Every Picture Tells a Story

‘Northolme’ by Michael Adams

I was going to call this Pic Fic but, on checking, found that’s already a registered title for an X -Files archive and this blog is definitely not that. I’m not sure if there’s an actual genre for stories inspired by paintings but certainly the visual arts have rippled across literary sands, occasionally making big waves as the works of a particular artist or school have popped up over the years.

Vermeer and Dutch paintings of the 17th Century became a focus in the 90s through the novels of Tracy Chevalier and Deborah Moggach. Girl with a Pearl Earring  (the title of Chevalier’s book as well as Vermeer’s painting) mixes a smidgen of fact with a rich imagining of the identity of the enigmatic subject and her relationship with her master Vermeer. It was a commercial success globally and predictably a film followed. In Moggach’s Tulip Fever  the characters are fictional but the subject is real: tulip mania, which saw the price of tulip bulbs soar until the speculative bubble market crashed. This is the backdrop to the story but Moggach’s inspiration for her tale of love, beauty and the payback for greed was a painting by a very minor 17th Century Dutch artist that she bought at auction and, in the narratives of both Chevalier and Moggach, the world of dark Dutch interiors is illuminated on so many levels.

In A.S.Byatt’s The Matisse Stories,  paintings by the great French Post-Impressionist provide inspiration for three brilliantly crafted and entertaining stories that show what it is to be human. More recently, the paintings of Edward Hopper have inspired In Sunlight or in Shadow an anthology of stories by well-known writers including Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates.

In the winter when it’s drizzly and damp, art galleries are wonderful places to escape to. Next time you visit, take a note book and start imagining. Who knows what narratives will emerge from the canvas of a Gainsborough, Rothko, Hockney, Van Gogh or whoever inspires you. The artwork at the top is a silk screen print of Northolme, a stunning location in the Seychelles. It’s now a Hilton resort but in 1958 Ian Fleming retreated there to cure his writer’s block. While he was there, he began a collection of short stories called For Your Eyes Only  – so, clearly, immersing himself in a luscious landscape worked.

We welcome all short stories, up to 2200 words, on any theme or genre to be entered by April 15th.