The painting was inspired by a trip to Cezanne’s studio in Les Lauves hills above Aix en Provence, it was a ritual visit that we would make on route to holidaying in Italy.
Cézanne was Steven’s favourite painter and he never tired of visiting the studio. At this time, he was also researching the fictional figure of Fantomas, the creation of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain and would complete a body of work based around this master of disguise and intrigue. So the painting has links to both, with the main figure being a mix of Cézanne/Steven and Fantomas with the scene being set inside the studio with many of the artefacts that are displayed there included in the image. I think it is the background story that I’m about to tell that holds the greatest interest for Campbell enthusiasts.
When we visited in the summer of 2006 Steven was already struggling with severe stomach pains which he put down to extreme indigestion, never recognising the pain as originating from his appendix. He simply carried on with life as normal and would carry a bottle of Gaviscon with him wherever he went, taking a swig directly from the bottle whenever the pain hit.
In common with many museum spaces there is a strict no photographs policy within the studio but Steven was desperate to have a picture of himself within the space and as all tours are guided there is little opportunity for this infringement of the rules.
He knew a posed photo was out of the question but by this time he identified himself with the gaviscon bottle that was always on his person, so he would move around the room and while the guide was delivering her lecture he would quietly place the bottle on a table, or beside a deckchair, or on a window ledge and quickly snap an image which for him was tantamount to a portrait with the master.
So on looking at the painting we can identify Steven’s presence and recognise it for what it was intended to be . . . an acknowledgment from one artist to another down through the years.