Monday, 5 June 2017

Varnishing Day

One of the curious benefits of getting work accepted into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (did I mention that?)  is that you become a temporary member of an exclusive club. I believe one of the signifiers of establishment status has always been the number of gold-embossed invitation cards one has on display on one's mantelpiece, dontcha know. Well, I now have one, requesting the honour of my company (not pleasure, mark you, but honour) at the Royal Academy's Varnishing Day. Which was today.

I did think about going, but when I awoke to stormy winds and driving rain this morning, it felt more appropriate to be at home keeping an eye on our newly-repaired roof, rather than hustling up to London and back just for a two-hour reception at midday. Not to mention getting the extra hour in bed. A shame, really, as I'd quite fancied getting within selfie-distance of any number of my art heroes who happen to be RAs. If nothing else, it would have been an easy blog post, and I could have made some feeble joke about the "varnishing point" in linear perspective. But never mind, the private view happens this coming weekend, and I'm not going to miss that, whatever the weather.

I have been surprised, however, by how many people have asked, "What the hell is Varnishing Day?", as I had thought it was quite well-known, famous even, as the day when exhibitors at the RA Summer Show would get together and put the finishing touches to their work, and add a final coat of varnish. Most famously of all, it was on Varnishing Day 1832 when J.M.W. Turner – having found his own seascape hung next to and upstaged by the reds in John Constable's "Opening of Waterloo Bridge" – added a red buoy to the painting. "He has been here, and fired a gun!", grumbled Constable.

It was well worth being at home, however, as I was able to take delivery of a book order from the Czech Republic (Josef Sudek's Smutna Krajina / Sad Landscape) which arrived in a sack. Not a mailing bag, but an official Poste Tcheque sack made of close-woven nylon fabric, measuring about 110cm by 70cm, and tied off with an official cable tie. Perhaps a lot of potatoes get put in the mail over there. Whatever, the Parcel Force guy looked as baffled as me as he handed it over. The book I found inside is great, however, even if it does only measure 34cm x 23cm. And I'm sure I'll find a use for the sack, too.

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