A Passing Cloud

It was the difference between my mother’s public persona and the private reality that grated so much. We all present a variety of different faces to the world but this was night and day. We didn’t get on. She considered herself a woman of impeccable taste and this was demonstrated to the world by means of interior decor. The colour of your soft furnishings maketh the woman.

Looking back at 1950s and 1960s interiors, the dividing line between good and bad taste must have been marginal.  Her stamp of difference was derived from antiques – “Victorian cranberry glass my dear, so much nicer than the ruby”.  This superior attitude was passed down such that I assumed a parallel air of good taste but it’s all just fashion, it comes and goes.  As modern interiors tend towards the Arctic, relics from an earlier age jar.  Our home still retains an element of the museum but at least we have made the effort to rid ourselves of the ‘never used/can’t stand that/what was she thinking’.  The change in fashion is reflected in the prices generated at auction.

I keep this though – A Passing Cloud by Marcus Stone, 1891.  For years I never knew what it was, I just liked it – it’s monotones possessed an air of menace, an air of longing which resonated.  In the early 2000s we made a trip to Manchester and spent a nostalgic day wandering familiar streets much changed by fashion.  Ambling around Manchester Art Gallery she was suddenly there in front of me – in colour – the same woman but entirely different – night and day.

This is the public persona, but this is what I see:

… Marcus Stone’s A Passing Cloud re-imagined. The original hangs in the Manchester Art Gallery


  1. J.D. Riso · April 6, 2017

    That is a haunting work. I had to laugh at the interior decorator jab. So much was based on “what would the neighbors think” back in the 50s and 60s. The parallels between your mother and my grandmother just keep growing.

  2. northumbrianlight · April 6, 2017

    Thanks Julie – I remember the picture of your grandmother – you could sense the similarities. There is a UK sitcom called Keeping Up Appearances – the main character, Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, with the accent on the second syllable) has a more than passing resemblance to my mother and possibly elements of your grandmother. Much of the humour derives from the intricacies of the English hierarchical society – it would be fascinating to know how much of this show strikes a chord outside the UK and how much is completely lost.

  3. socialbridge · April 6, 2017

    Robin, your reference to Hyacinth has me roaring laughing in a car park – ( not very Hyacinth). She certainly made her mark in Ireland and in our house. Hubby loves her too!!

    • northumbrianlight · April 6, 2017

      Hi Jean – there was some similarity of appearance too, probably the permed hair more than anything. There was even something of the long-suffering Richard Bucket in my dad but, as both were only children, we had no equivalent to the Onslows 😀

  4. Photobooth Journal · April 8, 2017

    In Australia there are also Hyacinth Buckets but they have even less class than she. Most of the keeping up appearances is directed towards conspicuous consumption rather than being seen to have good taste. Interesting article but I am a tad confused on one point. Did you keep a print of the painting that was in black and white (which you then manipulated?) or was the print badly faded? Either way, I prefer your version to the overly romantic original.

    • northumbrianlight · April 8, 2017

      That’s right – my mum bought a black and white print of the original which got passed down to me. I always assumed the original was mono and was much surprised to see the original in colour. The mono and the original are the same image – I have hacked a photo of my copy to within an inch of its life including replicating her image and giving her a new right arm in the copies – to the extent they now look over-long 😉 More Wilkie Collins than Merchant Ivory 😀 Thanks for stopping by, always good to hear from you.

  5. restlessjo · April 13, 2017

    It’s extraordinary, Robin 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · April 14, 2017

      Thanks Jo – sorry I am not keeping up on WordPress at the moment. This week we are on the canals and next week we head for Orkney 🙂

      • restlessjo · April 14, 2017

        Sounds excellent! Enjoy it, Robin 🙂 🙂

  6. Sue · April 23, 2017

    Oh, goodness, Robin….just catching up on some posts, and I do rather like the monochrome print, as you say, a bit Wilkie Collins

    • northumbrianlight · April 23, 2017

      Many thanks Sue – I like to think I have improved on the original 🙂

      • Sue · April 23, 2017

        Oh, for sure!!

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