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Dexter Dalwood: Fictional History

Part 6: Authenticity and impact

JPS: Going back to the Bellini again, one thing we haven’t talked about, but which is quite important, is that the Courtauld Gallery version is in fact often ascribed to the workshop of Bellini. Does this make it a lesser painting for you?

DD: No, not for me. I’ve always had a very practical, laissez-faire attitude to art history. It’s also something about the way artists use collections - I think I may have said this to you before - if you walk around the National Gallery when you are fifteen, certain images call you, if you walk around when you are nineteen, other images do; if you paint for six or seven years other images call, if you paint for twenty years, again other images are calling you from across the room. Why certain paintings pull me towards them at different times is not to do with the little bit of text on the wall next to the painting, it’s to do with what interests me in the painting, what I’m looking for at that moment.. I think, it’s about being open and receptive to that. For instance, I’ve been looking around museum collections predominantly containing Christian myth paintings for years , and I like a good crucifixion as much as the next person, but then sometimes a subject, because it is slightly different, slightly off the beaten track in some way, jumps out. The subject of Bellini’s painting stands out because it was an actual event, an actual execution - I don’t care if Bellini just painted the hair, or the tree or the head, or had nothing to do with it at all - it’s still a very interesting subject for me and remains a beautiful painting.

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