Showing posts with label posthumous pleasure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label posthumous pleasure. Show all posts

8 Sep 2016

Picture at the Top of the Stairs

Perhaps not surprisingly, my mother doesn't remember where, when, or even why she came into possession of the above print by 20thC French landscape painter Georges Robin. All she knows is that she's had it since her early married days - perhaps it was even a wedding gift - and that it has hung on the landing for over sixty years.

As a painting, with its lovely soft colours, it has a simple charm I suppose. But as an object that has hung on the wall at the top of the stairs for my entire life, I loathe it. For, like Lawrence, whilst I'm perfectly happy to regard pictures as a crucial element of interior decoration, I have a problem with "some mediocre thing left over from the past, that hangs on the wall just because we've got it, and it must go somewhere".

And, like Lawrence, I do think it necessary to destroy old things that rob a home of freshness. Spring cleaning isn't enough; it takes more than a good dust and polish to stop a home feeling stale and oppressive. We must actively renew the household, just as we must freshen up our wardrobe from time to time. For a home, says Lawrence, is only a greater garment subject to changing fashions.

Of course, it's not only fashions that change - we change too "in the slow metamorphosis of time" and our homes should reflect this fact; changing as we change. Some things - beds, wardrobes and other items of heavy furniture - might last us for decades, but decorative items, including wall pictures as well as cushions and curtains, should change far more frequently; for it is inevitable that these objects will begin to become stale after a couple of years.

This is particularly important for people who, like the English, spend so much time indoors; "our interiors must live, must change, must have their seasons of fading and renewing, must come alive to fit the new moods, the new sensations, the new selves that come to pass in us with the changing years", writes Lawrence.

He continues: "Dead and dull permanency in the home, dreary sameness, is a form of inertia ... very harmful to the modern nature, which is in a state of flux, sensitive to its surroundings far more than we really know."

And pictures - be they original paintings, prints, posters, or photographs - "are in some way the key to the atmosphere of a room". Leave up drab images and it really doesn't matter how gay the colour of your curtains. The only solution is to burn them - frames and all!  

Having said that, I don't, of course, have the heart to take down the only picture my mother has ever owned; something that must have fascinated and delighted her as a young woman starting married life in a home of her own.

And besides, even dead things can still give a posthumous sentimental pleasure - something which Lawrence undervalues I think, subscribing as he does to a form of inflammatory aesthetic vitalism in which the living moment is everything and nostalgia counts for nothing. 

See: D. H. Lawrence, 'Pictures on the Wall', in Late Essays and Articles, ed. James T. Boulton, (Cambridge University Press, 2004).