Robin Williams

Portrait: Robin Williams

“Other people have left the room, but rarely has the room been left so empty. “
―Frank Menser, on the death of Robin Williams


Robin Williams Portrait

I never had any plans of creating this portrait – it had never occurred to me that Robin Williams may have been part in shaping who I am. Silly me.

My first memory of him is from the sitcom Mork & Mindy. I must’ve been around 9 when I saw it and it definitely left an impact. To this day I can remember scenes from several episodes, storylines, and a surprising amount of detail from the show even though I haven’t seen it in at least 25 years. Possibly more. After that he appeared in several movies I found entertaining but not remarkable – Popeye, Moscow on the Hudson, Baron Münchausen. It wasn’t until I saw him in Good Morning, Vietnam that I really started to appreciate him, I think. As I grew older, and I saw Dead Poets Society – an amazing film that remains one of my favorite movies – The World According to Garp, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, Hamlet, Insomnia, One Hour Photo, etc, etc and I realized that his genius shone brightest in his serious moments.

The news of his death reached me at a time when I was more vulnerable than usual, but it still surprised me how affected I was by it. As the news spread across the internet I was left in awe of how many people felt so strongly about him, and I think nothing sums up the loss as beautifully as the quote at the top of this post – words uttered by a friend of a friend. Without a doubt he was one of our most beloved actors and comedians.

Robin Williams was an expert at portraying haunted, wounded men – no doubt because he was one himself. He was fairly open about his struggle with addiction and depression.  I chose to portray him this way – in contemplation, with the Red Knight behind him – because he urged us to remember both the good and the bad when a person dies, to not mythologize them. He fought against his inner demons all his life, bringing joy and happiness to so many people. In the end he may have lost the fight, but he fought well and he fought hard. That’s the way I want to remember him – as a man who stood up against his dark knight, persevering and rising to greatness in spite of it.

Mr Williams, your table is ready.

Commentary: R.I.P. Robin Williams

O Captain! my Captain!
by Walt Whitman
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            The arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

I cannot bare to write any personal reflection at present, Dear Reader. It is a sad day, and Robin Williams’ untimely death only exasperates the introspection I am dealing with, peeling open old wounds as it does.

Depression is an ugly beast, and hard to fight off once its claws are buried in your soul.