"Diogenes, Having Failed in his Search for an Honest Man, Finds Some Stoic Dogs"
Having completed the series of paintings known collectively as "The Burger Wars," Gerôme searched for another subject worthy of his prodigious talents. He finally settled on Animal/Human Communication, beginning with "Balaam's Sassy Ass" and ending with the well-known mural with all the monkeys and typewriters, "Shakespeare Explained."
The Diogenes painting, which falls in the middle of this series, depicts the Greek philosopher in his later years. Having abandoned his search for an honest Athenian citizen, he turned his attention to the next best thing, managing to scare up four trustworthy dogs. He then set about teaching them to communicate with him, using a war-surplus Aldis lamp and a signal code of his own devising. Teaching dogs to communicate, he thought, would be a wonderful refutation of his critics, who had named him and his followers "Cynics" after their doglike habits (Diogenes himself lived in a studio doghouse adjacent to the Athens theatre district).
Although he labored for years he was ultimately unsuccessful. His pupils managed to learn Αρφ (arf), Γρρρρρ (grrrrr), Ψάπ (yap) and Ωηινε (whine), but he was unable to interest them in intransitive verb forms, the optative mood or the aorist indicative, which made formal rhetorical debate all but impossible. Frustrated, he died of complications from mange in 320 BCE.