A Visit to the Dulwich Picture Gallery

Aside from the man across the tracks at the North Dulwich station exposing himself  while we waited for the London Bridge train, our outing was a great success.

The Girl in the Window
The North Dulwich train station is a beautiful structure. The facade has been blended into the street so well you might think it was an apothecary shop if you hadn't taken special note earlier when you first arrived. The steps to the platform take you to a sunken railway line that is completely hidden from the streets above. The thick heavy greenery growing along the high embankment is a further mask. Like the train station the railway line is so well disguised, the walk to it from the Dulwich Picture Gallery gives no hint that this is the fastest way back to town.

It had a Harry Potter feel to it, until, that is, the man approached the brick stanchion as if he were about to disappear into it, stopped short and exposed himself to the only other people on the platform across the tracks.  That would be us.

I had noticed him earlier. He was tall, wore blue jeans and a blue denim work shirt.  There was a thinning crown of gray hair on top of his head. He was probably in his mid-fifties. Why had I noticed him? Several trains on his side of the track had come and gone. He hadn't moved. Since they were all going to the same place, I thought maybe he was waiting for someone. It was a Sunday, but it was late, too late to meet someone for an outing. That's why I thought his being there seemed odd. Then, I stopped thinking about him. 

Rembrand'ts son, Titus, with haunted eyes
Instead I let my mind recall the Rembrandts we had seen at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, earlier in the day, the Girl in the Window so real you wanted to say hello, Titus, a portrait of Rembrandt's son, dying of tuberculosis that miraculously showed the fear and the vulnerability in the eyes of the subject, and a portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III, the most stolen painting in the world. It has gone and come four times.
Jacob de Gheyn III - most stolen painting

"Shall I call the cops?" I said to Nancy.

She shook her head.

"It's not worth the trouble."

Later my son confirmed Nancy's advice.

"They'd just assume he was drunk," he said.

We stared fixedly down the railway line in the direction our train would be coming from. With no reaction from our side of the tracks, he went back to his stone bench, looked down at the ground and massaged his thinning gray scalp in an anguished sort of way.

Our train came. We got on and took seats by the window. I had intended to make some kind of gesture in his direction as we moved slowly past him, but he never looked up. He just kept rubbing his scalp and staring at the ground.

The Rembrandts were superb.