The portrait of me on my wall. It stares down at me. I was 19, in my second year at university, and slept with the painter. Hence my modelling. She used to buy old frames secondhand and then cut the canvas to match. Hence the unusual shape.
The fireplace behind me in the portrait informs me that it was painted in the first-floor front room at 13 Divinity Road, Oxford. Her bedroom. (Mine was the ground-floor back.)
When she exhibited the painting in a gallery near Holland Park, my parents liked it and paid £50 for it! (A bit steep, I remember my mother saying, considering she’s only a student.) The portrait was duly hung in their dining room, where it remained for 23 years.
In 2005 my parents sold the house in London and, rather surprisingly, said: Did I want it back? (Apparently it was no longer required in their Suffolk house.)
I said OK, we’d have it back. The portrait was duly hung in the sitting room of my family home, where it proved a good talking point among the painters who my wife knew.
Fast forward to 2018. I’ve had a stroke, moved out of the family home and set up house 5 minutes away. A van arrives from my previous home, with all my worldly possessions. The portrait is among them. Not required there anymore either. A slightly bittersweet experience, if you’ve never had it.
I hang it on an existing hook, straight across from my bed. Which is why there’s a portrait of myself looking at me.