The Art Critic
The Art Critic
‘In the name of all that’s holy, please tell me you’re not going to try and sell that.’
We are in Camilla’s conservatory, or as she likes to call it, the orangery. Not that there’s an orange to be seen anywhere. She has balanced her latest painting on one of the wicker chairs and asked me for my opinion. She’s asked it many times before and each time I have found the embarrassment more consuming than the one previous. I was not surprised my opening critique had not dampened her enthusiasm. She leant lightly against the side of the painting, letting her arm drape seductively across the top of the frame.
‘But I think it’s wonderful. All my friends say they love it.’
‘And have any of your friends offered to buy it?’ I had to ask.
‘Oh Anders, even for a boring old art critic you’re so funny,’ she laughs. It’s a high-pitched tinkle of a laugh, rather like the sound my neighbour’s windchimes used to make, until the night I stole them and threw them out with the recycling. ‘None of my friends have any money. They’re all resource rich and cash poor. You’re the only one I know with any money but you’re too tight fisted to part with it.’
‘Or eminently sensible,’ I said. ‘Camilla, it’s absolute, total, undeniable, incontrovertible rubbish. You can’t possibly believe it’s any good.’ Alas, I knew fine well that she could. It was the result of immersing herself in a sea of friends who were afraid of telling her the truth. Their cowardly dishonesty was petrol to the fire of her delusion, and at that moment the flames were high. Honesty, my honesty at least, far from dousing those flames, could only elicit a hangdog pout.
‘Oh, you’re such a misery puss. What’s wrong with it?’
‘Well to begin with, it’s a wonderful subject, and the palette you’ve used is so bright and vibrant. It’s a very…happy painting.’
Camilla clapped her hands together in delight.
‘See. That’s exactly what my friends said. I knew you liked it really. Oh you’re such a tease.’
She leapt across tiled floor, threw her arms around my neck and kissed me lightly on the cheek. For a moment the only things registering in my brain where the smell of her perfume and the warmth of her body pressing lightly against mine. I found my hands resting on her hips, and my resolve to be honest with her, in need of some selfless reinforcement.
‘The thing is Camilla, it’s a painting of a tree.’
‘I know,’ she swooned. ‘Isn’t it just gorgeous.’
‘But it doesn’t look like a tree.’
Camilla’s arms were still draped around my neck and her face close to mine. I could smell the champagne and strawberries on her breath when she spoke.
‘Oh you silly boy. No one paints things to look like what they are any more.’
‘And the colours. It looks like it’s been done with undiluted poster paints.’
‘I know,’ she said. ‘Aren’t they so vibrant.’
The sensible and most honest thing I could have done would have been to tell her it looked like something a proud parent might hang on a fridge door – but I didn’t.
The next most sensible and honest thing I could have done would have been to unhook her arms from my neck and take a gentlemanly step back – only I didn’t do that either. Instead I let her kiss me again and again while she pressed her body harder against mine.
An hour or so later, I arrived home with a childish painting of a tree lying on the rear seat and a bank balance two hundred pounds lighter. I placed the painting in the cupboard under the stairs, along with the rest of Camilla’s paintings. Camilla, I thought, you may be a lousy painter but you sure know how to get things sold.