Thank you, mido505: I know an artist (he lives with my second wife), and one Christmas I gave him a copy of F FOR FAKE, along with a request that he watch it a few times, and tell me what he thought of it. A year later, he told me that he had been drawn back to the picture every month or so, and along with RIVERS AND TIDES, he thought it the best picture about an artist and the artistic process that he'd ever seen.
Your use of the word "irritant" reminds me of a theory which states that a great artist (I suppose any artist, really) is the product of a loss, an incompleteness, something embittering or exulting, in his or (Welles would say, less often) her life. That loss acts an "irritant," the grain of sand in an oyster that produces the perfect pearl of creativity, which obsession may then polish. Welles had all those losses, real and imaginary, those grains of sand, which drove him to excel in theater, radio and the movies.
In addition to fame, adulation, talented and loyal associates, he had relationships with many intelligent, beautiful women, married three times, had three daughters, but perhaps he never found a woman with the additional warmth, straight-on friendliness, and artistic ambition which made her, for him, an equal.
Then, one day, he met Oja Kodar.
In time, they collaborated on F FOR FAKE, that full public artistic orgasm. [Oja and the 22 Picasso's (why 22?) are the sled and pies of CITIZEN KANE and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, respectively, but this time, the protagonist gets to have them and keep them, too.] But after orgasm, when the deep irritant in one's life is removed, only the collapsing flesh, the money problems, the harrassments, and the millstone of reputation are left. For all that which she could not change, Oja seems to have been enough, but not enough for him to give up his pater familias status.
Gary Graver is quoted as saying that, "hustling" as he was (to use Tony's term) for money, he had an income in the late 1970's of over half a million a year. But, if true, then there were the doctor bills, the tax agents, the moochers, the constant shuttling, and those two households to maintain. All that would have gotten in the way of completing movies.
I have also talked with people claiming to know, who say nothing in Welles' life was perfect (as whose life is?); that complications marred all his friendships, marriages, and liaisons. I'm told that there were a number of of offspring, a couple of rather surprising ones. I think of that little boy in F FOR FAKE, identified as Julio Palinkas, then Alexander Welles, born Sasha Devcic, later Sasha Welles; now said to be in Hollywood, working on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND "for something to do." He is a figure straight out of CITIZEN KANE . . . or MR. ARKADIN. Uncle Orson was showing him those magical coins as if they might purchase a sled to take him somewhere, to a magic land.
Welles, like Charles Foster Kane, no doubt did the best he could, "under the circumstances."
The ego is now gone, or at least, should be, and only the Art remains.