[Alexandre Guilbert] [Photo Gallery] [Bonus Material] [About the Author] [Quilldrivers]

Bonus Material

What follows is a collection of deleted scenes and early drafts, with author commentaries.


This scene comprises the very first words written for the novel. As knowledge of Guilbert increased, the presentation of his character changed, so that in the novel he is a fundamentally different artist.

Alexandre Guilbert always began with the fingers. His, his mother had always told him, were beautiful.

"A gift from God," she said.

He had grown to disbelieve that statement. Through the halcyon days of his youth he studied the fingers of any one and every one he came in contact with. He found that torn, tired fingers sometimes belonged to the best of men, while beauty too often hid a myriad of evil Guilbert could not reconcile with God. He realized the existence of an inner beauty which, later in life, he tried to evoke in his paintings. He also doubted the existence of a supreme good being.

Often he would base his first impressions of people on their fingers. Those he painted now were not the long, slender type most appealing to the eye, but which carried their own secret beauty.

He had found them dipping in the Seine, attached to one in the flock of laundresses, beating clothes on rocks, wiping their brows under the heat of the summer sun, rivulets of water mixing with sweat, each becoming the other. He had come only interested in having his clothes cleaned, for he had gone fully a week and could stand them no longer. To his surprise he found the first of many subjects. The women were all old and young, large and small, dark and light, and not one looked like the experienced beauties every other painter used.

Guilbert had not done a portrait, which was his true joy, since arriving in Paris the month before. He had been anxious, but immediately put off by the aggressive professional models who offered their services. He was not used to such behavior in women. Add to that an incredible beauty which he had learned to equate with things less than good. He hadn't expected anything of the sort. His only experience with women was a girlfriend, arranged through their families, with whom he had never been allowed alone. His naivete and good looks charmed the women of Paris. He stayed as far from them as he could. Besides, he didn't have the money to pay them what he imagined they would charge for a sitting.

The laundress posing now was not a threat. Her unassuming manner was entirely agreeable, and he knew she would gladly accept any meager payment. Almost assuredly, he believed, no one had ever plucked a laundress from the river's edge to pose for them. Together, they would make their mark on the crowded, Paris art scene.

He began to sweat, as always. By the time he would finish a day's work his clothes would be soaked. He'd hang them out to dry in the wind while he relaxed in a bath. The zinc tub was the only thing, besides his brushes and paints, he had brought with him to Paris. He was thankful he had some measure of cleanliness in his new life.

The past days had been incredibly hot. Little air circulated through his wood and corrugated metal shack. He comforted himself knowing many of the painters he had heard of and admired were no better off than he. Indeed, the Maquis was a veritable shantytown, populated by domestics, prostitutes, and a host of artisans, overrun with mangy dogs, battle-weary alley cats, and rats come to visit from the depths of the sewers. One inhabitant who spotted Guilbert the day he carried his few belongings across the rubble to the empty shack said, "It's hell, but it's home."

Guilbert took off his shirt in hopes of cooling himself, but the sweat formed drops and distracted him rolling down his olive skin. His model fidgeted, obviously unaccustomed to the work of posing, the hours of sitting, waiting, inactivity. Perhaps, he thought suddenly, she was embarrassed by his handsome torso. But she shouldn't be. Guilbert was not interested in the romantic activities which took place behind so many other canvases. What mattered most was being there, in the City of Light, the center of the art world, the center of his heart. He cared about nothing but his work.

His father had dabbled in charcoal drawings, which he then tried to sell to New York painters to be used as studies for larger works of art produced by more capable (he thought) hands. When Guilbert was ten, next to his father idly passing the time drawing the clowns and flowers and smiling families of happy childhoods, the tired man shared words with his son which provided the lifelong inspiration to Guilbert's work.

"Life, little Alexandre, imitates art."

Those words had opened the world for Guilbert. Through art he could create anything. For him, art became the only reality.

His brush worked the fingers. They were so different, unusual. He had never seen such pale, fluffy fingers before. They reminded him of the pastries he had quickly learned to enjoy on late mornings with a tea. And as he painted them lovingly, his mouth watered. He wanted to reach into the canvas and pull them out, taste them, savor the light airiness he had painted into them. He tried to focus on his work, but his brush kept lingering, stroking the canvas in the same place over and over. He had created a masterpiece of fingers, and any further work would only diminish the power and beauty.

