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26 January 2009

2008 painting of Glenn Gould by Gould's lover Cornelia Foss / la vie des Bohemes du Toronto / algebra on Sunday

Click for larger.

Glenn Gould, 2008
oil on canvas by Cornelia Foss

I'm indebted to a list member of f_minor for bringing this painting to my attention.


In 2007, Cornelia Foss, wife of composer and conductor Lukas Foss, publicly revealed in an article in the Toronto Star (August 25, 2007) that she and Gould had had a love affair lasting several years. She and her husband had met Gould in Los Angeles in 1956.

Cornelia was an art instructor who had studied sculpture at the American Academy in Rome; Lukas was a pianist and composer who conducted both the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

After several years, Glenn and Cornelia became lovers. Cornelia left Lukas in 1967 for Gould, taking her two children with her to Toronto, where she purchased a house near Gould's apartment at 110 St. Clair Avenue West.

According to Cornelia, "There were a lot of misconceptions about Glenn and it was partly because he was so very private. But I assure you, he was an extremely heterosexual man. Our relationship was, among other things, quite sexual."
Their affair lasted until 1972, when she returned to Lukas. As early as two weeks after leaving her husband, she had noticed disturbing signs in Gould. She describes a serious paranoid episode:
"It lasted several hours and then I knew he was not just neurotic — there was more to it.

I thought to myself, `Good grief, am I going to bring up my children in this environment?' But I stayed four and a half years." Foss did not discuss details, but others close to Gould said he was convinced someone was trying to poison him and that others were spying on him.


Her representatives have taken technical pains to prevent Hristo in Kafe Internet Sofia from seeing this or Klaas in Rotterdam (or Bob in Massachusetts), or rather from spreading it around to too much riff-raff. I'm not sure if I'm among the targeted riff-raff or not.

I don't know exactly how to feel about this. This is a beautiful and deeply moving visual image, and having been created, should its distribution to all who would love and appreciate it be filtered and blocked and made difficult?

Or would you like $12.50 a pop to see it, like a Pay-Per-View Wrestling Match? I could make a reasonable deal to see this in Hi-Def or Blu-Ray.

I imagine the Real Deal would fetch at first sale about U$250,000, even in these sucky times. A painting like this, with such skill and such intimate meaning and insight -- not entirely unlike a Vulcan Mind Meld -- does not hit the galleries every Munishdig and Dunishdig (sp?).

Gould died in 1982, so Cornelia Foss painted this 26 years after his death, and 36 years after they stopped being lovers. (
En famille, Gould would tutor Foss's young son and daughter in algebra.) This is how I remember my lover 36 years later.

The only thing better than this is living it, which two intense, passionate, brilliant people, one with a couple of kids, did as well as they could for 5 years.

La vie des Bohemes, or however I'm supposed to spell that. The creative life. Life With Fewer Rules. Life By My Rules, to the fullest extent that I can get away with it. Quid obstat? (Cornelia and children returned to her husband Lukas.)

[Danke to Mensch-on-the-Ground CH for correcting momentary brain malfunction.]

Once in my truck I was driving with Lefty Nanna, who was lengthily complaining about the Bad Things and Poor Choices various close members of her family had been doing and making lately.

"But C**** -- I do ALL those things. ALL the time. You know that."

Her brow furrowed and she went deeply, though briefly, into thought.

"You're a creative person," she said. "The rules are different for you."

I've tried on more than a few occasions to pull that card out of my wallet and present it to various members of the Suspicious, Naive and Unwilling. Sometimes it flies, sometimes it crashes, all passengers killed.

Does this qualify as an Art Review, or a bona-fide contribution to the literature about this painting? I personally have expressed loud and often that it should be a federal felony -- 5 years mandatory minimum -- to use words to describe music or to use words to attempt to describe visual art. What is the point? All that the image has to give, and all that the music has to sing, is in the Thing Itself. Likewise spectacularly beautiful mathematical equations. Who benefits, and how, from my Feelings about Maxwell's Equations?

But this is just an exquisite human moment. With an excellent chance of surviving, in near-perfect condition, for 500 years, perhaps (a la the Bayeux Tapestry) 1000 years. As long as the world still has small, quiet rooms with precise temperature, humidity and light control systems, Glenn Gould, 2008 will be well protected from time, and time's promise to corrupt all but gold.

If you don't like it, if it fails to jolt you, there are 62 museum curators all over the planet who would cut off a finger to have it in their collection. This is not unlike the paintings I've posted of Francesca and Paulo, and of the Tree of Forgiveness -- an inseperable and radiating superglue of romantic and sexual passion and love. Desire. Lust and love, the physical and spiritual entwined, neither caring which got top billing.

"Closer, closer, come closer!" the gorgeous vamp moans to Groucho in a passionate embrace.

"If I come any closer, I'll be in back of you," Groucho complains.

Foss recalled there was an enormous flow of humor and laughter from Gould, and Foss must have been a fine reflector of that herself. Nick and Nora Charles, with easel, piano and two kids, Toronto Sequel, 1967-72.


patfromch said...

