In my humble opinion, one of the daftest sayings in the English language is "Don't judge a book by its cover". Essentially, it is very similar to "All that glitters is not gold". Many great books have excellent covers that fit perfectly with the words within. Talented book cover designers strive to make their artistry speak truly for the writer.
I mean, it's not all about marketing and sales. There has to be a degree of integrity too. If you were panning for gold at some remote stream in northern California and you finally saw something glittering in your sieve, it probably would be gold! Same with books. Okay, there may be occasional instances where the book cover and what is within just don't go together but on the whole there's much correlation.
Now why did I start detouring with thoughts about book covers when this blogpost is meant to be about a painting? I shall call the painting, "Somewhere" or "Somewhere in The Netherlands". It is the first painting I ever bought. I paid a handful of guilders for it at a Sunday morning flea market in Amsterdam in 1964 when I was eleven years old.
To my eyes, it seemed so un-English, so peaceful and timeless - just a place by the waterside, somewhere in The Netherlands. I re-discovered my watercolour picture when sorting through the detritus at the tideline following Simon's death. I decided to rescue it even though we were trying to be ruthless.
It was still in its original frame and old cardboard mount. I have no idea when the picture was painted but it was quite old in 1964. It probably arrived at the market after a house clearance. It's very likely that it was created between the world wars. There's a woman on the embankment in traditional dress and of course the boats are propelled by the wind - not engines.
Oh, now I remember the connection with the saying about book covers. I have had the picture professionally reframed with a new light grey card mount as you can see at the top. And it seems to me that this process has given the picture a new life - made it more pleasing to look at. The new framing is far more sympathetic. Nonetheless, I would like to donate this new saying to the English language free of charge - "Never judge a picture by its frame". Previous sayings I have donated include, "Never judge a rabbit by its burrow" and "Never judge a banana by the angle of its bend".
"Somewhere in The Netherlands" will now hang in our upstairs art gallery (i.e. the bathroom).