family-ties:-lara-johnson-wheeler’s-tribute-to-her-late-grandmother
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While this canvas is, in fact, absolutely fabulous (sorry), Grandma didn’t hold back from painting people the way she really saw them. Her portraits were always unflinchingly honest. I remember seeing a work-in-progress at her flat once. I gestured to it, interested, and she wrinkled her nose, telling me its subject ‘really wore his character on his nose’. This was not a flattering comment. Conversely, her portrait of Rachel Billington (1972) is as full of truth as it is affection. She has depicted the author, her lifelong best friend, in soft, billowing strokes, pen poised on paper, the puffed sleeves of her white dress enough to turn Anne Shirley green with envy.

In later life, Charlotte developed Parkinson’s, a side effect of which was tremulous shaking in her hands. From a very young age, we – her grandchildren – developed the game ‘finger’ with Grandma; in an ET-like salutation, we would press the pads of our forefingers to hers. At the moment of touch, the shakes would calm. They would, as though by magic, subside. As I said, there really is something about hands.

I miss my grandmother terribly. She has left incredible scenes with us, though. Her paintings ensure she’s heard, seen and remembered. Her voice, her emotions and her stories come through in each one, as vibrant, as truthful and as eternally entertaining as she.

This article is in the December issue on sale Thursday 28 October. Subscribe now to get 3 issues of Tatler for just £1, plus free home delivery and free instant access to the digital editions

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