Thursday, 5 July 2012


Old master painters were not big on rain.  There are not many renaissance masterpieces that show the covers on the square and the players sheltering in the pavilion.  Lots of them prided their handling of clouds and worked hard to get the swirls of cumulus formations in their full dramatic intensity.  But when the pitter patter began they were off the field pdq.

The Impressionists began to tilt the balance, and scenes in the rain were seen sometimes with figures scurrying under umbrellas. But rain remains a rare subject for painters, which makes this celebrated image all the more interesting. It is Golconde by Rene Magritte. It is difficult to see the men in any other capacity than drops of rain, and this painting obviously inspired the great disco hit of the 1980s It's Raining Men.

Magritte was Belgian and can generally be classified as a surrealist, many of his paintings have witty and quirky associations of objects challenging the viewers' preconceptions.  Generally, neither Belgians nor surrealists are thought to offer a lot to the cricketer.  However there is research which suggests that cricket was in fact invented in Belgium and taken to England by Belgian immigrants.  This is deduced from a poem dated 1533, a century or so before the first recording of cricket in England,  which refers to Flemish weavers as kings of crekettes.    FB finds this an unconvincing reading but what does he know?  Anyway, at present the Belgian national cricket team have recently qualified to compete in the World Cricket League for the first time.  Good luck to them.

Neither is the surreal noted for its affinity to cricket, however surreal the sight of Fantasy Bob coming up the hill against the wind might be.  However Magritte belies both these stereotypes for he has produced perhaps the only surrealist painting which seems to include cricket.  The work is Le Jouer Secret (The Secret Player) and was painted in 1927 during a 3 year period when Magritte was hyperactive painting a canvas a day.

The painting appears to show 2 cricketers in a forest of carved column type things.  A turtle flies overhead while a woman watches from a window.  Does this show Magritte has a deep knowledge of cricket and wishes to make some points about the game using deeply symbolic devices?  In which case what does it all mean - presumably some forewarning of the IPL.  Or is it the fact that, being Belgian, Magritte knew precious little about the game and just made things up, in the manner of FB's approach to field placing.  FB is undecided and would be grateful for guidance from someone who knows more about these things than he does.


  1. The turtle is actually swimming and Magritte was anticipating weather conditions in Scotland during the cricket season. The image is therefore more representational than surreal.

    1. This explanation is too plausible for a surrealist.