Writing About Art

Entry by: Corone

5th June 2015
Writing About Art

I never really liked Art.

I know you’re not really supposed to say that at these sorts of things, but it’s true.

His paintings were incredible, but you all know that already. It’s probably why most of you are here. I remember the first time I saw one, many years ago before he was famous. Perhaps a little before some of you were born. We first met in a small café near his studio. If I had known how hard it was to get him to leave the studio I would have taken that alone as a compliment. His sister and I were friends and she suggested he’d make a good subject for one of my art history projects. I think she’d bullied him into it, forced him to get some fresh air. All through the meal he seemed eager to leave, which did not do much for my confidence.

But we talked about painting and something lit up behind his eyes. It was as if he wanted so much to talk but never knew how. I got more than enough for my project, but we talked for ages. When he asked me to come back to his studio, I found myself wondering if I had made an impression after all. I flattered myself to think painting wasn’t the only thing on his mind. Unfortunately it was clear that it was from the moment I entered his tiny flat. There were painting tools and paint everywhere. He couldn’t afford an easel so his current work was propped up on the window ledge by two dirty cups and a piece of wood nailed into the windowsill.

When I saw it, I fell in love with it. It was as if he had captured the essence of sunlight from the window and somehow burned it onto the canvas. I stood there for ages just staring at it, amazed by it, by the beauty, the simplicity, the truth of it. I remember he took my hand and over eagerly said “Well?” I couldn’t believe he was asking my opinion; surely he was just looking for an ego boost. He just wanted someone to confirm he was a genius. But when I turned and looked in his eyes, I understood he really wanted to know. How could he not see how good it was? How could he only see the flaws? I blushed at the thought that someone with that much talent valued what I had to say of his work.

In all my life, no one has ever paid me such a compliment – that I should be valued not for how I look or what I know but for what I understood of such incredible work. When I blustered how amazing it was it was his turn to be embarrassed, and for the rest of the night he showed me his other paintings. I was the first person besides his sister who had seen them. That night was the most intimate experience we ever had together, which may surprise the younger of you here today who know we have two children. The older of you know what I mean.

I’m always asked what it was like living with such a great artist. I really don’t recommend it. He worked when the muse took him, which was pretty much all day, every day. Every moment we had together was interrupted by some sort of inspiration. He was terrified he’d miss something, some speck of insight he would forget if he failed to paint it there and then.

Family holidays were especially difficult. I certainly do not care to relive a driving holiday in France with the children when he ran out of materials. There we were, miles from civilisation in the beautiful French countryside, and him raging and panicking because he was unable to continue the landscape he’d been sketching. It gets excused as artistic temperament, but I call it being an arse, especially when your children are crying in the car.

He did the same on our fortieth wedding anniversary. I might have said every wedding anniversary because we never actually planned to go out. But this time I had dug my heels in. The children were away, his work was selling well and we could finally spend some time and some of the money he’d made together. I bought a new dress, found him a new suit and booked a table at a place I’d wanted to try for months. I was ready ages before him as usual. He came out of the bedroom, failing to tie his tie and annoyed it was important he do so.

But before I could tie it for him he got that look I had come to know exasperatingly well. The tie went on the floor and he almost ran into the studio. I was going to follow him but he locked the door, which was not uncommon when he was working. I knocked, then banged, then kicked the door, but there was no answer. Livid with him I called his sister and we went out to dinner together. I think I cried through most of the meal.

When I got home it was late, and the door to the studio was open. I could see him standing there staring at what he’d painted, almost entranced. Torn between tearing him off a strip and trying to save something of the day I went to see what had stolen him from me. It was a painting of me. He never painted people, and certainly never me. He said they were too complicated, and somehow never finished. He said he just didn’t know how to start with something he couldn’t understand. But there I was, on the canvas in the very dress I was wearing, each line on my face telling a new story, each shadow and crease making me look real and incredible. I stood there bewildered and he just said “I’m sorry, but tonight you were perfect.”

So no, I don’t think I can say I ever really liked Art. He was difficult, driven, single minded, stressful and even rude. But he was also passionate, talented, insightful and dedicated, and I loved him very much. So I will always miss him.