Everybody knows by this time that we met Lautisse on board a ship, but few people know that in the beginning, Betsy and I had no idea who he was.
At first he introduced himself as Monsieur Roland, but as we talked he asked me a lot of questions about myself and my business and finally he asked me if I could keep a secret and said: "I am Lautisse."
I had no idea who he was. I told Betsy and af ter lunch we went up and talked to the ship's librarian, asked him a few questions. And then we found out that my new friend was probably the world's best living painter. The librarian found a book with his biography and a photograph. Though the photograph was bad, we decided that our new acquaintance was Lautisse all right. The book said that he suddenly stopped painting at 53 and lived in a villa in Rivera. He hadn't painted anything in a dozen years and was heard to say he would never touch the brush again.
Well, we got to be real friends and Betsy invited him to come up to our place for a weekend.
Lautisse arrived on the noon train Saturday, and I met him at the station. We had promised him that wewouldn't have any people and that we wouldn't try to talk to him about art. It wasn't very difficult since we were not very keen on art.
I was up at seven-thirty the next morning and I remembered that I had a job to do. Our vegetable garden had a fence around it which needed a coat of paint. I took out a bucket half full of white paint and a brush and an old kitchen chair. I was sitting on the chair thinking, when I heard footsteps and there stood Lautisse. I said that I was getting ready to paint the garden fence but now that he was up, I would stop it. He protested, then took the brush from my hand and said, "First, I'll show you!" At that moment Betsy cried from the kitchen door that breakfast was ready. "No, no," he said. "No breakfast, – I will paint the fence." I argued with him but he wouldn't even look up from his work. Betsy laughed and assured me that he was having a good time. He spent three hours at it and fin-
back to town on the 9. 10 that evening and at the station he shook my hand and said that he hadn't enjoyed himself so much in years.
We didn't hear anything from him for about 10 days but the newspapers learnt about the visit and came to our place. I was out but Betsy told the reporters everything and about the fence too. The next day the papers had quite a story and the headlines said: LAUTISSE PAINTS AGAIN. On the same day three men came to my place from different art galleries and offered 4.000 dollars for the fence. I refused. The next day I was of f ered 25.000 and then 50.000. On the fourth day a sculptor named Gerston came to my place. He was a friend of Lautisse. He advised me to allow the Palmer Museum in New York to exhibit it for a few weeks. He said that the gallery people were interested in the fence because Lautisse had never before used a bit of white paint. I agreed. So the f ence was put in the Palmer Museum. I went down myself to have a look at it. Hundreds of people came to see the fence, and I couldn't help laughing when I saw my fence because it had a fence around it.
A week later Gerston telephoned me and asked to come to him. He had something important to tell me. It turned out that Lautisse visited the exhibition and signed all the thirty sections of my fence. "Now," said Gerston, "you have really got something to sell." And indeed with Gerston's help, 29 of the 30 sections were sold within a month's time and the price was 10.000 each section. I didn't want to sell the 30th section and it's hanging now in our living-room.