The model shook out her long, flowing black hair. She knew better what was happening inside Guilbert than he himself did. The feelings that were building——his reverence of her, and her reciprocal delight——were almost inevitable between painters and their subjects, especially so when Guilbert was involved. Later, when his legend had grown, women modeled for him, not for the work, because they shared his appreciation of art, or to earn a few francs to buy a meal for their hungry child, but simply to make love with him, to be able to boast they were one of the many. Eagerly they sought his flesh, quenched a desire in him which he found he could not control.

Those days were far unforeseen. Guilbert could hardly imagine now that this laundress had agreed to pose for him only because he had a strong, angular face, topped with tossles of unkempt black hair which gave him a slightly childlike appearance, and all set atop a body, a body which seemed that of a Roman god, chiseled from granite.

She lithely removed her silk blouse, her movements almost exactly as his a few minutes before. She arched her back, as if presenting her firm breasts for approval. Guilbert turned toward the window, a mere hole in the wooden wall overlooking a stream of filth.

"Something you don't like?" she said, her French entering his ears and caressing his entire body, inside out.

He remained at the window. "I've never painted a nude."

His French was broken, and probably the more difficult to understand because of his nervousness. Was this the inner beauty he had sought in the girl? It was not what he expected. He was frightened, yet fascinated. He knew certain things happened between men and women when they undressed, things in which he thought he had no interest. But what he saw, or tried not to see, changed the whole image of this laundress to an angel. He marveled at his feelings, completely overtaken by those fingers, glowing in her inner beauty, beckoning him in a way he had never imagined. He thought, perhaps, he should reconsider God.

When he finally turned back around his world had changed forever. The reality of his art, right before his eyes, withered in shadows cast by the glory of the physical world the laundress offered. Suddenly, he wanted to touch her——not only her fingers, but her breasts too, and her drooping lips, and every other part she might willingly display for him.

His brush clattered on the floor. They stared at each other. He remained stone-like, mesmerized by her form, his eyes lingering over each curve, every crease, as if they were painting her right then and there. Slowly she removed the rest of her clothes and proceeded to seduce life into him.

When they finished she said, "Now paint me nude."

At nineteen, she was his first; also at nineteen, he was her one hundred and first.

He only ever saw her again in the oil and canvas likenesses done by so many other painters.

She laughed at him as he painted. Once again he would set down his brush and step forward to take her again, enjoy those glorious new pleasures she had treated him to, but she would raise her foot against his chest, holding him back, directing him to return to his work. As the sun set those fingers were lost in the overwhelming nudity of the rest of the portrait. Try as he might, he could not work any longer. He found his way through the dusk, back to the arms of the laundress, who finally accepted him softly, as the painting seemed nearly complete.

When Guilbert fell asleep shortly after, exhausted, emotionally and physically drained, the laundress slipped into the darkness fully sated, to join her friends in the bars and begin the gossip which would grow to legend, which would cripple Guilbert and elevate his work.

Guilbert kept the painting with him, remembering what he thought was love, believing as long as he had the painting he had the laundress's love. When he finally met the single true love of his life, he removed the painting from his atelier.

"You can see the love on her face," he explained to Chaim Soutine. And he gave the canvas to him to paint over, a habit from his penniless days Soutine never outgrew.


A short passage that did not make it into the novel whole, although a few small details were incorporated into other scenes.

Guilbert and Verchard sat quietly at their favorite table in the rear of Les Lumière, secluded away from the noise and stupidities of the tourists and society people out to be seen.

"I must admit it is quite agreeable with me to occasionally spend a few hours like this without a woman!" Guilbert said, breathing deeply the swirling smoke.

A young woman entered the café and approached the two men. Verchard did not recognize her, but knew from her beauty she was coming for Guilbert. She pulled a chair forward and sat daintily between them.

"I am told you are a great artist, Monsieur." She bat heavy eyelashes.

"Who said such a thing!" Guilbert demanded.

The young woman laughed demurely, and stroked his hand. "My name is Thérèse; I am a model. May I share a drink with you?"

Guilbert filled his glass and pushed it in front of the model, keeping the bottle for himself. "Indeed, I was wondering how long we were to be sitting here alone this evening!"

Verchard sat in silence, smoking nervously. Thérèse ignored him, drinking heavily and fawning over Guilbert. The photographer kept the glasses full, and the woman squirming with delight in her seat.

