The Humble Postcard


An attempt to contain the postcard pile!

According to this talk by Stephen Bayley the most popular postcard purchased at the National Gallery is The Ugly Duchess by Quentin Matsys. Don’t know about you but I find it almost impossible not to scoop up half a dozen postcards as I exit through the gift shop of an exhibition. Of course, I have an excuse. The postcard mobile, which twirls and dangles my latest art obsession, is in need of a constant supply of fresh material.

The other day out from The Children’s Book tumbled “Early spring wave at Slaughden.” Can it really have been nearly five years ago that I heard and saw Maggi Hambling at the Fitz?

Incredibly I don’t have any system for cataloguing and keeping these momentos in a systematic way. Instead they are randomly abandoned in books, pinned to the fridge for a moment in the limelight or positioned in the ever-growing piles of inspirational bits and pieces.

Then there are the ones which come into your life from others: the good wishes, birthday greetings and “just wanted to get in touch” images. I have just found a card from 2008, written in the final months of life, from someone who made a huge difference to my life. A tangible part of that person still with me today.

So as I rifle through lots of Rodin, some ha-ha Heath Robinson, the abstract images of Pawson, the sea of Wallis and the black and yellow vase of Aitchison…along with the obligatory Moore, a compelling Dumas and the very recent Malevich I’m remembering events, people and great art. I am also struck by the very real  give and take of interest and influence – a stark human face emerging altered yet familiar in my work now, the curve of form entered through the eye as a muscle memory today. Perhaps there is more value in those forgotten postcards than we care to acknowledge.


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