And in the meantime, of course, there was Brexit. Much has been written about this epic vote and I am neither qualified nor of a mind to re-hash the pros and cons of it here. It is enough to note that as a British citizen who has lived outside the UK for more than 15 years (albeit only in France, not on Mars) I was prohibited from participating in this potentially life-changing plebiscite, the fall-out of which is still only beginning to be felt.
Turner too came to France, studying works at the Louvre before becoming himself, many years later, a much-admired source of inspiration for the young Claude Monet. A trip to the Marmottan museum in Paris (or simply to the next room if you are still at the National), will very quickly confirm the extent to which Turner’s love of mist and steam, his fascination with light, were to influence the Impressionist painter. Both artists were modern in their day, radicals who dared to reach beyond the safety of the norm, and neither, at least initially, got much recognition for it. But such it seems is the lot of the visionary and if, like Jo, your vision is just too unpalatable for those resistant to change, then it is not just your reputation or career that is on the line, but sadly, your life.
And so as Chinese and Italians rush to London’s museums, as Turner wound his way across 18th century Europe and as I myself drift about the streets of the eleventh arrondissement, I suppose I have my answer. The answer that I hadn’t the chance or whit to utter that Sunday morning in late July. For yes, I am dedicated. Very much so and in many ways by everything that surrounded me in the museum. I am dedicated to a cross-cultural world, in which ideas and dreams can transcend borders, inseminating and enriching one another as they go. And yes, I am dedicated to the bringing together of disparate peoples, people who regardless of faith, age, sexuality or politics, are united by the very simple fact of their humanity, by their common susceptibility to both beauty and beast. For whether we come together to enjoy art in a museum, or to express outrage at acts of cruel injustice, it is our ability to feel and express common emotion that we should cherish. It is what we learn from art and more painfully, from love. And it is to this, Madam, that I am dedicated. And I am so very grateful to you for pointing it out.