Saturday, 2 October 2010

Moths can be art critics too


There is a moth called the Pod Lover, albeit never seen by me. Now I nominate this overnight visitor (above) as the Art Lover, because it had the nous to settle on this copy of an oil painting when I decanted the eggboxes in our kitchen, safe from the rain. It's a distinguished portrait because the painter was Nick Penny, now head of the National Gallery. We were schoolboys together in Shrewsbury where an exhibition including this picture opens next week. The subject is another of our 17-year-old contemporaries, Ron Smith, who was a talented and original artist like Nick. I didn't know him well and long ago lost touch, but the expression is how I recall him; an outsider and never seeming quite at ease.

The exhibition is launched on 9 October at Shrewsbury School's art building; I'm not entirely sure how generally open it is, but in my day the place welcomed all and sundry, as indeed it should, given its wonderful facilities and grounds, in which we frolicked happily all those years ago. One of those involved is John Alford, a fine painter himself who with Arthur Broadbent, a wonderful Irishman with a past career in wartime camouflage, ran an inspirational art department in the 1960s. Quite apart from their teaching, including Arthur's slides of outstanding European buildings which were almost all obscured by his Morris Traveller, their art school was a sort of independent republic. A basement window was never locked and much-used to escape Cadet Force and similar nonsense. I cannot prove that this negligence was deliberate but have no doubts myself.

And the moth? I'm pretty sure that it's a Common Quaker (but see PS below). Less distinguished than its lined relations in the previous post, but trim. Its main flight season is March-May but small numbers emerge in mild autumns, and it's mild now (though soaking). Talking of which, I surprised this vast amphibian (below) outside our back door while setting the trap. It's toadlike in size but froglike in shape. Could it be a late, mild autumn pregnancy? Another question: why on earth have we got the hosepipe out in current conditions? I haven't the slightest idea.


PS Dean has put me right in Comments. It's a Yellow-lined Quaker after all. Sorry.

6 comments:

Dean said...

Hi Martin. Your moth is a Yellow-line Quaker. Never heard of Common Q emerging before late winter/early spring.

MartinWainwright said...

Oops sorry. It says in Waring & T that they sometimes do, but I'm more than happy to accept your correction. This is probably the archetype of the kind of moths I find so hard to identify - small, brown and variable, with (to me at least) so many potential candidates. I'll amend. All best M

MartinWainwright said...

PS - Dean, it is a frog isn't it? Or is it a toad?

MartinWainwright said...

PS - Dean, it is a frog isn't it? Or is it a toad?

Dean said...

Frog :-)

Brother Tobias said...

I remember this portrait, without the moth, but was too far away to take advantage of the basement window. Against the odds Arthur Broadbent left me with unexpected residual skills; I’ve been known to bind the odd book and could probably, faced with a sudden need, compose letterpress or throw a pot. I heard from John Alford this week; he is painting daily in a studio in town which is, he says, the best he’s ever had.