Wednesday, April 11, 2007

THE VILLAGE ART SHOW by Brian Hodgkinson

A noisy, friendly, exuberant day.

A noisy, friendly, exuberant crowd.

The sun streamed down from a glorious sky on to a scene of tumultuous enjoyment in which every person from the entire little town seemed to have gathered.

Among the tumblers, the clowns, the side-shows, and the entertainers moved the villagers, their families, and their friends.

Between the displays, the tables and trestles the pigs and cows, the cocks and hens, the horses and goats all snuffled, lowed, cackled and crowed as they were driven into their allotted places.

Housewives clattered by with baskets of eggs; elders dozed on a bench outside the hostelry; children shrieked and ran amok everywhere, and the randy youths pawed and fondled the teen-aged girls in corners ands behind barns.

Serving girls, run off their feet, carried refreshments hither and thither; serious citizens studied displays of produce and of confectionery; and farmers considered the finer points of their beasts with rarefied deliberation.

The priest himself moved among his flock, beaming with good-will; and scattering benedictions together with alms on this wonderful day.

Mine host, at the door of his public house, and with his face as rosy as the apples tumbling in the fruit bowl, surveyed the scene with beaming satisfaction; and a few of his patrons, already a little the worse for wear, sprawled in the shade beneath the row of trees which sheltered the street.

A better-dressed gentleman, accompanied by his fashionable wife, was studying a small number of paintings which had been set up in a comparatively quiet corner. The hopeful artists looked at him with awe and reverence – a great man from the nearby city had condescended to view their efforts and to make a judgement on their results.

He moved from canvas to canvas, noting the crudely daubed and overcoloured vases of flowers, the badly-illuminated interiors, the sketchy landscapes. He passed over the distorted perspectives of some of the etchings. He sighed and looked at his wife, whose glance betrayed no inkling of her inner feelings.

And then he came to almost the last of the canvases. The shy face of a young teenage painter looked up at him from beside his offering.

The great man looked – and looked – and looked again. Here, on this canvas, was an almost exact representation of the scene before him.

A noisy, friendly and exuberant crowd were celebrating their holiday. Animals were driven along the street, lowing and cackling; small children were running amok between benches and trestles loaded with food and wine; drunkards sprawled on benches outside the inn, and lecherous youths were trying their luck with amorous girls behind the trees.

The gentleman looked at the young artist.

“I have to award you the prize,” he said. “You are sure that this is all your own work?”

The painter nodded shyly.

“If you carry on like this,” pontificated the great man “you have a wonderful future ahead of you. What did you say your name was?”

“Breugel, your honour. Pieter van Breugel.”

Brian Hodgkinson 2006 ©


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