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The muse

1. Oskar Kokoschka, upon learning that his muse, Alma, was newly married, conspired to build her likeness so that he would never be without her. The artist asked for a doll that would have real teeth, a tongue; he specified a layer of horsehair to mimic the feel of muscles just barely layered by fat. He asked the dollmaker for special attention to the curve of her belly as it met thigh, and the roundness of her flanks. The result more strongly resembled a swan-girl struggling for flight, limbs covered in a downy feathered fluff. He mourned it's "inescapable thing-ness" and left it decapitated on his front lawn during a drunken revelry, soaking in a puddle of red wine.

2. Once, at work: a new exhibition which quietly features the most expensive painting sold at auction. Gauguin's "When will you marry" was one of the fleet he created in Tahiti, a trip to an island he believed primitive and crude. Gauguin's time on the island is a self-eulogized art historical fairy tale now. Here is a prime example of painting the native Tahitians primed and posed only to "sing and make love" for Western eyes-- one woman wearing "native dress" and a white flower in her hair, signifying a search for a husband. The other, dressed in western garb likely foisted on her by missionaries, holds her hand in a gesture of contemplation, in warning. Photos recently discovered of this time in Gaugin's life show him living up to his own stories as a philandering, horny womanizer. And what of Pahura, the fifteen year old pasted into his life and paintings-- relegated by historians to be a "muse" and a "mistress" without ever hearing her words, only ever seeing her stretched taut on his canvases.