01 Feb I COULDN’T BELIEVE MY EYES
I was very proud and pleased to be elected as the Grand Poobah of the Ancient and Loyal Order of Wildebeast. It was 1962 and the lodge was in its first year.
When the portrait was proposed, I felt very humble and exalted at the same time. The position was just a job for me, albeit a very important one, but just a job.
The artist was the second cousin of the treasurer and had recently graduated from the Royal College of Modernistic Art. This was to be his first commission.
The initial meeting was for him to get the measure of my shape and poise. He asked me how I envisaged the portrait I said that I wanted to be seated, slightly sideways and looking at the horizon in an interesting way as a noble looking Wildebeast would. Set against a backdrop of something new and contemporary which would mark the era when I was Poobah. I was to be dressed in the official robes and regalia of the office that I held. That image would then be immortalised on the wall of the lodge this was the first painting of the Poobah and I felt honoured.
The first sitting was very brief he just wanted to get the pose and perspective of the whole scene correct. The canvas was on an easel and when he’d finished he covered it with a sheet he only wanted the painting to be seen when it was completed.
There were not that many sittings but one was strange when he measured my nose and ears making many notes and sketches. I was looking forward to dressing in full ceremonial dress for what I presumed would be the final touch. Enquiring when that would be, he told me that he had photos of the uniform and would work from them.
The weeks went by very slowly it seemed, how long did it take to produce a portrait? The truth was I didn’t know but I was sure that he wouldn’t reveal my picture until he was satisfied with it himself.
Finally the big day came, there was to be a formal lunch at the lodge, followed by the official unveiling of my portrait. It was a very convivial affair and much alcohol was consumed. After lunch everybody gathered around the veiled canvas, with a drink in their hands. A short speech by the treasurer was followed by the unveiling of the work of art. We waited with bated breath as he pulled the gold coloured cord and the maroon velvet cover dropped to the floor.
SILENCE! Every single person in the room was struck dumb.
Before them was a picture of a seated Wildebeast in full ceremonial regalia against a backdrop of Campbells Soup cans ‘a la Andy Warhol.’ The labels on the cans were proudly displaying the contents as GNU SOUP.
The Wildebeast was casually seated with one leg crossed over the other, hooves and horns were polished shiny black, and he was looking to the horizon in an interesting way.
But his face was MY face cleverly distorted to fit the shape of the Wildebeast’s head. A closer inspection revealed my chin, my mouth, an elongated version of my nose and my ears standing out proudly from the top of its head. But I couldn’t BELIEVE my eyes!
558 words Michael White 2020