Odalisque & Farlene ~ A tail of two ducks!
The Million Dollar Duck  &  Farlene, Oil on canvas & acrylics on linen by Joel Beck (1943 - 1999)
Comments by Phil Howe

Joel Beck


Joel Beck, maverick cartoonist and artist, painted his Odalisque in 1966 during the heyday of the Berkeley Underground Revolution. Beck, a satirist and political cartoonist at the time for the infamous Berkeley Barb and a featured cartoonist for the U.C. humor magazine The Pelican, was considered by many a genius in the cartooning world and would only later become famous for his paintings and other works of art; his being the missing link between Joan Miro and Salvadore Dali. Joel combined Miro's playfulness with Dali's otherworldliness into a heightened sense of cartoon reality much as Picasso's refashioning of cartooning into a purely graphic art form leading the way to new dimensions in the art world. And unfortunately, as with Vermeer, Joel's was a limited oeuvre with less than 30 paintings left to posterity.

Odalisque says more about Joel's contemporary world than Miro's paintings ever did of his. The "Duck" as eternal soul, embodiment of worldly success yet seduced by society's pitfalls … the ultimate Seducktress. One only need contemplate the lay of her feathers, the invitation of her tongue and the quackiness of her lips to shed one's own sexual inhibitions and yield to Odalisque's siren's call .

Joel Beck


Farlene was painted decades later with acrylics on linen. This painting represents the timely tragedy that life in the fast lane can lead to. Sadder but wiser, Farlene has the tenuous look of abandonment and betrayal in her eyes; of a life of of physical pleasure and dissipation. Yet there is still, in those brooding blue eyes, a hint of the playfulness and joy of youth. And again the lay of her feathers invites fantasies of unknown and unknowable pleasures of the flesh. Behind her on the wall is the portrait of her lover & benefactor, Lenny of Laredo.

In the '60s the Print Mint sold over 100,000 prints of Odalisque at $10 a pop, hence her moniker as the Million Dollar Duck. The only reason that she went out of production was the cruel assertion by Disney lawyers that she held a mild resemblance to one of their characters. Oh, cruel irony!