attendant, To view one of the pictures At the Louvre for the last time. It shortened his life by a month. II He drank a lot of pale-green absinthe, He dipped daily at the local whorehouse, Contracted syphilis and went mad. Even his contemporaries (knowing) deserted him, So he died broke and alone and unacknowledged. For a painting that took him two days' work He later made a nobody over seventy million dollars. They built him a museum so big it's embarrassing: Hey, we can all love him now. III He was an alcoholic, He was adopted by a rich woman, He pissed in her fireplace at parties, A critic wanting to be famous told him: Put the canvas on the floor, slop the paint around. He liked it--no more knocking it off the easel, Now he could paint really drunk. Museums particularly prize the cigarette ash Stuck in the paint, it's all just so artistic.
IV They ignored him most of his life, He had his first show at forty, Truly got up to steam at sixty, still Carried coal buckets up five flights During the winter at eighty. He called the successful ones around him The bright boys, though he wasn't a talker. Now the world loves him, As the bright boys bore all but That special In-crowd that is forced to like That which the rest of us can't use. But forget the American scene, Look again--he painted sexuality, He painted the introspective moment, He painted lyrical truth. V He was the first personality artist, Made too many paintings--none great, All a mere stylistic variant Of worn-out themes. But he knew how to stare down the powerful And get them lapping at his feet. His bruised period would look best In a bargain furniture outlet. Stole ideas from everywhere and capitalized, And capitalized, and capitalized. Repeatedly told us how big his balls were, But the truth will likely never get out. VI He was probably a good lad. Painted a few nice things but Most are embarrassingly clumsy (clumsiness later called innovation). Unwittingly fathered the era of talkers With their mediocre illustrative artwork. But it's so comforting to see things that we could do ourselves, so they are embraced. Real genius is just too annoying.
Poetry by Eric Green
From the author: Be the first two people to guess the names of the six very famous painters alluded to in the poem below and win a free, inscribed Boston print as shown on the right. Send your answers to the author at