Short visit to Aberdeen last week, the Granite City, solidly grey and clean; a monumental city. On Saturday morning, delicious breakfast at the guest house: kippers and poached eggs with my favourite, Aberdeen butteries (I bought over a dozen to take home with me and they quickly disappeared). Then, visit to the Aberdeen Art Gallery, planning to work in shifts with my wife to look after our toddler, so we can both enjoy some time taking in the artwork. Our dear little son wants to explore alone, be independent. Reins are very useful, it appears that he doesn’t mind wearing them and it saves him knocking down a marble bust or running into another visitor.
Is he too small to be at the art gallery? Well, he seems to enjoy looking around and noticing dogs, birds and other children in the paintings. He always wants to do what his parents do. He observes me painting and sometimes he just sits on my lap while I do. He fiddles with my brushes and has a go too. A 19 month old boy who just doesn’t miss a thing. I hung a new self-portrait in the living-room a few days ago, and my son points at it, looks at me and then asks: papa? That is a very good sign. It seems I got the likeness right.
I must have been inquisitive just like him. I do remember my “museum days”. I was only a couple of years older than my son is now. My grandmother Gladys would fetch me and we’d take the bus to Cordoba city centre to visit the art galleries and local museums. I loved the portraits at classic museum Genaro Perez and at the Marquis of Sobremonte historical museum. I was fascinated by the old faces and elaborate dresses of the old colonisers of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata (of which Argentina was then part). The same faces one can see today, walking about the streets of Cordoba.
And here we are, miles away, in Aberdeen, looking at similar features, the images of people who sat for an artist to be painted roughly in the same era, a testimony of the universal character and appeal of portraiture.