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"Unhappy Man Fondling a Mallard"

Henk Tulusletrack 

This was Tulusletrack's first publicly-displayed work, which initiated a long series of paintings based on social deviance, several of which are in our collection.

The artist was fascinated by the relationship of French farm workers to the livestock they tended, very often with an intimacy that bordered on passion. His portrait of the marriage of Jacques Le Frotteur to his she-goat, "La Belle Hélène" was a scandal in Paris, although on the farms of Normandy it was passed off with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and a comment on what a nice couple they made.

In the subject painting Tulusletrack captures the essential sadness of a Basque farmhand engaged in the seduction of a local mallard. You can almost hear the soothing words as the man caresses the waterfowl while fantasizing about "les cruches magnifiques" of his faraway love, the milkmaid Marta. Ducks are a common erotic surrogate among the Basques, particularly when the quadrupeds are locked up or going steady with other agrarian laborers.

The same farm was the setting for a later work, "The Lovestruck Swineherd Rejected by the Yorkshire Sow," which was later the inspiration for the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet.


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