Being realistic, we know – children are not always happy or good. Sometimes they do things we don’t want them to, sometimes they are upset, unhappy, loudly angry. Sometimes a grandfather can only endure the noise, the flailing arms and legs, the upset.
It is all captured so vividly here. Our sympathies lie with both the upset child and the rueful, enduring grandfather who holds him safe and firm. Grandfather knows that this unhappy moment will pass, knows how to endure until it does. The child, caught up in the moment, does not have the experience to know that things will be well again.
We look at them, both with their eyes closed, both grimacing. They look like people we might know or come across – if we lived in the right place, at the right time. We can see that they are known to the artist who is sharing this moment with us, the Greek artist Georgios Jakobides.
Born in Greece, he began his training as an artist there before going to study in Munich on a scholarship given by the Greek government. He lived and worked in Munich for seventeen years, before returning to Athens to organize the National Gallery of Greece in Athens and teach at the Athens School of Fine Arts. He was and remained deeply influenced by German academic Realism, and you can see that clearly in this painting.
Every detail counts, but none stands out more than it needs to. Light and shadow shape faces, figures and clothes. The light falls across the scene, illuminating the Grandfather’s face and arm and then resting on the struggling child. Earthy tones give it a warm feeling.
It’s the details that make the scene feel real. The grandfather’s skin is tanned, his face wrinkled, signs of a man who spends much time outdoors. His grandchild’s paler skin suggests a more indoor life. We can see the tension in the grandfather’s face, in the child’s body, in the way their bodies arch and curve. Our attention is drawn first to what divides them.
Yet there are things that unite them. The color of the Grandfather’s sleeve is echoed in the child’s clothing, the colors of his vest in the covering he is trying to hold around the child. Light encircles them, reflecting off the wall behind them and fading into darkness at the window above and into the shadows around them.
It all influences how we see what we see, and how sympathetic we feel.
I feel very sympathetic to both…
Besides, there are happier times to balance times like these.