25 September 2011

Devotion: The Story of 'Portrait of Meher Baba with Dog'

This is the story of how the artist Will Teather was inspired to paint his Portrait of Meher Baba with Dog. It was written by Aude Gotto:

Will Teather was selected to exhibit his work at the King of Hearts Café in Norwich in the spring of 2009. Around that time, he was offered a place on a post-graduate course at Chelsea Art School, London, and was looking for help to fund this. The exhibitions manager of the Café knew that I was involved in a charitable Trust which gave grants, and suggested he applied to this, which he duly did.

I had not met him, but from his work, which was original and skilled, if marked by a somewhat dark humour, I felt that he was a serious artist who deserved to be encouraged.

He was offered the grant, and I suggested that we met at the King of Hearts to make better acquaintance. As we were walking round the place, he stopped in front of Diana LePage’s striking oil portrait of Meher Baba, which was displayed on the staircase landing:

Portrait of Meher Baba by Diana LePage (cropped)

I explained about Meher Baba being the inspiration for the King of Hearts and particularly its name, and said a little about who he was. I had put a quote underneath the painting, found I believe in Maud Kennedy’s book The Unstruck Music of Meher Baba, which went:

“The age of the intellect has had its day.

The age of the heart is at hand,

and the Master of Silence is its Avatar.”

Suddenly Will turned round and said to me: “Would you like me to do you a portrait of Meher Baba as a thank you for the grant?”

Surprised and delighted, I said I would love this, and wondered what Baba was up to!

We then met at my house and I showed him many photographs of Baba from the book Love Personified.

He indicated that he would like to paint more of a general scene than a single portrait, as he likes to do theatrical scenes. He also likes means of transport like trains and boats. We discussed possibilities, and I said that Baba had travelled a lot so he might paint him on a boat with some animals. Will particularly liked the photo of Baba kissing a goat! He left with many photographs to work from.

Time passed, as he was busy with his course, and finally he rang me to say that the picture was ready. I was somewhat anxious, knowing that some of his pictures were rather spooky, and I hoped I would like what he had come up with. When he arrived, he said the picture had not turned out quite like what he had expected. He said: “I thought he had such a nice face that I must do a full portrait.” The inclusion of the dog was amazing, as my dog Christie, recently deceased, was very similar to the one in the picture, and Will had never seen her.

I felt that this was, in a way, a picture of Baba with me, as I identify with dogs a lot. I gave it the title Devotion, as I feel that is what dogs stand for, and also this is what the painting expresses for me.

Portrait of Meher Baba with Dog, by Will Teather (cropped)

Aude Gotto founded the King of Hearts Centre for People and the Arts in a medieval building in Norwich in 1990. Exhibitions took place in the Gallery and in the large Café, which was an integral part of the Centre. Regular concerts were performed in the Music Room. When the King of Hearts had to close for lack of funds in December 2010, Aude returned to her previous career as a psychotherapist and sees a few private clients at home. Living slowly is now part of her agenda, which involves gardening, growing vegetables, making jam, and playing the harpsichord, as well as prayer and contemplation.

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All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.