Every Christmas I buy Mrs Tin a calendar for the kitchen wall (wow, you’re thinking, and I know, but she’s worth it). She turns over the page at the start of each month and fills the little day-boxes with birthdays, upcoming events and all the other administration required to run the Tinhouse.
This year’s calendar features twelve paintings by Monet, and to be honest they’ve been something of a disappointment, until this months:
It called the Blue Row Boat, painted in 1887, and it caught my attention as I was sleepily making tea in front of it on Saturday morning. I reckoned that I could make a story out of it, exploring how the ladies had managed to climb into the boat in those dresses, why there were no oars, what mishap had befallen them that had led to them having seaweed on their hats, and how the lady at the rear of the boat had apparently caught a fish with her bare hands.
Take a photo of the calendar, I thought. Don’t bother, I thought half a second later, just take the picture off the internet. So I went to the room I write in and googled Blue Row Boat, stared at my screen for a few confused seconds, then went back out to the kitchen to look at the picture again. Just to be sure.
The kitchen picture you have seen, but this is what is on the internet:
It is on numerous websites, including https://www.claudemonetgallery.org/, who you have to presume know what they are talking about.
So it looks as though our picture is the wrong way round, and perhaps they have made similar errors on other calendars, that somewhere there is a Van Gogh calendar showing him missing the wrong ear.
Perhaps not, though. Investigation showed that none of the other pictures in our calendar are the other way round, so what if this is another painting altogether, painted later the same day?
After all, Monet would have engaged the models for the whole day, so why not make use of them? Why not do a series, telling a story? Why not, at the very least, do a second one in case you drop jam on the first one on the way home?
This second picture might be called The Girls On Their Way Back To The Riverbank, or Les Filles Sur Le Chemin Du Retour Au Bord De La Rivière, as Monet would have called it (Google Translate has been a Godsend to this blog, expect a whole post soon in Norwegian), depicting their damp, dispirited return to dry land.
And maybe there are others, by other artists, their least-liked ones of a series, the artistic equivalent of Non-Favourite Child. Maybe there’s a Two Hours After The Birth Of Venus, where she is now clothed and being visited by adoring grandparents. Maybe there is a Morninghawks, with the iconic loners replaced by dawn joggers ordering smoothies. Maybe there is a Tidying Up After The Last Supper.
Maybe, somewhere, there is a Mona Lisa Goes Home, showing just the back of her head as she walks off into the Tuscan sunset.