Art and Error – and About Learning New Words

Daniel House

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Daniel House as Toulouse Lautrec.

I am the oldest of four grandsons on my mother’s side. Of the four of us, I was the one who was most interested in, and knowledgeable about art and art history at a fairly young age. By seven or eight, I was familiar with dozens of artists. Among my favorites were (and still are) Van Gogh, Klimt, Monet, Escher, Saul Steinberg, Rembrandt, Albrecht Durer, Renoir, and Henri Rousseau. I bring this up to provide context for the photo below and for the story about it.

Young Daniel as Toulouse Latrec

I don’t know if I was eight or nine when this picture taken, but it was taken by my friend Chuck Gould, a contemporary of my father, and somebody I have known for the bulk of my life.

On this particular day, for reasons unknown, I decided that I was going to dress up as Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec. His art utterly fascinated me, as did the fact that his path as an artist started at about the same age that I was then. I started with grabbing an oversized jacket worn by one of the adults, something that would dwarf me, or at the very least come down to my knees. Next, I grabbed a fat black El Marko pen and proceeded to draw a beard, moustache and glasses. I was ready to present myself. The resultant conversation went something along the lines of this:

Ivory (my father’s girlfriend:)  “Oh my god, what did you do to yourself?”

Me: “I’m Toulouse-Lautrec! Whaddaya think?”

Ivory: “what did you use to draw on your face?”

Me (proudly): “I used this El Marko pen!”

“…But…isn’t that indelible?”

“‘Indelible’? What’s that?”

“It means that it won’t wash off your face!”

That was the day I learned what the word “indelible” meant.  I have never forgotten it, and indeed the mighty El Marko was just that. We spent a while trying to scrub what we could off, but for all intents and purposes, I got to be Toulouse-Lautrec for the better part of a week.

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This image is included in a fantastic collection of photographs by Chuck from the Digger Archives. These photos are of particular excitement to me because they chronicle a world that my father was part of in the late sixties and into the early seventies….and by extension me.  I know or knew most of the people in these photos, so it’s really great seeing these photos all pulled together like this. From an historical perspective, this collection is perhaps one of the better visual records of activist hippy life in and around the scene that surrounded the Height back then….and of many of the Diggers.

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