We were sitting in The Doctors’ living room warming ourselves before a crackling fire when someone in the Rutter family mentioned that a local artist had once painted a portrait of John.
There was some debate about when the painting had been done, even greater debate about whether it still existed, and still greater debate about whether it should be brought out for public viewing if it does still exist.
The back story is hilarious: John was the Angaston town doctor for fifty years. That, of course, made him a bit of an icon in the Barossa Valley. A local painter visited John’s and Margaret’s home and announced he wanted to do a portrait of John. He had his subject do some simple poses and took a few photos and then went away. Some weeks later he invited John and Margaret to his studio where he unveiled the finished piece.
John was horrified by it.
He was even more horrified when the artist invited him to place a bid on it.
”Place a bid on it,” John recalled with disgust. “I didn’t even want the bloody thing.”
In the end, John and Margaret shelled out $400 for a portrait they didn’t want just to avoid any further embarrassment. Then they took it home and John shoved it under the bed in a spare bedroom. Which is where his daughter Mandy finally found it last night.
We all agreed — all except John, that is — that the artist had done an excellent job of capturing him in one of his most idiosyncratic poses. John still insists that the painting is horrible and looks nothing like him and should be tossed into the roaring fire.
The painting provoked two primary questions. One, did the painter do a good job of capturing John’s lips? And two, when was it painted?
I am relieved to say that I am not qualified to delve into the quality of John’s lips. I will leave that discussion to those whose relationships with him are far closer than mine. On the other hand, I am quite willing to speculate on the date of the painting.
It isn’t dated and none of the Rutters could pinpoint precisely when it had been painted. Was it done in the late ‘80s? Somewhere in the ‘90s? Maybe even later?
I got down on my hands and knees to take a closer look. John is holding a newspaper in the portrait and I noticed that there is a black and white photo of a man and a woman in the lower corner of the newspaper.
”It says chocolate under the photo,” I noted. I assumed it was an ad for some sort of candy.
Then Jamie took a closer look and said, “It doesn’t say chocolate, it says Chocolat and that’s the poster that was used to advertise the movie. The one with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche.”
Here’s that poster. Does my wife know her artsy fartsy European films or what?
Of course, knowing that the ad was for the film Chocolat helped us narrow down when the portrait might have been painted. With a little Googling we found out that Chocolat was released in Australia on February 14, 2001. So that is the earliest it could have been painted.
I doubt that Chocolat made it beyond a few art theaters in Sydney and Melbourne until after it was nominated for five Oscars. The 2001 Academy Awards ceremonies were held on March 25 and the film undoubtedly went into wider release after that. So let’s be generous and say it finally made it to cinemas in Adelaide by April 1, 2001. Let’s give the artist a couple more months to complete the portrait.
Therefore, JimandJamie.com hereby concludes that this lovely portrait of Dr John Rutter was unveiled on or around July 1, 2001.
And it’s been on permanent display under that dusty bed for the last nineteen years.
ONE ADDED NOTE: Here we are nineteen years after the completion of the portrait and John appears to be sitting in the same chair and wearing the same shirt and sweater. The man is nothing if not consistent.
AND ONE MORE ADDITIONAL NOTE (not added until April 10, 2021): Don’t know why none of us noted this earlier, but the fact that John is wearing a sweater is significant. The weather stays warm until late Autumn here in the Barossa, and the seasons are backward from the Northern Hemisphere, so late Autumn would get us to probably late-April or maybe even May as a guide to when the artist took the original photos. That seems to reinforce the July 1, 2001 timeline guessed at above for the grand unveiling.