The Epoch of Ugliness

“Brief Encounters” are readers’ narrations of the funny, surreal and bizarre of everyday life in Vienna.

Columns | Rennie Sweeney | April 2013

Coming out of a contemporary art auction preview, a companion confessed that most of it hadn’t appealed to her: too sexual, too violent. "My mother was a painter," she added, "and whenever I look at art, I can’t help thinking what she would think of it."

"And about this?"

"Well, she didn’t care much for the way modern art was developing," what she referred to as "the epoch of ugliness".

Her mother had painted landscapes, and figurative nudes. "But not like what’s here." The woman paged through the catalogue. "They were discreet. You could hang them anywhere."

After suffering with terrible eyesight for most of her life, her mother was offered an operation that might restore her vision. But at great risk. She went for it, reasoning that she didn’t have much to lose. Against all odds, it was successful, and for the next 20 years, she devoted herself to painting.

"She loved making people happy with her work. Even now, I still get notes, or people telling me how happy they are to own her pieces. Funny, because she hated selling them, saying, ‘How can I let this go?’"

She smiled.

And it might have been my imagination, but I was sure I caught her looking over her shoulder, just to be sure.

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