August 30th, 2004

High Culture

High Culture. I hate that phrase. Culture is what people do. It’s a living thing. Start tiptoeing round it and you kill it. An attendant at the National Gallery told Ailz she couldn’t use her mobile on the premises. The art gallery is the new church. Keep the kids under control, turn off your mobile, speak in whispers.

Look at the pictures. Mostly they’re about sex and violence. My mother asked me to explain a Poussin to her. Since it showed nymphs and satyrs wanking, I pretended to be as baffled as she was.

Rembrandt is the Victorian idea of what an Old Master ought to be. He’s pompous, sentimental and humourless and he paints in shades of brown. Most Old Masters are nothing like him, but the contagion of his Protestant righteousness seeps out into all the adjoining galleries.

Reverence and received opinion keep us from seeing what is really there.