Years ago, when I was a young lad at university, I worked for a bloke named Philip Jones – writer, poet, actor and bookseller. He was a real gentleman who had an extraordinary circle of friends. When I first met Philip, he was importing art cards from galleries around the world and sold them into bookshops in Australia. I knew virtually nothing of art being quite ignorant of the paintings from Australian artists that adorned his walls.
After a couple of months of part time work he was moving house and wanted me to look after one of his paintings for a couple of weeks. He explained that it was a very special painting and I was to take good care of it. I said sure – no problem. I didn’t know anything about the painting and surmised that if he wanted me to take care of it then it can’t have been that good or valuable.
So I helped him out and we hung this huge piece of art in my dingy little rented apartment in Melbourne. Shortly thereafter I had a visit from a learned friend who was wise to the world of many things artistic and was astonished at this massive work of art. “That’s an Arthur Boyd!” he exclaimed. I said “Arthur who?”
So I learnt that Arthur Boyd was one of Australia’s leading painters. And not only that, ‘Nude With Beast’ hanging on my wall was from the famous The Bride series – considered his best work. (Paintings in this series have recently fetched more than $1 million). I am still quite perplexed as to why Philip would nominate me as the minder for this wonderful piece of art and not explain it’s value. But he was quite eccentric.
Philips art cards were lovely and over the years I have visited all the galleries that they represented. It was a joy to recognise the paintings I had once sold in miniature. One such painting, ‘The Wheatfield’ by Raoul Dufy, didn’t look much in card form (very cartoonish) but in the Tate in London it looked magnificent.
Many years later, before he passed away, Philip bequeathed his ‘Nude With Beast’ to the National Gallery of Victoria.
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