Thérèse praised Guilbert's work ceaselessly. Guilbert scoffed at her words, and passed the praise on to Verchard. The painter shied away each time the woman looked at him. Then she would laugh, saying, "André, you are so droll."


This passage appeared in the novel in a slightly altered form.

A pair of women sheltered under a bright parasol crossed the path of Dieudonné and he bid them good day. The journalist was headed back to his office in Rue Laffitte. His mind already played with writing the story of Guilbert’s first sale. Crossing the river at the Pont des Arts, directly he was overtaken by Thierry Verchard, a haggardly painter who usually lived in the presence of Guilbert.

"Verchard," he said, and hurried to catch him.

The painter turned, a picture of fierce despair. His baggy, bloodshot eyes and gray hair matted with scurf struck pity in Dieudonné's heart, as always.

"Ah, Dieudonné," he moaned, "I must hurry for the doctor."

Dieudonné allowed him to step away to avoid the intoxication of his breath and the infection of whatever disease he carried.

"Have you seen Guilbert?"

"You've heard?" the painter said.

Dieudonné was disappointed Verchard already knew of the sale. That could only mean Mairet had already begun spreading the news.

“I was hoping to offer him my sincere congratulations.”

"Unscrupulous pig!" Verchard shouted, and began running away. "He's practically on his deathbed."

The words shocked Dieudonné. He saw a glimmer of hope through the sadness. He took a few hurried steps after the painter.



"The Dress"

The events related through dialogue in this passage appeared more fully in the finished novel.

"André was having a fête—I don't recall why any more. I think he may have just moved from that stinking hole on Quai Bourbon. He had spent the night before with me, which he only rarely did. How I loved to wake in his arms, feel his whiskers scratch my cheek; and how active he could be in the morning! But he went out early—he said an official of the Salon was expecting him—and he came back with a dress. It was a Poiret original."

"You mean to say he had no money because he spent it all on a designer dress for you?"

"I mean to say I think he stole it. I asked him, but he wouldn't tell me the truth. All he said was, 'Wouldn't the Monna Lisa look simply grand hanging on your wall!'"

Dieudonné could not believe what he was hearing. The famous portrait of Lisa di Anton Maria had been missing from the Louvre for over a year. His instinct for news took over, and he suddenly thought he might be sitting on the biggest story ever.

"When did he say this?"

Claudie smiled. "Only a few months ago."

"So he took the painting, too?"

"I think it was only talk. I never saw it." She shrugged. "Maybe he gave it to Paulette. Maybe Jacques found out, or had a hunch."

He wondered now if Claudie was merely having fun with him. He did not enjoy the thought, and remained silent instead of questioning her further.

"But the dress," she said. "It was certainly recognizable, so I could hardly wear it out in public. He told me to put it on for him to see.

"'I gave up painting for good many years ago,' he said, as he looked me over.

"Then he pulled out a bag of paints and began working on the dress. He made bold strokes in sharp colors, and in no time had created a masterpiece. And, oh, how good it felt, his strokes caressing my body through the dress, as if he were creating me." She began to blush. "I don't think I need describe how we spent the afternoon."


This brief scene forms the foundation for the character of Paulette as portrayed in the finished novel.

Paulette Duby found her life in Alexandre Guilbert.

Guilbert’s dealer, sensing an easy seduction, tried to explain the relationship an artist shared with his model. "If a woman poses nude for him, she gives herself to him."

Paulette was not seduced, and did not care. She was entirely devoted to Guilbert. No matter how many times she was asked to pose, she refused, because she wouldn't give herself to anyone but Guilbert. And no matter how many nudes he painted, she continued to love him, because she knew though his genius lie with his models, his heart remained always with her.

She came into his life too late to save him. By then, he had already acquired his worst habits; all that was left for him was to take his self-abuse to the extreme. That had become almost inevitable.

Most often he remained home during the day, sleeping off the drink, drugs, and women of the previous night. Paulette would watch him sleep, stroke his gently wavy hair. If darkness did find him home, he was painting her, or one of his entourage of friends. He never painted his nudes at home. But his popularity was so great that every few months would-be models began calling at his door, as they eventually always tracked him down, and he would pack his tools and zinc tub into a carriage and move on.

"I'll understand if you don't want to live this kind of life any more," he would tell her each time.

Paulette would follow. She would follow him to the grave.


A brief account of a funeral which became a full-fledged scene in the novel.