Oh deary me, I can see a screenplay in this. Maybe just for a Midday Movie, maybe a romantic Hollywood blockbuster or an indie Arthouse film. Reclusive piano genius falls in love with boheiman soccer mom.
Meg Ryan in the Hollywood version as Cornelia Foss, Penelope Cruz or Cameron Diaz in the indie version. A male lead would be difficult to find. I can honestly see this happen. Quick, somebody buy the rights to this story ! I am currently thinking about posting this on f_minor, just to see what would happen and for the fun of it.

Can you imagine GG explaining algebra to Mrs Foss' kids ? As you probably know he refrained from giving lectures or piano lessons and when we look at the CBC broadcasts from the 60s where he tries to explain modern music then it is no bloody wonder !
I wonder what those algebra tutorials were like for the kids. Maybe he really was a good tutor after all...Men often do very strange things to please a woman, trust me. Been there, done that.

BTW the first name is Lukas not Karl

Anonymous said...

It's a very bad painting actually, obviously copied from a fuzzy photo and not "from memory" but that's probably the least important thing. What I can't stomach is the fact that Cornelia Foss is being feted on the media and made a pure heroine, instead of the conscience-free adulteress she really was. The wonderful musician Lukas Foss, who took her back after 4 years (!) is the cuckold of the piece. Not fair. Hollywood would make him the loser, and Gould and Mrs. Foss the beautiful heroes walking off into the sunset. I love Glenn Gould, musically speaking, but that doesn't make the story any less filthy. Still, how about Nicholas Cage as Glenn? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is correct. The pathetic insertion of Ms. Foss into Gould's life shows a complete misunderstanding of his history. We don't doubt that they were friends and that she moved to be near him, returning to hubby on weekends(!), but does a man who can't bear to be touched, spends all his evenings conjecturing and talking non-stop on the phone, is seriously hypochondriacal and hyper-body-conscious, point toward an expressive and passionate heterosexual lover? Only in dreamland of the producers made-for-tv film. Ms. Foss is probably grateful for any attention at this point, wedged as she is between two greats. Why is there the need for the revisionist idea of Gould as a normal fellow? He was a genius and we allow him his strangeness for the sake of his gift.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Wow, whence cometh all this hostility against Cornelia Foss? She fell in love with Glenn Gould; he fell in love with her. She left her husband and took her two kids to Toronto to be with her lover.

Both of them -- and Lukas Foss the composer and conductor too -- were at the height of talent and importance in their arts.

From the beginning of time, such people ignore your rules and live by their own rules, regardless of how scandalous "ordinary people" find their behavior.

In the new television documentary "Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould", Cornelia, her son and her daughter are interviewed, and recall their years together as happy, warm, nutritious -- the kids (now in their 30s) reveal not a tiny bit of anger at their mother's choice to be with Gould and take the kids to Toronto to be with "Uncle Glenn" -- who did his avuncular duty and tutored the in algebra. When the affair ended, both the children were heartbroken to lose their Uncle Glenn, and they revealed him as loving children and kind to them.

I would say your hostility is wrong and misdirected.

But more to the point, Cornelia Foss, and her children, don't care about your hostility or judgment.

These are artists. Quite bluntly they laugh at your rules, and when love appears, they grab it. Because love is rare and one has few chances to experience it.

bonny said...

Been there, done that. As an artist I have to go with my instincts and conclude that this woman is nothing but a vulgar slut who notwithstanding happens to be quite a mediocre painter. The whole affair smacks cruel cuckoldry, utter vulgarity and sheer tactlessness from which only Gould comes away unscathed in any ethical sense.

Anonymous said...

Sorry ms foss--looking at the painting over and over- it is a very bad painting.
Bird lover

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hey Anonymous --

You love Charlie Parker too? Outstanding!

Look -- I guess it's natural to take sides, and the late Glenn's side is the easiest one to take.

But he was just one lonely human dreaming of love. And for a few years, he found it. I'm happy for both of them.

As for the painting -- well, it's difference of opinion that makes horse races, but I'd urge you to look at the painting again. Perhaps it's ended up in a gallery or museum where you might be able to see the original.

There's a lot more in this painting than seems at first sight.

Anonymous said...

Vleeptron--wow,I didn't think anyone would get the allusion to Bird (charlie parker)- To Me,the eyes are messed up--the hat is not painted on his head correctly-i'm not looking for a photographic exactness--it just looks amatuerish to me

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Anonymous said...

It doesn't even look like Gould and his face is crooked and flat. Terrible painting.

lizbetha said...

This painting has great "movement." It looks very much like he did in interviews and when he was horsing around on camera. His great good humor is very evident, as well as his handsomeness. i think it is very, very successful.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hi lizbetha ...

the comments really surprised me with so many attacks on Cornelia Foss ... as a painter, as a woman, as a mother. I hang on the f_minor (GG) e-List, so I know how overprotective this bunch can be for their idol/deity Glenn Gould. Anyone who taints or confuses the sanctity of GG is in for trouble.

To me, the painting is a wildly powerful glimpse of a passionate and emotionally complex love from long ago.