Thursday, 15 March 2012

In praise of art

I was in a privileged position last week. I was a guest of the art dealer Bonham’s of Knightsbridge at a special showing of the David Hockney exhibition- the Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy. My friend Jim had made me a beneficiary of his will and one of Jim’s Hockney’s was in the retrospective. Jim’s Dad was Hockney’s tutor at Bradford College of Art in the 50s and he acquired a number of paintings and drawings.
The exhibition was a celebration of the British countryside with huge works in vivid colours in a variety of mediums. A series of paintings of a lane in the Yorkshire Wolds in different seasons was particularly striking.

I love art and feel glad that my parents introduced me to great paintings at an early age. It seems to me deplorable that museum and art galleries seem so alien to many but that was not the case in my childhood. I have an abiding memory of being drawn into the grotto in the " Madonna of the Rocks" in the National Gallery when I was 7. Such days were exhausting as were tried to cram as much as we could in a day trip from Stoke. On one occasion in the Rubens Room my father rubbed his weary legs exposing flesh something not done in the early 60s. My Mother upbraided and my father pointing at a voluptuous nude said, " That’s nothing she’s showing her arse"

I returned to the National Gallery after visiting the RA. The National was a place Jim and I visited often when we were in the capital. I thought of him. His quips were memorable. A picture of Salome and the head of John the Baptist resulted in the comment. " Send it back I ordered a cheeseburger" I stood before one of his favourites a study of an earnest young man by the 17th century Italian artist Salvatore Rosa. It had a Latin inscription translated as " Be silent unless what you say is better than silence"- a sentiment as Jim remarked that should be directed at mobile phone users and local radio presenters.