Plot summary[ edit ] The narrator, an unnamed illustrator and aspiring painter, hires a faded genteel couple, the Monarchs, as models, after they have lost most of their money and must find some line of work.
The Monarchs speak and walk and carry themselves like the born aristocrats they are, and they are useless as models because the artist cannot make them look like anything else. The idyllic models, on the other hand, would be ashamed.
Our protagonist could not imagine that this caliber of persons would come to him for a low-paying job such as modeling.
However, when one tries to consider the methods one might be able to use to communicate ideas in the very medium of the ideas-to-be-portrayed, one comes up short.
Why is this? However, the narrator experiments with using a couple who are actually members of the English aristocracy, simply down on their luck and desperate for work. However, both parties undergo a process of change during the course of the story, which takes them from being prototypes, a typical painter and a typical aristocratic couple, to being characters.
In the following passage, found on pagewe see our protagonist describing his dilemma explicitly. The problem is that, because he is so distracted, he overemphasizes their features, such that they often appear a foot, or more, taller than they really are—a six-foot woman and a seven-foot man.
But I couldn't — I didn't know. James, while highlighting the usefulness and attractiveness of artifice within an artistic setting performs a great trick by bringing the idea forth by an artificial means to convey the idea that art is meant to be less real; and it is that precise quality that brings to light the deeper facets of our existence.
James alludes that this is due to their graceful stagnancy in that they are, indeed so realistic that it becomes less than expedient to use them as models. It is obvious that this project is an important issue for him, and in case he really achieves his goal, the additional work of the following volumes of the book cycle would provide him employment for a long time, while at the same time giving him the fame and reputation he needs to start a career as a painter of portraits.