First and last!

Forty nine years ago, a young PhD student was writing up his research into a thesis to be presented to a board of examiners at the University of London. The poor guy was getting tired of all this writing and wondered what he could do for a change, if only to give the thesis a rest for a week or so.

He came up with a number of ideas. He would read some books. He loved reading and had recently read a number of Russian classics. No, he’d also read enough scientific papers to satisfy his reading needs. He would build something out of wood. He liked woodwork at school. No, that would be too much like building a scientific experiment and he’d done enough of that over the last few years.

He would try his hand at oil painting. What an interesting thought. So he went out and bought himself some oil paints, a palette and an easel. He set it all up and asked himself, what would he paint? One of his favourite and much loved composers was Gustav Mahler. His second and fifth symphonies were the student’s most adored. So for his first painting would be a portrait, taken from a record cover, of Mahler. After many changes of shading, colouring, and a sigh of relief, he finished the painting.

Forty nine years later, he took the painting to a framing shop and had it framed. And here it is!

Gustav Mahler, from a well know picture

That student was me and I’ve never painted another picture since. But finishing it was not the end of the story. My dear Mum saw it and couldn’t believe I had painted it. Eventually I convinced her. So having never as much as lifted a paint brush in her life before, she took up painting, in oils and watercolours. She did hundreds and used to sell them from a stall in the Winter Gardens in Bournemouth.

I suppose the moral of this tale is not only is it never too late to learn but you can even discover a latent skill you may have from your off-spring!


4 thoughts on “First and last!

  1. Wow Gordon, what an amazing story and an even more amazing painting! It’s a great portrait and I cannot believe that it’s your only work of art using brushes. I totally agree that it’s never being too late to learn new skills, like us becoming writers as senior citizens. It would not at all surprise me if you were to reveal that you’ve a symphony or two tucked away in a drawer somewhere! You’ll now have to amend your heading to Gordon L Thomas, Author, Scientist and Painter!!

  2. It’s true, John, I did start another portrait: believe it or not, of Bruckner, but I became so pre-occupied by the physics research that I abandoned it. In fact I binned it! And there are no symphonies, I promise you! But I have recently unearthed my Kaplan facsimile of the score of Mahler 2. I’m going to ask Sotheby’s if they’d be interested in selling it. I reckon it’s worth £10k or even more. It’s in perfect, unblemished condition. I’ll probably write a blog on it!

  3. What hidden talents, Gordon! You should have kept up the art, yourself. I love the picture. I also love Mahler’s music. His sixth symphony was one of the first concerts I heard at the Royal Albert Hall proms …from a friend’s box no less!

    1. Thank you so much, Lorri! Maybe I should have kept it going….but I took to writing instead. Needless to say, I am a lover of Mahler’s music too. I and a few friends are going to a performance of the 6th at the Royal College of Music on 9 March. Should be good!

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