WAUGH IN WINE



Peter Harris, an outrageously talented painter I knew when I lived in London in the '90s, has been painting portraits of musicians and artists in wine. I asked if Peter would do a painting of Evelyn Waugh for me and he said he'd be delighted. I sent him images from a photo session that took place in 1930, and also a portrait of him taken late on in life.

A week later I noticed this on Facebook. So I immediately responded to it as you can just about read.

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Actually, let me reproduce these comments so that you can more easily read them:

"I've got a motor-car and a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Chateau Peyraguey - which isn't a wine you've ever tasted, so don't pretend. It's heaven with strawberries." Sebastian Flyte to Charles Ryder, opening pages of 'Brideshead Revisited'.

'After dinner I went to the savoy Theatre and said "I am Evelyn Waugh. Please give me. a seat." So they did.' Evelyn's diary 26 May 1930

'A delightful day. There was one row. Randolph Churchill threw a cocktail in Wanda's face. I came up after it had happened and made things no better by saying, "Dear Wanda, how hot you look."' Evelyn's diary, 15 June 1930

'I forgot to say that at this party John Betjeman said, "Yes, I noticed a cocktail in Wanda's face."' Evelyn's diary, 16 June, 1930

'I enjoyed the party, became very drunk and fought Randolph in the servants' hall. Olivia very drunk. All the usual people were there.' Evelyn's diary, 27 June, 1930

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"White's 7pm. I sit alone in the hall. A member known to me by sight but not by name said: "Why are you alone?" "Because no-one wants to speak to me." "I can tell you exactly why; because you sit there on your arse looking like a stuck pig."' Waugh's diary, 14 March 1962.


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This morning (26 May, 2020) the actual paintings have arrived in the post, so I've been having a field day. A few minutes ago, I emailed Peter as follows:

Hi Peter,

Your paintings came this morning. Thanks so much.

To begin with (a couple of weeks ago) I thought they would be painted in wine. My partner insisted that it would be watercolour, so I believed her. But now I understand that they are indeed painted with wine. Fabulous. What vintage? Something for about £6 out of a supermarket? Or did you splash out? A wine that has a particularly subtle or savage stain?

I've taken a few pics in case the beauties fade on me. And I’ve looked up a vintage passage of
Brideshead for your delectation. So here goes:

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Wilcox welcomed our interest; we had bottles brought up from every bin, and it was during those tranquil evenings with Sebastian that I first made a serious acquaintance with wine and sowed the seed of that rich harvest which was to be my stay in many barren years. We would sit, he and I, in the Painted Parlour with three bottles open on the table and three glasses before each of us; Sebastian had found a book on wine-tasting and we followed its instructions in detail. We warmed the glass slightly at a candle, filled a third of it, swirled the wine round, nursed it in our hands, held it to the light, breathed it, sipped it, filled our mouths with it and rolled it over the tongue, ringing it on the palate like a coin on a counter, tilted our heads back and let it trickle down the throat. Then we talked of it and nibbled Bath Oliver biscuits, and passed on to another wine; then back to the first, then on to another, until all three were in circulation and the order of the glasses got confused, and we fell out over which was which, and we passed the glasses to and fro between us until there were six glasses, some of them with mixed wines in them which we had filled from the wrong bottle, till we were obliged to start again with three clean glasses each, and the bottles were empty and our praise of them wilder and more exotic.

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'"...It is a shy little wine like a gazelle."
"Like a leprechaun."
"Dappled, in a tapestry meadow."
"Like a flute by still water.”
"...And this is a wise old wine.”

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"A prophet in a cave."
"...And this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck."
"Like a swan."
"Like the last unicorn.”
And we would leave the golden candlelight of the dining room for the star-light outside and sit on the edge of the fountain, cooling our hands in the water and listening drunkenly to its splash and gurgle over the rocks.

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“Ought we to be drunk every night?” Sebastian asked one morning.

“Yes, I think so.”

“I think so too.”

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I’ll make a new page out of this and my facebook post and upload to my Waugh site. Will give you the link when it’s done.

Cheers from your old drinking buddy,

Duncan x


Note
I can't say for sure, but if anyone else would like a painting of Evelyn Waugh in wine, I suspect Peter would do it for you. Use the link below to contact me and I'll put you in touch with the maestro. He's warned me that the wine will fade and/or go brown unless protected from light. So that means putting the paintings behind UV glass.