It was reader (and old friend and colleague) Jim who gave me the wonderful phrase “non-buyer’s remorse,” way back in May 2013 when I wrote about how annoyed I was with myself for not having swooped down in time on a vintage board game from my Manse childhood that I’d seen offered for sale. (That post is here, if you’re inclined to revisit it.) I thank Jim so much, because that concise little phrase so perfectly sums up the feeling you get when in a shop – usually, in my case, a collectibles shop or antiques barn – you see something you are intrigued by, then decide the sensible thing to do is not to buy it, and then regret that stupid decision ever after.
Despite my full knowledge that the way to avoid suffering the pangs of non-buyer’s remorse is to follow another, equally apt, adage – to wit, “If you see something you really like, buy it” (unspoken postscript being “or you’ll be sorry”) – I did it yet again not long ago. What a dope!
As soon as I crossed its threshold, something caught my eye. It was a reproduction of an oil painting, tallish (20″ or so) and narrow (7″ or so). It could only be described as a) tacky and b) an apparently unabashed imitation of the midcentury “Big Eyes” paintings of Margaret Keane. The Big Eyes paintings have been in the news lately thanks to a movie of that name by Tim Burton about the crazy fact that for many years Keane’s husband, Walter Keane, claimed (falsely) that he had painted those odd but popular pictures.
The print at The Vintage Booth was of a little blonde skater wearing a navy-blue costume with white fur trim and a white fur muff. She did indeed have big eyes, but not as big as those hauntingly weird ones in Margaret Keane’s paintings. And I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
It wasn’t the artistic merit (which was extremely dubious in any case) of the picture that caught my attention; it was its familiarity.
I couldn’t imagine that my dad and mum – not exactly arbiters of high art, but far from black-velvet-Elvis-painting-types either – would ever have adorned a wall of the Manse with such a picture in the years when I was growing up here. And yet – I’d seen that picture somewhere before; and had not just seen it, but spent a lot of time with it. I knew that picture. Perhaps it had been hung for a time, early in our Manse years, in the bedroom that my sister, Melanie, and I shared? Maybe we even chose it for the wall, when we were very young girls?
As I think about it now, I am pretty sure that, wherever this print hung, there was a companion picture. And since the words “Robin Hood” have unexpectedly popped into my head, I kind of think it might have been this one, conveniently found on the internet:
Or, actually, maybe it was this one? (Not Robin Hood-ish, but oddly familiar.)
I don’t know – the memory of all of this is so misty and so vague. I am sure I would never have thought of these paintings again in my whole life had I not seen the skater with the muff in Tweed that day.
I don’t remember how much the genial proprietor of The Vintage Booth was asking for the picture – maybe $20? – but I told myself it was too much to spend on a whimsy, and a cheesy whimsy at that. And I left the store without it.
Stupid stupid stupid!
I realized my mistake shortly afterward. I kept thinking about that strange, and tacky, and kind of sweet picture, and how it had been a half-memory for me – and wishing I’d forked over the 20 bucks so I could look at it whenever I wanted, and maybe figure out why I remembered it.
A couple of Saturdays later, when Raymond and I were in Tweed again, I couldn’t get to The Vintage Booth fast enough. I had my money in my pocket and was ready to grab the skater with the white muff.
And of course it was gone. Argh! What’s that I hear you saying? Ah yes: “If you see something you really like, buy it.”
However, this tale has a happy ending, thanks once again to my friend the internet. That same evening, on a whim, I googled something along the lines of “skater with white muff big eyes painting,” and instantly several images came up. I learned that these paintings – there are lots more besides the skater, including a whole series of big-eyed girls in harlequin outfits – were done by someone named Eden, and that nobody seems to know who that person actually was. I learned that it wasn’t too hard to find such prints for sale, at places like Etsy for instance. And best of all, I learned that a print of the skater with the muff was being offered on eBay, with about 12 minutes left in the bidding! Great timing on my part, even if it was sheer dumb luck.
Long story short: for the reasonable price of $11.50 U.S. (plus shipping), I am now the proud owner of a copy of the skater-with-muff painting. It hasn’t yet arrived at the Manse, but it will.
What I’ll do with it when it does, I am not exactly sure. Let’s just say it will not be displayed in a prominent place where visitors might see it and think I know even less about art than I actually do.
But one thing I am sure of: I showed that particular case of non-buyer’s remorse who was boss!