Some years ago, taking a group of children round the Tate Gallery in London, I was hurrying them through one room remarking that there was nothing much there, the more interesting pictures were further on, when one child stopped suddenly. “Oh no, don’t go on. There’s a lovely picture over in that corner. Look!”
Her quick eyes had discovered the one picture of note the room contained. It was quite small, a boy’s head sensitively silhouetted against a dark background, the best thing John Opie, a fashionable portrait painter of the late eighteenth century, ever did.
We crowded around and the little girl planted herself in front of it and gazed her fill. “It’s beautiful,” she declared, stoutly and convincingly. “It’s the best picture we’ve seen to-day.” To her it would remain a lovely memory long after all the others had been forgotten. She may even have gone back to look at it as soon as she was old enough to take herself to picture galleries. It is the kind of thing we all do with our first loves among the arts. Actually some time afterwards a few of the more outstanding works of British painters in the Tate Collection were transfered to the National Gallery and, if I remember righty, this picture was among them.
In the end, everything comes round to the person. If we are to be satisfied, we ourselves have to be the doers, the makers of things, even of discoveries, although we may have the wisdom of the centuries to guide us. Every man may not be guided into the same groove, not see things with the same eyes, and it is well that it should be so, for hence comes the interest and variety of everything to which men set their hands.
— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1962, excerpted from Honest Labour
5 thoughts on “Unto This Last”
How very lovely…thank you.
“Unto This Last” is also the name of a set of essays on political economy (and its effects on workers and other people) written by John Ruskin in 1860.
I had a similar experience when I was a kid about a painting in the Cincinnati Museum of Art. I don’t return as often as I’d like but when I do it’s nice to visit it. Thanks for posting this.
Beautiful portrait, interesting gaze, great book!
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