… and a vast crowd of other people. You can see the line through the water-sheeted window. And that’s at opening time. Two hours later, when I try to retrace my steps for a second look at favourites, the crowd inside the gallery is impenetrable.
I bypass a video setting the scene for the artist’s seasons; his collection of other people’s prints, which he used as a kind of text book; and, more reluctantly, a room full of Japanese prints from the NGV’s archives, although I allow myself to be waylaid by one image.
I manage to steal a march on sequential viewers and I share each painting with maybe five people. Photography is permitted which no doubt riles camera-free viewers, but I don’t feel as if I snaffle more than my share of looking, and I manage to capture the glorious thickness and dexterity of the master’s brushwork without being abused. It’s no wonder people flock. Reproductions don’t begin to do justice to the colour and texture of the originals.
I am surprised to feel an affinity with this man from a different place and period. Every member of my family has at some time made their living from seasonal work so I enjoy his portrayal of potato diggers and reapers as one enjoys a portrayal of the familiar.
He relishes the seasons as I do, especially after my Warsaw experience of a complete northern hemisphere year.
He is most familiar to me when he paints grass and bark: I’m not alone in my pleasure in such things. He says about his own method “I follow no system of brushwork: I hit the canvas with irregular strokes which I leave as they are … The flowers are just little licks of colour.”
I can say, as Van Gogh hoped viewers would, “That man feels deeply, and that man feels subtly.”
This day is my friend’s birthday. We continue celebrations with dinner on the Colonial Tramcar as it cruises the back streets of the city: beautiful food, and a candle and a carriage-full of people singing “Happy birthday” with dessert.