Pickman's Model (fiction)
"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. It was adapted for television in 1972 as an episode of the Night Gallery anthology series ("Pickman's Model").
The setting of the core of the story is a run-down neighborhood in 1800s Boston, MA, and the story about a secretive painter of horrific scenes, Richard Upton Pickman, and a shocking discovery about the artist's inspiration and model for his work.
Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)
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 the revocation of his membership in the Boston Art Club and he is 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 unearthly, 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.
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 critique 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).
An adaptation of "Pickman's Model" appears in an episode of Rod Serling's The Night Gallery. This adaptation follows Lovecraft's story closely, aside from the point-of-view character being altered slightly to add a romantic subplot to the story.