A bright abundance of flowers accumulated along the winding procession route, reminding many people of the evening Moise Kisling made a sale for one hundred francs. The young painter from Krakow had disturbed a vendor from his late family dinner, impressed upon him to open his flower shop, and proceeded to spend all his earnings on the freshest blooms. Then, accompanied by his friends, he skipped gaily through the streets, singing the praises of women, and with an extravagant toss of his hand distributing the flowers among not just the beautiful models and "school rats," but also the laundresses and potscrubs and spinsters who beat their brooms and yelled for the crazy painters to go away, stop the foolishness, do something with their lives.

Alexandre Guilbert was honored with this many flowers, and more, and once again the spinsters shouted for quiet and shuttered themselves against the seeming folly.

No one had ever witnessed such a grand funeral. Under a misting, gray sun, people crowded outside to wonder at the procession on its slow, proud way to Pere Lachaise cemetery. Except for Diego Rivera (who refused to be disturbed from his morning sessions for anything), all the greatest painters of Guilbert's days took the long, somber walk alongside women who had modeled, collectors, and children darting back and forth. Suddenly, all of Paris seemed to finally understand and appreciate the talented, tormented artist and his astounding work.

Jacques Mairet, the collector with whom Guilbert had an exclusive contract at the time, rejoiced. Some suspected Mairet of provoking Guilbert, pushing him over the edge, in order to realize a profit. Only two groups of painters earned money for themselves and their dealers: those dead, and those named Pablo Picasso.

"Art Dealer"

Most of the content in this scene did not make it into the finished novel.

Mairet was a shrewd young man, of a bourgeois background which Guilbert would have despised had he known. Guilbert didn't like any dealer anyhow, but he simply couldn't sell his works himself. He would be happy to merely give them away, as he quite often did, only that the rest of the world required him to provide money in exchange for a place to live, a bite to eat. He had nothing but contempt for money; it was but to be spent when had.

Mairet worshipped the franc. Guilbert must have sensed this during his initial meetings with the dealer, but it did not become apparent until his works were on display and too late.

"At least you are being shown," Pascin told him one day.

There were many artists who could not even get that much. The large dealers were full and exclusive with the major movements——Cubism, Fauvism, one or two held out with a stable of Impressionism. To find the Old Masters one needed to go to the museums then, or track down a small corner dealer who could barely afford living better than the modern artists themselves. Those tiny independent dealers did not have the capital or the courage to take risks with new works. Even in the Salons, lesser artists were overlooked, overshadowed by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Rodin.

Each dealer had his own unscrupulous way of taking advantage of the struggling artists. Guilbert's first, a frail, white-haired man who called himself Le Professeur, set his sights on the young artist when he learned of his growing destructive habits. Le Professeur signed Guilbert on, then proceeded to buy up as many of his works as possible. Then he stashed everything away in his cellar, to hold them against the day Guilbert died, which he guessed would be soon, when their value would surge and he could realize huge profits.

Le Professeur never had the opportunity to cheat Guilbert in death. Guilbert's youth helped his body overcome the early abuses, and for many years he never looked worse than if he had just risen from a deep sleep. The old man probably would have died first of natural causes had not a gaslight exploded in his shop one night. Within minutes he was engulfed in a blazing inferno of all colors and smells. Everything was lost. All that remained of Guilbert's earliest works was that which Le Professeur hadn't located or had been refused purchase.

Mairet knew Guilbert was wary of dealers after that. He also knew that Guilbert was fast approaching the end of his life. Guilbert must have realized the same, for it took the dealer months to convince him of his forthrightness.

One day a fellow dealer visited Mairet and asked why he wanted such a high payment for Guilbert's works.

"It's outrageous. No one wants a painting at those prices, unless it's a Picasso."

Mairet simply smiled.

Guilbert thought it ridiculous that only Picasso could command such a princely sum, but he was often practical enough to realize a sale for a few francs was better than no sale at all.

Mairet was shocked when very soon after he began displaying Guilbert a fine English gentleman on holiday happened into his shop and was drawn immediately to the artist’s work. He gasped at the prices ranging between five hundred and seven hundred francs, surrounded by the rest of the works which were priced more modestly between fifty and one hundred francs. He, like so many others, questioned Mairet.

"The man has death in his eyes," replied the salesman. "A few months from now collectors will beg to buy at two thousand, five thousand francs."

The lanky Englishman leaned forward to read the signature. "Guilbert? I don't think I've heard of him."

