Tomboy, the suit shop around the corner from where I work, has closed. It makes me sad – not that I shopped there, or could ever afford to shop there – but I liked to look in the window. There was a pair of $500 wingtip boots there that I liked to check in on every once in a while.
The place had a reproduction of a painting titled Una by Romaine Brooks hanging in the back. It’s one of my favorite paintings. It shows a woman wearing a snappy suit and a monocle standing behind two black dachshunds. The woman looks vaguely angry, which I like.
I once read a short story about Romaine Brooks, about her caretaker taking advantage of her and stealing her expensive clothes. Both Brooks and Djuna Barnes outlived their friends and contemporaries, and not happily. They both became increasingly reclusive in their old age, and refused to see people they didn’t already know. Brooks stopped painting and Barnes stopped writing. But they kept up a correspondence with each other, mostly about how much they missed the old days.
Some people say that it’s an artist’s duty to die before they start making bad art. For instance, Buddy Holly’s reputation was saved by his career ending right as it peaked – that way, we remember him at his best.
I don’t know. I think that anybody that concerned with their posthumous reputation or their duty to their audience is a sellout. Maybe it’s a little more reprehensible that folks go around telling artists when they should die, anyway.