VISIONARY REVUE


The Darkness - undated
(Les Ténèbres)

      It was in this state that he may have painted works such as The Darkness (undated, above) and Angel of the Abyss (undated, opposite). The first is one of his darkest Visionary works. In the epic style of his final period, a mighty serpent uncoils it huge body and raises its great head to survey the wasteland which it rules. Hard scales cover its body, and its serpentine head terminates in a deathly grinning skull. Meanwhile, the sun has sunk beneath the blood-red horizon. This is a bleak but breath-taking view of death and desolation. Yet, the skull-bearing serpent reminds us that, just as the snake sloughs off its old skin, so may new life emerge from the ruins.
      Angel of the Abyss is Kalmakoff's beacon of hope. His armour, cape and sword, his rippling strength and firm determination express the artist's resolve to escape from the abyss. He will fight it or, like an angel, rise above it. Ironically, this canvas was probably executed when the artist was struggling, underfed and enfeebled, through his final days. Its image of youth and strength compensates for the weakness and old age that had finally overcome the artist.
      In 1941, a Guatemalian woman who lived in the same building as Kalmakoff dared to enter his guarded domain. As she recalls: "One day, I took the courage to address a few words in his direction - to which he didn't respond at all. Still, I slipped into his room and left a cup of tea for him with a few biscuits. An hour later, Kalmakoff came to my



 
 
 


PARIS - SPRING 2004


Angel of the Abyss - undated
(L'Ange de l'Abime)

rooms and ceremoniously presented me with a bouquet of roses." (KAL 9)
      Thus began a liason which was fated to be Kalmakoff's last. Mme S. (whose name remains guarded) was twenty-five years younger than the artist. Over the next six years, she cared for Kalmakoff, but his relationship with her - as with all the women in his life - was tumultuous as well as tranquil.
      In 1947, at the end of those six years, they worked out an arrangement. She entered him into a Home for the Elderly, in exchange for a large collection of his works. Thus it was that Kalmakoff, at the age of sixty-eight, went into la Maison des Veillards in Chelles to the north of Paris. This was no luxury retreat. He was in a 'home for indigents', and was surrounded on all sides by the poor and needy. They slept several to a room, were clothed and fed, and given a paltry 300 francs 'spending money' per month.



 
 
 


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