"He is a master," Mairet chimed. "Observe the brevity of line, and his utterly profound use of color."

The gentleman nodded, holding his spectacles off his nose, squinting at the work. "It has an ethereal quality, quite like the Pre-Rafaelites in a way."

"He is in his own category. His work is entirely natural, much more so than those Futurists who claim to be. There is a stunning subtlety..."

Mairet went on and on. The Englishman seemed unconvinced. After contemplating the works for hours, he finally left empty-handed.

Not fifteen minutes passed before the gentleman returned with a slightly younger, slightly stouter female at his side. She fawned over the paintings by Guilbert, dragged on her husband's arm. Mairet knew he had a customer.

"Delightful, aren't they?"

"Simply too much," the woman said.

"I must show you something I only just received from the artist."

Mairet disappeared behind a curtain and lifted an easel into view. On it sat a painting covered with a cloth. He paused, allowing the tension and anticipation to build in the English couple. Finally, with a dramatic flick of the wrist, he revealed the painting.

A puppy cavorted in a field of wildflowers with an angelic young girl. Her posture was playful, but her melancholy expression showed a hint of the faraway real world, the time and place where responsibilities mired men in their own dreams. Everywhere around the girl were the bright colors of childhood, the freshness, the honesty, illuminated by her inner beauty. It was a celebration of new life, and the saddest painting Guilbert ever created.

"Oh!" exclaimed the woman, throwing her hand to her cheek. "It's darling. It reminds me so of Annalee."

Mairet smiled, carefully folding the cloth. "It took the artist months to finish. He considers it his masterpiece."

"Indeed," said the Englishman. "How much?"

"Between you and I, he asks nothing less than a thousand francs."

The woman tugged her husband's arm again. "Dear, I must have it."

The man shrugged and removed a thousand franc note from his billfold. Mairet's joy plummeted as he realized he had undersold the work.

The chance sale was enough to buoy Guilbert's hopes and keep him producing for Mairet for the remainder of his life. He never enjoyed such success again. Not even Maurice Utrillo ever earned as much for a single painting.

Guilbert was never stingy in sharing his wealth. Mairet kept for himself a hefty commission, and Guilbert proceeded to extinguish the rest of the money in two nights. He celebrated the first with absinthe, hashish, drink and smoke, and all his friends in Les Lumieres, and even settled his credit with Mme. Durand. She allowed the festivities to carry into the night, until Guilbert decided to expose himself. She knew he was as drunk as he had ever been, and rather hopefully made the innocent offer of the use of her bed for the night. Guilbert had other plans. From the women who remained at the cafe, he chose one soft, sensual Spanish girl, whose swaying hips had sparked his desire all night long. Away into the gray dusk they stumbled, dancing and singing, to take their pleasure in any shadowed passageway they came upon.

In the late morning, after napping naked in the garden outside the girl's elegant apartment, they strolled across the river to the fresh flower markets. Guilbert sent off extravagant deliveries to the girl's apartment and to Mairet's shop. They lunched on the sidewalk table of a secluded cafe, enjoying the afternoon sun, the afterglow of love, the carefree indulgence of money. Guilbert read to the girl passages of Henry James, altering his voice to match each character. Eventually he stood to act out each move, to perform the story before every patron, but only for his girl.

They returned to his atelier on the Butte. He painted her, and they made love until evening.

He sent her off that night, promising to return to her apartment later, but not intending to. He did return to her often, though, any time he had some reason to be happy, but without anyone to share.

With his good friend Verchard he drank and wasted the rest of his pay. He was never comfortable being a bourgeois.


A brief character sketch that merely hints at the actual relationship between Guilbert and Picasso as portrayed in the finished novel.

The Paris art world revolved around Picasso. Guilbert admired the man's genius, his leadership and innovation, but despised his following. He believed every artist should be an individual, with their own personal style, and so he steered clear of the gatherings at the Bateau-Lavoir. In so doing he succeeded, not in inspiring other artists to seek their own paths, but in creating his own following.

He had nearly been born with a brush in his hand, and yet all the world's natural talent seemed to lie with Picasso. Guilbert had to work ceaselessly to accomplish the most minor developments in his work. This was his secret, unknown to the rest of the community. Rarely did he invite friends to his atelier, and their knowledge of him was soon limited to his life in the bars and on the streets.

He wanted so badly to paint, and be great, like Picasso, to offer his personal insights into the world.