The summer after my uncle Basil’s disappearance, we stayed at his country pied-a-terre, in which my father was part-owner. Nothing had been changed; the place was still as it had been. The studio was closed off; one afternoon Ralph and I ventured in there, and it was eerie to see it, the palettes awaiting the master, the brushes freshly cleaned and arranged in the way that Basil would have them.
His workroom, awaiting his arrival, taught me how to lay out my work when my own time came.
In the atelier in Paris, the master smiled very slightly when he saw how I set my palette. “Mademoiselle Hallward,” he said, and from the way he inflected the surname, he didn’t need to tell me that he remembered my uncle, for all that his work had long since fallen from fashion. I was beginning too late, in my twenties, but my body remembered what I first had learned with my eyes, those many years ago.
What has been rehearsed with the eyes, long before the hands are permitted it, comes to hand with facility.
POV Leonie Hallward, niece of the painter Basil Hallward from Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray. From novel-in-progress, Leonie Hallward and the Secession of Greenwich Village.
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