Dylan Jones: 'Most people’s favourite painting is fairly obvious, as they tend to be chosen when young'

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The Independent Online

Everyone, I would have thought, has a favourite painting. Yes, I realise it might be a little naff to admit this – in the same way that it's a little naff to admit to having a favourite book ("Oh, I just love One Day, have you read it?"), favourite record (usually Coldplay), favourite film (The Shawshank Redemption) or (the worst, this) favourite dish (I'm not going there) – but admitting a preference for a particular painting is a difficult thing to fake with any conviction. And because it's a preference that has to be considered – I don't know anyone who innately has a favourite work of art – it's usually a fairly big window into the soul.

(For many, their choices are often fairly obvious, and often pedestrian, as they tend to be chosen when people are quite young, in their teens, and it's not unusual to find people have chosen their favourite painting in the year they decided which football team to follow – which is why so many people like Salvador Dali and Manchester United.)

Me, I've always liked The Piano Lesson by Matisse. I like it for many reasons: fundamentally I like it because of its colours and the way it's painted, but I also like it for the following reasons: 1) I like Matisse, and this is one of his least twee pictures. 2) The boy in the picture looks like a member of Siouxsie and the Banshees, circa 1978. 3) The apartment looks like a flat I used to live in, in Linden Gardens, in Notting Hill, about 15 years ago.

But a few weeks ago, while wandering absent-mindedly around the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and – I have to admit – waiting for the rain to stop, I came across a painting that is going to give the Matisse a serious run for its money.

It's called Cityscape by Richard Diebenkorn, it was painted in 1963 and looks a little like a De Chirico crossed with The Piano Lesson (although unlike the Matisse, this looks to have been painted in the late afternoon). It has greys and greens, and a thoroughly engaging way of mixing the figurative with the abstract, throwing in a bit of awkwardness along the way.

It is perfect.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'