Tuesday, 12 October 2010

How paintings can evoke memories

Are there paintings that you've looked at that remind you of certain times, places or people? I know photos and music can do that so easily but have you ever had that with a work of art?

I've spent the day today with 40 Yr10 students visiting The National Gallery and The National Portrait Gallery. (We had a great gallery talk in The National and plenty of sketching time in the Portrait Gallery too....and I'm back there again tomorrow with another 40 kids for round 2!) However while I was in the Portrait Gallery this morning I had a 'blast from the past' moment with this painting of Sir Christopher Ondaatje by Daphne Todd. 

Now most people will say "who?" and be completely baffled but I was transported back to 1999 and my 1st job after uni at Blundell's School, Tiverton, Devon where I worked as their Theatre Manager/Administrator/Teacher in the school theatre called.....Ondaatje Hall (excuse the teeny tiny picture, it was the best i could find online!). I doubt it was the painting I saw today but there was a portrait of Christopher Ondaatje hanging in the theatre foyer for us to walk past every day and it was one that I often found myself looking at and seeing more and more in it and enjoying the painting style. 

So how come the school had a building named after the man who also donated money to build the Ondaatje Wing at the National Portrait Gallery? Well he was an old boy of the school and after a hugely successful career in finance/ publishing donated a large sum of money to build an arts centre at the school.....now this is the kid of former students I could do with in my dept!!! He also made some slightly strange stipulations about the design of the building though - a tower, a spiral staircase and a balcony needed to be in the building with the theatre, drama room, art history room and art studios. Now I guess if you are donating money you can make any design stipulations that you like but in this case it actually made for interesting architecture....although the meeting room balcony that opened up to a view of the theatre foyer was a little on the pointless side of things!

In my year at the school I got to meet the man himself when he came to give a talk with the National Geographic Society in my theatre and I didn't need to be introduced to him to recongise him. He was exactly like his portrait, very tall, kind of willowy in build but with a grand status kind of aura. If you take a close look at the portrait I think you'll see what I mean too.

So what paintings or music bring back happy memories for you?

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