PICTURES FROM AN EXHIBITION
Craigie Dundas, a Scottish painter, has been honoured with the Légion d’Honneur and retrospective exhibition of his life’s work by his adopted town, Aix-en-Provence. As portraits and landscapes arrive from donors and museums and as he chooses pictures for the exhibition from his own collection, the highs and lows of his life and loves are played back in his mind.
ROXANE: Now living with Suzanne, a French aristocrat, Craigie is taunted for his reluctance to hang his picture of a Provençal girl playing a melodeon in Manosque market. As an architecture student earning money from quick sketches, he draws Roxane who becomes his first true love and changes his life. He loses her.
RORY: In Scotland he discovers his talent for drawing and painting and sells enough to bring him to London. There he is reduced to doing tourist sketches before meeting his old art-school mate, Rory Macgregor, now doing magazine illustrations. Rory introduces him to Marcia and they have an affair.
ELEANOR: Through Rory, he gets gallery space to exhibit and there meets Eleanor Ridgway, a society beauty who flaunts her nude body, persuades him to paint her then virtually rapes him. He spurns Rory’s advice and moves in with her.
ANTHEA: That stormy life revolves round drink, drugs, sex binges in their West End flat and painting fashionable portraits. They have a son, Greg. Eleanor’s teenage daughter, Anthea falls in love with Craigie and is sent packing.
THEO: Their marriage is broken up by Eleanor’s own adultery, revealed by Theo, a pet hen macaw that Craigie had acquired to paint and had grown to love. Theo overhears and mimicks Eleanor’s pillow-talk with her latest lover. Eleanor murders the bird, burns her and destroys his portraits of her. They divorce.
CHRISSIE: Craigie buys a mobile home and drives to Scotland incognito. On Loch Leven, he meets Christine Stewart, an Ulster girl who teaches backward children. They fall in love and he finds a cottage where he lives for a year. Chrissie refuses to marry him because she has chronic TB. He is with her when she dies.
SHANTA: Chrissie’s death sets him running again. To Kashmir where he spends a year on a houseboat and paints Shanta, the Kashmiri girl procured for him. In Egypt he meets Suzanne de Granvallon, then on her honeymoon. She asks him to escort her into Cheops’ pyramid with her. She falls for him, but they part company..
TALYA: In Paris he joins the artist set. But he is now drinking dangerously among the winos and crack cocaine addicts. To beat his acoholism he consults Natalia Bernhardt, a psychiatrist, who puts him through an aversion (drink and vomit) treatment that all but kills him. Their psychoanalysis sessions and herBuddhism bond them together and they marry. Craigie works no longer and seems finished as a painter.
ANTHEA: One of his pictures in London catches Anthea’s eye. Now married with two children, she is unhappy. She goes in search of Craigie, still shunning everybody, and finds him in Montmartre. They flee together to Pont-Aven and live as lovers for a year before the pull of her children breaks the idyll.
SUZANNE: Craigie is back in Paris when Suzanne de Granvallon comes to the gallery showing his work. She persuades him to paint her, nude. When the picture is finished, her husband destroys it and challenges Craigie to a duel saying he has made her look like a harlot. Craigie knocks Granvallon cold. When he throws Suzanne out, she and Craigie become lovers and move to Aix..
CRAIGIE: After seven years Anthea calls Craigie to reveal they have a son she passed off as her former husband’s; now he has a clot on the brain and is desperately ill. In England Craigie finds he’s still in love with Anthea. Their son, Rory, recovers. but Craigie has the problem of being in love with two women and unwilling to give either of them up. They have the same problem, for both women love him.
RETROSPECTIVE: Almost all the above characters stay in Craigie’s house in Aix for the retrospective. He ends his vendetta with Eleanor. He gives Anthea and Suzanne an ultimatum. It is a ménage à trios or nothing for any of them.