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What lies beneath: De eerste adieus/ The First Adieus by Raoul de Keyser

De eerste adieus/ The First Adieus by Raoul de Keyser pencil, watercolour and acrylic


De eerste adieus/ The First Adieus by Raoul De Keyser

De eerste adieus/ The First Adieus by Raoul De Keyser

De eerste adieus/ The First Adieus by Raoul De Keyser

In 12 Books that Changed the World, Melvyn Bragg included (alongside Shakespeare's First Folio and Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman) The Rule Book of Association Football by 'A Group of Former English Public School Men', published 1863.

For Pelé, football was 'the beautiful game'; for others, it's no more than grown men chasing a ball around a field. But football, with more than one and a half a million teams and 300,000 clubs, is, as Bragg points out, a global language. And a huge money spinner. Lionel Messi, the game's highest earner, is on €112.3 million a year.

And football played its part in Belgian artist Raoul de Keyser's life, as artist and sports commentator. He even lived next to a football pitch.

Born in Deinze, near Ghent, in 1930, he lived there all his life and having studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in his home town, in 1966 there came a turning point when he saw an Al Held big bright abstract painting in Amsterdam. De Keyser went home, and taking a painting he had made of his dog Baron, he painted over the background and called it Baron in an Al Held Field.

He stayed put, married, had three sons and painted what he saw in his immediate surroundings: the monkey-puzzle tree outside his window, a corner of his studio, door handles, a garden hose, venetian blinds, the family dog - often in close up, as in this painting of chalk lines on the football pitch next door to his house.

That de Keyser worked as a sports commentator for many years meant the football pitch held a special fascination for him. Here in The First Adieus painting, from 1979, he paints in close up, white chalk lines on green grass, lines that were repainted before every match. It's both figurative and abstract and one in a series of football pitch markings. The title is a puzzle.

This provincial Belgian pitch is not the carpeted green of Premier Football stadia but it's a wonderful, painterly work. Though noiseless now, that grassy patch will know fierce competition and the roar of the crowd once the game begins.

In an interview he gave in 2011, the year before he died, de Keyser, speaking of this white line, said that the man "with a hand and a brush" was refreshing "fine grass, wild grass. I was looking at the man." He looked, he saw and though what he saw was an ordinary part of a football pitch, he's made it special and beautiful for the beautiful game.

Sunday Indo Living