From Les Derniers Jours
Frederic Tuten

On a Terrace in Tangier

At dusk, silence. Everyone gone home. Then, the crazy racket of sparrows in the jasmine trees.

Mint tea, the sea and the mountains within sight.

Van Gogh’s Breakfast

For a long time, I thought of significant form and sought it everywhere—in painting and sculpture mostly, but also in nature, in the form of persons.

It was Clive Bell’s essay that had put me up to the idea that all great art has significant form. I never understood his definition, if indeed he had provided one, but his examples seemed to boil down to Mycenaean sculpture, the essence of significant form, and to Periclean sculpture, its antithesis.

Also, in painting, whatever the period, it had to be underpinned by an immortal and irreducible structure akin to the elemental structures of geometry, like the art of Poussin and Cezanne. That is, art without decoration or embroidery, whose heat came from its form, whose content was itself.

Sombreros in Love

Even sombreros yearn for love and search for the right partner.

White Nights in Palermo

My grandmother, a Sicilian. We spoke Sicilian until I was nine. She told me of ruined towers oozing twelfth-century lime, and chalky fortifications with green capers hiding from the sun. We Sicilians are the sum of the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and the Aegean. We are spawned by those waters. We have romantic teeth.

Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise

He washed his gaunt face and patted down his hair with water. Crumbs of red earth and white paint still remained under his fingernails after brushing, and he thought of wearing the green gloves he had found under a slatted bench on the Seine a hundred or two years ago when he was still a shrimp in a bassinet, when he still thought love would come to him with a face like the North Sea. Blue eyes on a wild map. He made too much of such things then, fooling himself into hope. His own face, the freckled belly of a poached, bearded salmon, his eyes, glass marbles that went blue in the shade.
All text and artworks copyright Frederic Tuten for Les Derniers Jours, a work in progress.

Frederic Tuten grew up in the Bronx and later lived in Latin and South America and Paris. He was an actor in an Alain Resnais movie; taught with Paul Bowles in Morocco; co-wrote the cult-classic film Possession, and, along the way, earned a Ph.D. in literature. In addition to his memoir, My Young Life (2019), Tuten has published five novels; his book of inter-related short stories, Self Portraits: Fictions was published in the fall of 2010. “Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise” is excerpted from “Lives of the Artists,” which was published in The Worlds of Joaquín Torres-García (Rizzoli, 2018).


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