The charmed life of Theophilus Brown

April 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Theophilus Brown with self portraits in 1969.


The charmed life of Theophilus Brown — it could have been the title to an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Our protagonist is a dashing young artist with immense talent and little direction. After enduring the horrors of World War II, including the soul sucking Battle of the Bulge, he hopscotches around the world, making the acquaintance of such cultural heavyweights as Pablo Picasso and Igor Stravinsky. He has a boyfriend on the Left Bank, and friends in high social places from New York to The Hague. The editor of ArtNews is a former classmate who introduces Brown to the likes of Mark Rothko and Willem and Elaine de Kooning.

The parties are extravagant, the destinations exotic and the people famously beautiful, but there is something missing. A young Theophilus finds himself orbiting greatness without really touching it. A critical decision to head west to California and an encounter with a down to earth, no nonsense young man from Arizona changes everything. It is not love at first sight. The two young men are very different. One is gregarious and flamboyant; the other is quiet and reserved. But maybe opposites do attract. Perhaps it is fate. Theirs would be a love story spanning more than a half-century, and providing the foundation for two impressive artistic careers. Unlike the doomed characters of a Fitzgerald story, our hero escapes the pitfalls of privilege to live what can only be called a charmed life.

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