77: portraits

I was feeling a little bit sad. One of those days when you feel slightly glum and you know that it’s passing but you feel unaccountably close to tears. Both my flatmates are away, and a lot of my friends are too. Lonely and sad with no one to play with. One of those days.

Aw poor me! And so, inbetween having a lovely chat with FF at lunchtime and then a long phone call with N who’s getting married in less than a week, I took myself out to make myself feel better. Got on the 88 bus, over Vauxhall Bridge, behind the Tate Britain, past Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square and visited the National Portrait Gallery. I’ve only been for exhibitions so I went to see the permanent collection.

Walls and walls of faces and heads, some smiling, some austere, some knowing. There are people in there who I’ve never heard of and people who are extremely famous. Going back centuries are portraits of people whose lives had a direct effect on the way we live our lives now. It was fascinating. I wondered what you would have to do to have a portrait of yourself in the gallery now. How strange it would be to have thousands of people stare at your face, captured for one moment on canvas, for years after you are dead, your legacy and lifetime staring down through the decades?

Lots of the paintings of people included an object that worked as a clue to tell you what the person in the frame did or meant. Sometimes they were obvious, and sometimes I imagined they must have had personal significance. I wondered, if someone was painting a portrait of me, what object they would include to signify what I do or mean? I have no idea!

I do love art galleries – when and where would you ever have thoughts or questions like those otherwise? Downstairs they are currently showing the entrants to the BP Portrait Award. These are my favourites and I’ve only just realised that they all look fairly reflective, so perhaps if I visited again other, happier looking portraits would spring out to me. But the last one won a prize, so I must have liked that one at least for a reason beyond my pensive mood!


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