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"The Bashful Exhibitionist"

Gus Calleybottle

Gustave ("Gus") Calleybottle was a French Depressionist manqué, whose great inherited wealth prevented him from enjoying a life of misery and squalor like others in the Depressionist School. He tried valiantly to qualify, entering into salon competitions such sordid works as “The Floor Scrapers,” “The Muck Wringers,” and the almost-too-intimate portrait, “Jacques Jeaniemop, Cess Pit Pumper.” Members of l’Académie Dépressionistique applauded his efforts to mingle with the raff and the riff of guttersnipe society, but felt that, although he talked the walk, he didn’t walk the talk (“Il a parlé la promenade, mais il n'a pas marché la parole, zut alor, hein?”), pointing out to the artist that cesspit pumper urchins rarely dressed in velvet and lace, at least not while on the job.

Undeterred, Calleybottle kept right on painting, but changed direction, moving from physical sordidness to moral turpitude, now focusing on closeted bum-fondlers, pacifier fetishists, playground flashers and the kind of people who underline naughty words in library books. He was quite pleased to make the acquaintance of Arthur du Marais, a committed exhibitionist who was nonetheless too shy to go about naked in public places, limiting his exhibitionism to his own room on the Rue d’Égout with the curtains prudently drawn. Callybottle won the confidence of the young draper’s assistant, who eventually allowed himself to be painted in the act. Ever the wit, the artist included a print of Dominic Angers “The Shy Nude Model” (also in the Mumblestoats’ Collection, q.v.) in the painting as a visual pun.

Calleybottle was financially ruined in the Panic of 1877 and soon attained the coveted rank of pauper which, although it initially gained him admission to the Depressionist Academy, eventually caused its doors to be shut against him, as he could no longer afford either the membership dues nor the paint to enter the competitions. He died of heartbreak and frostbite and is buried in the lovely Pauper’s Field to the west of Paris, somewhere in section A–F.


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