Auntie Doris’s Great Works of Art: #13 – “Whistler’s Mother” by James McNeill Whistler – 1871


Poor old Whistler. He wasn’t very successful with the  women. There were many reasons for this. For a start he lived with his mother, and she would do anything within her power to prevent him getting cosy with any of the lasses he ever met. Then he had wooden false teeth, because plastic ones hadn’t been invented in those days. Apparently, they didn’t look too bad, but they made him whistle whenever he said anything beginning with ‘S’ So asking Sally or Susan to go for a stroll with him on Sunday never went down too well. And of course, he was more interested in messing about with his paint box than spending time with the opposite sex anyway. Ruddy men and their hobbies.

So while Gus Klimt, Charlie Soulacroix , Fred Leighton, Alf Stevens and the rest of the boys were painting lasses laid out like dogs dinners with all their charms on show, Jimmy Whistler was painting his mother, with her serious face on  and all wrapped up in a long black dress,.

It was her idea to get him to do the painting. “What’s the use of having an artist for a son if you don’t get him to immortalise you in oils?” she said to her friends from the gin palace. She knew exactly how she wanted it done an’all. “I don’t want you mucking it up and making me look ridiculous like you did that Joanna Hifferman, with her hear all over the place, standing on a dead bear. No wonder she packed you in for Gustave Courbert! I shall sit down while you do me, thank you very much, and put my feet on a stool. And you can do me from the side, so I don’t look bog eyed. You always paint people bog eyed when you do them from the front.”

“And another thing… I don’t want you doing all that ruddy whistling while you are painting, either! I want you concentrating on what you are doing!”

Any road.  Even though he said it was a pain in the rear end listening to her going on at him whilst he was doing the painting. Jimmy was happy that the end result brought him recognition in the art world. In fact it was about the only painting he did that anyone outside the art world can remember, and because of it, his ruddy mother is more well known than him.

In fact Jimmy had it tough, because not only was his mother more famous than he was, but also his brother, Willy, was the president of the British Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Association, and did surgery on peoples ears, noses and throats. “I will admit” he used to say, “that my profession is not brain surgery, but it takes a bit more brains painting ruddy pictures does.”

Perhaps Jimmy had the last laugh though, because he outlived both his mother and his brother. After his mother died he even got himself a proper girlfriend Beatrix Godwin, another painter who was over twenty years younger than him. He married her in 1888, but their relationship turned sour after he did a painting of here that made her look bog eyed.

Auntie Doris’s Great Works of Art #12: Michelangelo – The Creation of Adam, 1512

Michelangelo painted this on the ceiling of the Cistern Chapel which is somewhere in Italy. Have you ever painted a ceiling? I had a go when me and Raymond first moved into his mother’s place after the War. It didn’t half make my ruddy neck ache, and all I was doing was painting it white, not anything complicated like putting scenes from the bible all over it.
My Raymond thought that it might be easier to do the job if he tied the brush to the end of a snooker cue, so that he didn’t have to climb up a ladder to reach the ceiling, but then he ended up having to climb the ladder any road, every time he wanted to dip it into the paint pot.
I can’t imagine Michelangelo buggering about like that. But I bet his neck was ruddy well throbbing by the time he had finished his ceiling. Unless he was on strong pain killers. If he was, it might explain some of the weird things that he painted. Like in this picture, why is God sat in something that looks like somebody’s hollowed out innards, with his arm around a woman, and a dozen naked people including some that look like little kiddies? There’s one at the front, with curly hair who looks like he is nuzzling up to God very comfotably. And you can see his arse an all. In fact it looks like God is the only one in the picture who has got any clothes on at all.
And there’s Adam laid out like a Dogs dinner, showing all he’s got. Which isn’t very much by the looks of it. You wouldn’t march an army very far on rations of meat that size, and the vegetables are nothing to write home about either. Mind you, it’s cold in them Italian chapels, so maybe it’s all shrivelled up into his belly. That was usually my Raymond’s excuse any road, although I have to say I never noticed much difference even when we had all three bars on the electric fire.
When I looked at this picture properly, I was surprised that there wasn’t a little bit of electrical spark between God and Adam’s fingers. I think I have seen that “South Bank Show” thing on the television too much. Not that I used to watch it properly, I can’t abide that Melvyn Bragg. He sounds like he’s got something stuck up his nose, and a plumb up his arse an’all. Any road, at the beginning of that programme they used to show the hands out of this picture with a little spark passing between them. That sometimes happens on a dry day, particularly if you have been wearing a cardigan with nylon in the material. My Raymond had one of those, he used to rub a balloon up and down it, and then it would stick to him when he let go of it. He could also hold it over kiddie’s heads and make their hair stand on end. In every really understood what he got out of doing things like that though. And neither did their mothers.
Any road, if you reach out to touch someone in a nylon cardigan on a hot day, sometimes you can get a shock in your finger end, sometimes you actually see a flash, and sometimes it ruddy hurts.
I shouldn’t worry though, it there’s not much chance it would have have happened to God. For a start, Adam isn’t wearing a nylon cardigan. And even if it did somehow happen, one of those ruddy cherubs would have kissed his fingers better. You can tell that they are itching to perform such services for his Almightiness.