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Impressions chosen from another time:
Portrait of Eno with Allusions by Peter Schmidt

Most Eno fans will be familiar with the four prints by Peter Schmidt that were included with the original pressing of the Before And After Science LP. Less well known is the fact that Brian Eno also sat for a portrait by his friend. Schmidt had already provided the imagery for the covers of Taking Tiger Mountain and Evening Star, and the portrait was considered for the front cover of Before And After Science, although in the end a monochrome design featuring a photograph by Ritva Saarikko was used instead.

Portrait of Eno with AllusionsThe painting's original owner Alain D'Hooghe recalled: "I first met Peter Schmidt in 1978, during my 'quest' for a set of Oblique Strategies. He took me to Watford Art School where his students were assembling what would become the second edition of the OS. So I guess I got the very first set of that second edition! He also gave me one of the 1,500 different Taking Tiger Mountain lithographs.

"We met again a few months later, as I had convinced a gallerist to exhibit his work in Brussels in 1979. After this exhibition I acquired Portrait of Eno with Allusions directly from him.

"The exhibition was such a success that the gallerist decided to put on another one, on a bigger scale. I was asked to curate it – and more than happy to do so, as it gave me the opportunity to visit Peter in London several times.

"At Peter's suggestion, the exhibition was entitled More Than Nothing. We decided to dedicate it to the collaborations between Peter and Brian. Peter produced four amazing etchings for the occasion as well as many new watercolours; we also included Eno's light box, his very first video installation (Two Fifth Avenue), several Taking Tiger Mountain lithographs and Portrait of Eno with Allusions. Even if he didn’t speak the language, Peter helped me translating the Oblique Strategies into French (we had a good time 'working' on that !)

"He never saw the exhibition, as he passed away totally unexpectedly a few days before the opening. I miss him and think of him at least once a day."

Alain's guide to the painting - with additional commentary by Tom

The watercolour portrait was painted in 1975 and measures 30.5 x 37 cm (approx. 12 x 14.5 inches). As its title suggests, the painting contains many allusions and clues…

ChanceA mirror shows Eno's reflection, sitting at a table in his (then) London home. There are many Chance elements: Eno is holding a dice tumbler and on the table are a die with dots adding up to three on each visible level, an Oblique Strategies box and three cards from the deck, plus three coins used for divination with the I Ching. In the foreground, you can see a copy of the I Ching open at a significant page. If this is facing the viewer, it is Kwân, the twentieth Hexagram, symbolising contemplation; if it is facing Eno, it is Lin, the nineteenth, symbolising progress. Incidentally, Lin would be the name of one of the employees of Eno's future company Opal!

CatEno is believed to have a fondness for cats, and there are two members of the feline persuasion in the portrait. One cat is lying possessively on some sheets of paper (a pose that will be familiar to any cat owner who has been prevented from reading their newspaper/mail because their pet has decided it is the most comfortable thing ever), and a second is stalking into the room behind him.

Other typical items from the Eno household include a box of watercolours, paintbrush and pencil, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, loudspeakers, flowers in a jug, a shelf with books, and hanging on the wall, Peter’s Evening Star painting. In the lower part of the painting there is a printer's block with letters making up the words 'ENO' and 'OBSCURE RECORDS' -- these are punningly partly obscured by the base of the mirror. A copy of Eno's Discreet Music LP, the first to appear on Obscure Records, is on the right. Outside, the plane in the upper right corner probably symbolises Eno's frequent travels.

Late Night ShoppingBehind the mirror, one can see Eno walking in a park at night, carrying a shopping basket and stepping on a pavement inscribed with hopscotch numbers (Eno was very interested in numerology at the time). The 4 and 6 of the hopscotch pattern may be echoed by the vertical lines at the top and bottom of the pattern on the left-hand side.

BookshelfOn the left, there's an apple on a shelf (significance unclear, perhaps the sitter's favourite snack?) and another shelf with three influential books (another copy of the I Ching, volumes by Stafford Beer and Morse Peckham), as well as another box of Oblique Strategies and a playing card with a female nude: Eno had – still has? – a large collection of pornographic playing cards which made guest appearances on the covers of early records like (No Pussyfooting) and Here Come The Warm Jets.

Peter & Brian

Acknowledgements

Portrait of Eno with Allusions is now in the collection of John Emr. EnoWeb would like to express its thanks to John and Alain for their insights into this previously unpublicised chapter in Schmidt & Eno history.

 

Peter Schmidt and Brian Eno at Eno's house. Photograph by Ritva Saarikko.

 


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