Portraits of Insane Women

Warren was appalled at the poor quality of the hang. The schools of Sienna, Arezzo and Florence were chaotically jumbled together and ascribed in slap dash fashion to Ducio, Cimabue, Giotto, to say nothing of the misleading issues around Margaritone d’Arezzo himself – a painter who sickened and died of disgust at the successful innovations of Giotto on Byzantine conventions.

He found no fulfilment in the art, but he spotted an interesting woman; slim, somewhere in her thirties, and with ginger hair, which made her seem more attainable. Her nose was small and turned up at the end. He decided to make his move in the photography section where she was narrowing her eyes in intense concentration before a landscape by Gustav Legney.

Warren imagined their gazes as beams of torchlight mingling at the point of intersection in front of the photograph and felt suddenly exposed and tiny. Words swelled like a bubble in his chest, and he thought he would never free them. Then he remembered the advice in the book: make an observation that offers a glimpse into your feelings about the art, then reveal something personal about yourself, such as the picture reminds you of a place you holidayed when you were small. Childhood memories are safer than those involving previous partners.

Instead, Warren blurted, ‘Did you realise that the sky and sea parts of this image would have had to be exposed completely separately then stitched together to make the final piece?’ adding quickly, ‘It reminds me of my father, somehow.’

The woman pressed her lips together and widened her eyes, nodding slowly. ‘Did your father expose himself?’

‘Expose himself? No, no.’

She broke out in squeaking little laughter ‘No, I didn’t mean – I’m sorry. I mean did he expose pictures? Was he a photographer?’

‘No, he was a grocer, and never owned a camera. He had two ways of looking at everything, and then kind of stuck them together to form one point of view. I’m Warren by the way.’

‘I’m Becky.’

Becky looked at Warren’s face, then down to his shoes, which must have confirmed something; she made a darting fish movement with her hand and a whoosh sound with her mouth indicating they should overtake the couple in front and move on to the next picture, an image by Rylander entitled Two Ways of Life.

Warren and the woman were looking at art together. They were behaving like a couple. This was easy.

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