Unforgotten – Portrait of a Young Girl

Something that became overtly apparent when we were packing up to move is that we have a great deal of everything. Too much. Including pictures. Too many. Oils, water colours, prints and mixed media; landscape, still life, abstract. Although we had no more wall space, for a long time I yearned for a portrait. Not of me, or even of him, just of someone I liked the look of, a fine cut of gib.

Ilfracombe, as many others do, has an annual art trail. Local artists set up temporary exhibitions in their homes, or perhaps collaborate with friends, and invite the general public to view their work and perhaps buy a picture or two. We enjoyed this event. It was a good opportunity to explore corners of the town we hadn’t come across before and have a nosy about in strangers’ houses. Oh yes, and admire the wealth of art this small town has to offer. Whilst on one of these arty meanders we wandered past an artist studio-come-home-come-gallery. This property is adjacent to a set of traffic lights approaching the High Street and I had often admired the paintings in the window as I waited for green to hurry me along. I had never actually seen the door open before so took the opportunity to dangle a foot across the threshold and call “are you on the Trail?” to whoever might be lurking inside. “I’m not, but please come in”, was the reply from the shadows.

As we stood chatting to the owner/artist, Nigel Mason, my eye was caught by a small square painting of a woman. In fact I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The mens’ conversation faded into the background as I studied this bright young face or was it a dark young face, I wasn’t quite sure. Then, without consultation or further ado I asked “How much for that one?”, pointing in her direction. Nigel had a think and pulled a very reasonable price out of the air for our consideration. We checked purses and wallets and offered what we had in cash, which he accepted.

Before we left, carefully wrapped painting in hand, I wondered “Who is she?” And I was surprised by Nigel’s answer. He had painted this picture from a photo he had found of a young Russian woman who was just about to be transported to The Gulag.

I knew exactly where I wanted her to live. In our bedroom, on the wall just above the chest of drawers, the same height as a mirror, so that every day I could look into her eyes and she could look into mine. Who knows what insignificant misdemeanour caused her internment, who knows what horrors she endured, who knows if she ever left her prison? But she lives on, in Nigel’s portrait, in my thoughts and I like to think she won in the end.

8 thoughts on “Unforgotten – Portrait of a Young Girl

  1. This is such a lovely story, tinged with sadness that we will never know how life worked out for her. I’m glad she lives on as a beautiful portrait that you treasure 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. She is beautiful. How you found her makes an interesting story, what a lucky chance. I hope you are settling in well to your new home. Once you start planning your garden you must put in requests for cuttings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe she was a gardener…..Yesterday I listened to an online talk with Janis Ruksans the Latvian Bulb Master and gardeners, I left at the end of the bulb talk, before Janis was asked about his experiences under the Russians. A friend who also watched this wrote this to me thing morning: “…. this is the first time we’ve heard him speak and found his insight into life under Russian dictatorship quite frightening. To be classed as being an intellectual, therefore sent to Siberia, because one was a gardener was horrific.such as he were considered intellectual and could be sent to the gullags.” Great story, it certainly makes us all appreciate how free we are in the current society in UK.

    Liked by 1 person

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