Memory of a Painting: Child With A Dove

Nostalgia is a potent emotion, eeking out regrets and yearnings, lost loves and past triumphs, especially when looking back to a time of childhood innocence when your world was simple, eternal and seeming blissfully free of limitations. Memories of childhood can be sparked by the smallest of stimuli: the scent of suncream from beach holidays, a snippet from children’s television as you flick through the channels, or going back to a place you used to live. So when I saw that ‘Child With a Dove’ was likely being moved to Quatar next month I was moved to a point of tears, a plethora of memories and regrets came back to me seeing that image. That pang came over me firstly for the reason that such a beautiful painting by such a loved artist should be going so far over seas, that the money hadn’t been raised to keep it here, but mostly because for me that painting encapsulates memories from my first decade of life.

I didn’t know until today that the painting was by Picasso, even though I went to a retrospective exhibition of Matisse & Picasso at The Tate Modern a number of years ago and still flick through the catalogue. I must have watched numerous documentaries, read uncountable numbers of articles about the artist and yet still for me that painting has only one location and existence: my bedroom at my Grandparents’ former home. Framed on the wall by my futon-bed, was a print of ‘Child With a Dove’. I haven’t seen the painting or that room for over ten years, my Granddad who loved the painting and who was a sculptor passed away long before that and my Grannie followed a number of years later. In that room, with my ‘Princess Bed’, always without a duvet but pale pink sheets the same colour as the soap in the bathroom and a cream rug on top, I had fallen asleep as a child looking at the print. I had rummaged through my Grannie’s desk, always discovering the undoubtably most interesting draws locked and finding her stamps, address book and Abbey National account books nonsensically fascinating. Looking at the painting now I can remember days going out to the Lido; to arts and crafts shops to peruse and buy stickers, card and stamps; walks to the golf course searching for golf balls in the scrub to sell for charity; trying out my new micro-scooter on the slight incline outside the house and spotting deer tracks in the dewy morning grass …

The safety of the dove held gently in the hands of the little boy in the painting is just the feeling of security I had going to that house carefully held onto by loving family, the colourful and yet subdued beach ball is all the times I played in the garden and the white dove is the purity of my childhood without inhibitions or responsibility. I look into the gaze of that little child and see my younger self.

What reminds you of childhood? Or a particular time in your past? Is there a picture, a song or a place that brings back memories for you?