Wednesday, July 27, 2016


"Le Poissonier" acrylic on canvas 1994
The story. 1994
I opened my eyes to a blue sky one Sunday morning, early in March.  It was the first sunny day in at least a month.  I decided to skip church and go make a painting in the market  I had in mind, for a long time, to paint one of the venders, le poissonier,  Monsieur Anglade.  He’s one of the most fascinating, if not the funniest on boulevard Brune.  You can hear him shouting two or three stands away.  His gravelly voice penetrates la foule.
I had first discovered him when I lived in Montparnasse where he has a stand in the street market  at Edgar Quinet every Wednesday..  Although I never bought any fish from him he generally recognizes me and says “bonjour” if not “Qu’est-ce qu’on fait ce soir?”
I set up my easel diagonally across from him next to a long vegetable stand. I showed the vegetable people my post cards and told them what I intended to paint.  I finally got the fishman’s attention.
“Je vais faire votre portrait.  Ca vous gene pas?”
He laughed.  I went over and showed him my postcards and told him again.  He was emu.  I took a can out of my bag and looked around.  A man who had chosen a spot not far from me to beg and a little girl selling daffodils both pointed to a spot where I could get some water near by.  My guardian angels were watching over as I began my first public portrait.
I was disappointed to learn that he says “Bonjour” to all the nice ladies that go by and if not “qu’est-ce qu’on fait ce soir?” sometimes “Qu’est-ce qu’on mange ce soir.”  More than one passerby noted that it was a shame I didn’t have an audio with the canvas.  In this case I agreed.
The other revelation was why fishmen yell.  They have to.  It ain’t no good the next day.
By one o’clock I was exhausted.  I told him I would come see him Wednesday at Edgar Quinet.
He said, “Oh!  You know I’m there.”  To think all these years I thought he had a crush on me and he didn’t know me from Adam.
I had gotten Monsieur Anglade’s expression with a stroke of the brush.  The proof was that everyone from the neighborhood who saw the painting later recognized  him and  said “C’est lui qui guele.”  And then with varying accounts discussed the quality of his fish.
 I went to the Edgar Quinet market the following Wednesday.  The spot I chose to position my easel was contested by a market squatter who was selling small leather goods from Pakistan. He argued intensely and insisted I move.  I told Monsieur Anglade.  He asked in a whisper, “Can’t you do it from the other side?”  I said “non.”  The sun will be  in my eyes.  Then he announced to the world that this was where I was going to be.  C’est tout!
It was a wonderful spring day.  The trees that lined the boulevard were speckeled lime green.  I painted his fish and raptured at being in Paris.
The outdoor markets are a paradise for artists.  The colors, sounds, smells inspire me more than any museum. Until my Monsieur portrait, I never appreciated how hard the commer├žants work.  Mr. Anglade says he starts his day at two in the morning.  So I know what he does tonight.  He sleeps!

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