Until recently, my favourite Elva painting was ‘Japanese Monument’ which has hung in my home for many years now.
Happily however, having learned of my chase, I was contacted by a gentleman called Nicholas, who for thirty-four years has been the custodian of a painting previously unknown to me of Sitges, in Spain.
In his younger days, Nicholas ran a Fine Art & Antiques Transport business and secured himself a contract to deliver items for auction into and out of Lots Road Galleries in London. So it was that in 1984, he arrived at 107 Brighton Road to meet my father to advise on the resale value of Elva’s chattels.
Given that Elva lived in the family home for her entire life I was un-surprised by Nicholas’ description of her house as “a splendid time capsule for an earlier age, with its warren of rooms packed with interesting artefacts and furnishings accumulated over many decades” or, that just as he thought his work was complete, my father apologetically ushered him up to “just one last room“…..
Nicholas duly found himself in the attic where he described being “blind sided by the panoply of artistic richness” that greeted him; “a vast array of paintings and canvasses stacked against one another in an almost careless manner.” I think there was a great deal of head scratching at this point because Nicholas’ forte was furniture not art!
As was typical of my fathers character, he offered Nicholas a painting of his choice as a gift and before taking the collection to Lots Road Galleries, he chose Sitges to keep for himself. It has hung in his man cave (a Norwegian style log-cabin) ever since.
Thanks to his astonishing generosity, the log cabin now houses a print of Sitges and the original has been gifted back to me. This in itself gives me great pleasure but what I am particularly happy about is that because of Nicholas sharing his Elva story, I can make better sense of the experience I had as a small girl (see previous blog post 107 Brighton Road).
The eeriness and emptiness of the attic and bedrooms and the chaos of the downstairs that I remember, was the result of my visit being after the initial clear out. Things which were to be kept were moved downstairs and I like to think that the squatting pigeons saw an opportunity to take over an empty room after Elva’s death, and not while she was still alive.