I know the expression 'side by side' has two meanings.
- One is 'next to' and
- the other is 'together'.
It's hard to beleive no-one said it yet: in this case, it most likely means both.
@JavaLatte even lined up the necessary arguments:
side by side can have a literal meaning, for example when two people are sitting next to each other on a sofa watching television
In addition, it can have a metaphorical meaning, where a group of people are engaged in a common endeavour.
As someone who has had engaged in the activity of drawing / painting (also as part of a group) I can attest that
- when two (or more) people who are in proximity with each other decide to paint the same subject (or even different subjects, but which are located in the same direction from their position), they indeed position themselves side by side.
- Painting is a mental effort, a kind of concentration, a state of attunement. If people have a common goal, e.g. they paint the same subject, or they agree that — as a conclusion to the act — they will show each other their work and share the insights that they learned during creating it, then this mental effort can very much become a shared experience.
Gogh is staying with him, painting side by side.
As this turn of words seems to hit two birds with one stone, I offer it manages to paint a very strong picture, which in itself can earn our acknowledgement and appreciation. :)