VISIONARY REVUE


      Realizing that money was his only means of escape, he called upon the Russian Red Cross and then the curé of Chelles. In desperation, he offered to sell them the entire collection of his works, presently in the hands of Mme. S. But, when the curé sent his servent to Mme S. she turned him away indignantly. Kalmakoff was trapped in a cage with a species of humanity he considered brutish and inferior.
      This comes out explicitly in a rare letter preserved from 1950:
      "Here, life continues, as always, very slowly, an almost vegetable existence. I bore myself nicely, surrounded by a horde of orangutangs, banal to the extreme, who offer a most disgusting spectacle. Psychologically, they remain vacuous, stupid, superstitious, uneducated and illiterate - earth to earth, dust to dust.
      Aside from eating, nothing really interests them. I myself must make an effort to withhold my disgust and aversion towards them. I master the despair that seizes me whenever I fathom the true depths of the mental abyss manifest in these brutes and
goujats. May the gods grant me my share of Stoic fortitude." (KAL 11)
      The nurses at the Home recalled that "Monsieur Kalmakoff spent the whole day long sharpening his knife. It was, in fact, a kind of razor which he always kept in hand. All of us feared that he would have an accident..." (KAL 9) In total, he spent eight years at Chelles.
      When one of his last remaining friends came to visit the artist, he found him in a miserable state. The artist's hands were now bent and distorted from rheumatism. The large white curls of hair which once crowned his bald head had been shorn away. He sat quietly, his blue eyes boring into his guest - and didn't utter a word.



 
 
 


PARIS - SPRING 2004


Nicholas Kalmakoff
1873 - 1955

      Kalmakoff died at the hôpital de Lagny, near Chelles, in 1955 and was buried in the village cemetary. The artist's last remains now repose beneath a crooked and nameless cross rusted by time. Meanwhile, each decade brings increasing recognition and speculation into the life and works of this enigmatic and undoubtedly ingenius man.
      The cross still stands, nameless and crooked, at the entrance to Kalmakoff's labyrinth.

 
 
 


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