The Secret Life of Paintings

I remember watching this series many years ago, and am only now reading the book that accompanied it.

I remember Pamela Tudor-Craig, whom I subsequently met, as the epitome of English eccentricity: straight back hair, clipped voice, dressed in velvet knickerbockers, imparting diverse knowledge with alacrity! I loved the series - it was my introduction to art: how to look at paintings in depth not simply for their stylistic attributes but for their meaning and for the sense of how they were received by their audience and how they might be received now.

Having read only the first two chapters, several things strike the mind.

The simple observation about the different context in which the paintings were made for (and they are all from the Renaissance) namely private ownership, intimacy, being lived with and their current circumstance hung in a gallery and how that changes how and what we see.

The compelling observation that medieval cathedrals were modeled on castles; and, it is castles that become the abiding analogy for the interior life (not the sacred space of the cathedral or church).

The complexity of allusion in these paintings - personal, historic and symbolic - and how they weave into a whole - the symbolic is as 'real' to this audience as the personal.

The myriad observations spill off the page...It is a wonderful text that lures me on.

I recall too a review programme hosted by George Melly that reviewed the programme and the reaction of the punk writer, Kathy Acker, that dripped with rejection and envy: these multiple spaces within the art she could not/did not see and thus they could not be present. It was an extraordinary performance that splinters in the mind.


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