Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy

Bill Haydon and abstract painting

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In the recent film of TTSS an abstract painting appears (I think) twice. It is rather more of a Théo van Doesburg than a Mondrian, nevertheless, it needs tracking down and possibly recreating. It is painted by Bill Haydon, small, square and in a gilt frame. Fairly early on it is on a wall in the background behind Smiley at home and later, in a flashback, Haydon gives it to Smiley "for Ann".

I have reread the novel and found around a dozen references to Haydon's painting (see below) but nothing which particularly refers to abstract works. I am working my way through the BBC adaptation looking for anything similar. I have posted a question on the Le Carré Yahoo Group. But I guess I'll have to wait for the DVD of the film to get a closer look.

[11 Mar 12] Images now available.

Here are the references:

11 [Guillam observing Haydon's office]
"his room ... was an undergraduate mayhem, monkish and chaotic. Reports, flimsies and dossiers lay heaped everywhere; on the wall a baize noticeboard jammed with postcards and press cuttings; beside it, askew and unframed, one of Bill's old paintings, a rounded abstract in the hard flat colours of the desert."
12 [Smiley walking through Oxford and thinking of Haydon and Jim Prideaux as students]
"Bill the painter, polemicist and socialite; Jim the athlete, hanging on his words."
13 [Connie's souvenirs]
"Lastly Bill's own special contribution: a caricature of Connie lying across the whole expanse of Kensington Palace Gardens while she peered at the Soviet Embassy through a telescope: 'With love and fond memories, dear, dear Connie.'
'They still remember him here, you know. The golden boy. Christ Church common room has a couple of his paintings. They take them out quite often."
18 [Smiley thinking of Haydon]
"From his late teens he had been a keen explorer and amateur painter of brave, if over-ambitious stamp: several of his paintings now hung in Miles Sercombe's fatuous palace in Carlton Gardens."
18 [Haydon talking to Smiley]
"Time I made something of myself, George. Half a painter, half a spy, time I was all something."
29 [Smiley reading a file]
It was a cutting from an Oxford newspaper of the day giving a review of Haydon's one-man exhibition in June 1938 headed Real or Surreal? An Oxford Eye. Having torn the exhibition to shreds the critic ended on this gleeful note: 'We understand that the distinguished Mr James Prideaux took time off from his cricket in order to help hang the canvases. He would have done better, in our opinion, to remain in the Banbury Road. However, since his role of Dobbin to the arts was the only heartfelt thing about the whole occasion, perhaps we had better not sneer too loud."
32 [Prideaux reporting a meeting with Karla]
"What did Bland think of Bill's paintings" and
"You can't judge Bill by things like that. Artists have totaly different standards. See things we can't see. Feel things that are beyond us. Bloody little man just laughed. "Didn't know his pictures were that good," he said."
38 [Smiley visits Haydon's girlfriend's mews cottage]
"The floorboards were bare except for long psychedelic patterns of snakes and flowers and insects painted all over them.
'That's Bill's Michelangelo ceiling,' she said conversationally. 'Only he's not going to have Michelangelo's bad back." and
"Smiley noticed Bill's other paintings, mainly of the girl: few were finished, and they had a cramped, condemned quality by comparison with his earlier work".
[Smiley later]
"remembered the half-finished canvases in the girl's drawing room in Kentish Town: cramped, overworked and condemned."
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The first two are taken from the beginning of the film, just after the title sequence ends.


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The remainder occur about 1h20m into the DVD (I'm not sure whether the trailers are included in the count).


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I have some form on documenting fictitious painters, see Patricia Highsmith's Derwatt.

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page created 29th September 2011