In the grand scheme of things, Call of Cthulhu/Mountains of Madness are tied as my favorite stories in the mythos simply because I think they are the best written and fleshed out. My second is The Outsider that I discussed last week due to subject matter and Lovecraft’s ability to make anyone reading it put themselves in the role of the narrator. My third favorite is today’s subject, just because it is freaky and weird.
"Pickman's Model" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in September 1926 and first published in the October 1927 issue of Weird Tales. Pickman's aesthetic principles of horror resemble those in Lovecraft's essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" (1925–1927), on which he was working at the time the short story was composed. When Thurber, the story's narrator, notes that "only the real artist knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear—the exact sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness", he is echoing Lovecraft the literary critic on Poe, who "understood so perfectly the very mechanics and physiology of fear and strangeness".
Thurber's description of Pickman as a "thorough, painstaking, and almost scientific realist" recalls Lovecraft's approach to horror in his post-Dunsanian phase.
The story compares Pickman's work to that of a number of actual artists, including John Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), Gustave Doré (1832–1883), Sidney Sime (1867–1941), Anthony Angarola (1893–1929), Francisco Goya (1746–1828), and Clark Ashton Smith (1893–1961).
The story revolves around a Bostonian painter named Richard Upton Pickman who creates horrifying images. His works are brilliantly executed, but so graphic that they result in his membership in the Boston Art Club being revoked and himself shunned by his fellow artists.
The narrator is a friend of Pickman, who, after the artist's mysterious disappearance, relates to another acquaintance how he was taken on a tour of Pickman's personal gallery, hidden away in a run-down backwater slum of the city. As the two delved deeper into Pickman's mind and art, the rooms seemed to grow ever more evil and the paintings ever more horrific, ending with a final enormous painting of an unworldly, red-eyed and vaguely canine humanoid balefully chewing on a human victim.
A noise sent Pickman running outside the room with a gun while the narrator reached out to unfold what looked like a small piece of rolled paper attached to the monstrous painting. The narrator heard some shots and Pickman walked back in with the smoking gun, telling a story of shooting some rats, and the two men departed.
Afterwards the narrator realized that he had nervously grabbed and put the rolled paper in his pocket when the shots were fired. He unrolled the paper to reveal that it is a photograph not of the background of the painting, but of the subject. Pickman drew his inspirations not from a diseased imagination, but from monsters that were very much real.
In 1972 (Season 2, Episode 32), the television show Night Gallery adapted "Pickman's Model" as a segment. In the TV version, the character of the narrator in the short story becomes a woman (Louise Sorel) who has fallen in love with Pickman (Bradford Dillman).
It is considered by many to be one of the best adaptations of a Lovecraft story even in spite of the changes.
Pickman’s Model (2008)
When two estranged friends, Thurber (Murphy) and Eliot (Meinecke), meet for drinks, Eliot finds that Thurber is not the person he once knew. Thurber reveals that Pickman (Timmis, Kreating Karloff), a man he was using as a source for a Paper on Weird art, is linked to his recent change in demeanor. It begins with a simple invitation to view Pickman's work at his isolated studio in Boston's North End. And ends with the apprehension that what lurks in the foreground of Pickman's work is far more sinister than the art itself. Adapted from the original short story "Pickman's Model" by: H.P. Lovecraft.
Timmis's "Pickman" makeup was inspired by both Lovecraft's description of the character and Chris Sarandon's "Curwen" makeup from Shatterbrain.
The H.P. Lovecraft Collection, Vol. 4: Pickman's Model
When a South American journalist goes missing, and eventually turns up on a morgue slab looking like a couple hundred pounds of ground beef, his best friend Gabriel vows to find his brutal killer. His search leads him to a remote Chilean village and an artist named Richard Upton Pickman, whose grotesque paintings so disgusted the art world that no gallery will show them. Gabriel is convinced that Pickman himself is the killer, but the further into the mystery he delves, the more horrifying the truth becomes. Pickman’s diabolical paintings are not just the product of a morbid imagination, as Gabriel soon discovers. Pickman’s Model, it turns out, is all too real.
Lurker Films fourth collection of Lovecraft adaptations is interesting, if not quite as impressive as The Yellow Sign and Cool Air. Chilean Gothic, the disc’s main feature, is pretty good, if a tad slow and somewhat over reliant on eerie blue lighting. But for a low budget effort, it’s respectfully well done. The subterranean sewer systems of Chile will give you a cold shudder, and the Arthur Gordon Pym building around which much of the action revolves is a nice homage to one of Lovecraft’s primary influences, which will make his diehard fans chuckle a bit.