We live in a very visual age, many people carry their pictures constantly in their hand and even take photographs with their mobile phone, often photographs of themselves, a selfie. I grew up in an age when pictures were in very limited supply. Words sparked my imagination; spoken words, words heard on the radio, words written down in a book or magazine. Words were the brush strokes which created a new world. Now we can see the Arctic in its dazzling whiteness, the whales and sea-lions, the gorillas in the jungle, the mountains and the coasts. I love these beautiful pictures. Moving pictures in my own living room, no more standing in a queue waiting for the first house to come out. Television can be and often is magical, it can be repetitive and boring, but I don’t want to talk about that.
Last night was the World Cup of Art programmes, full of surprises and passion and matchless story telling skill. I am a fan of art programmes so I don’t say this lightly. Simon Schama unfolded a story of our fascination with the pictorial representation of ourselves and those we love and of course as in the best stories I felt he was telling it just for me. The explanation of how we try to hold a moment was very movingly done with the lovely portrait of the painter’s two young daughters chasing a butterfly. I have a drawer full of photographs, I expect you do too. Very special are the photographs of my wedding, the beginning of our lives together. I remember feeling nervous such big promises to make, until death us do part, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others. Here we are today 49 years later sharing the ups and downs of daily life.
The most moving portrait was of a much loved young wife who died very suddenly, her distraught husband wanted a picture of her dead body. The painter painted her as if she were sleeping. Schama said it is not a picture of a dead body, when you have lost someone you love, as I have, you know the body is just a shell, the person you loved is no longer there. The eyes will never look at you again, the lips will never smile in that familiar way. The words and the picture came together perfectly.
We all treasure pictures of our children when they were young, on graduation day and hopefully with the next generation of children.