Tag Archives: Children in art

Gallery

Bicycle Boy, Flying

This gallery contains 1 photos.

Reaching into the air/ As if back wheel/ Would follow front/ And that bike would/ Fly away… Continue reading

Like Real Life

Georgios Jakobides, The Naughty Grandson

Georgios Jakobides, The Naughty Grandson

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.

Georgios Jakobides, Grandma's Favorite

Georgios Jakobides, Grandma’s Favorite

A Gentle Softness

Gabrielle et Jean, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, c1895

Gabrielle et Jean, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, approx. 1895

It’s a soft picture of a gentle, intimate moment. Nurse and child are playing together. Their faces are softly lit and softly colored.

She smiles as she holds and moves a toy cow; he smiles, copying her movement with the figure he holds. Cow and figure seem to melt into the surface below them. A wisp of her hair falls, curving, over one eye and the rest of her long hair seems to be trying to escape its confinement. His shorter hair is coiled over his collar and lies in short wisps along his forehead. There are blue shadows on their fair skin and pink brings cheeks, chins and mouths to life. Their clothing is softly moulded around their bodies.

All the edges are soft – there is nothing hard to disturb or distract. Behind the two the colors on the wallpaper flow together, suggesting flowers. The walls around them meet gently and we can barely see the edges of the table they are playing on.

Nurse and child are the focus, the most fully realized. Lights and shadows shape and round them, bringing them to life. Everything else is flat – the walls and table are literally flat surfaces.

The child is Jean, son of the French artist Pierre Auguste Renoir. The young woman is Gabrielle Renard, a distant cousin brought in to help in the household. The scene reflects a cosy intimacy, seen and shared.

The painting had its roots in Renoir’s varied and eclectic mix of influences and learning. He began as a painter of designs on fine porcelain when he was fourteen, then found work painting hangings and decorations on fans when the company went out of business. Meantime he learned by studying the work of French artists on exhibit at the Louvre, and in 1860 he was given permission to copy there.

He began formal studies at the art school in Paris in 1861, when he was about twenty-one, and began to show his work at the Paris Salon a couple of years later. Then the Franco-Prussian War disrupted life in France, for him as for so many others. It was not until he showed his work in the first Impressionist exhibition some ten years later that his ability and talent were recognized.

Less than ten years after that Renoir broke away from the Impressionists to follow his own path. A trip to Italy and study of the great masters there led him to apply a more formal, more classical approach to his work, and he returned to showing his work at the Salon.

Then in the 1890s his marriage and the growth of his family shifted the focus of his work closer to home. His paintings became softer, his techniques closer to those he had learned and used when he was younger.

But now you can feel and see a comfort with his work, as there was in his life. This painting, like his family, is a product of his maturity.

Time had softened his outlook, changed his viewpoint and allowed him to build on all he had learned. Which allowed him to paint us this warm and gentle picture.

Rolling the Easter Egg…

Nikolai Andreevich Koshelev, Children Rolling Easter Eggs

Nikolai Andreevich Koshelev, Children Rolling Easter Eggs

When I was a child, an Easter Egg was a gift we received on Easter Sunday. The chocolate egg came wrapped in cellophane, and in its own fancy pottery egg cup which we would use later to hold our breakfast hard-boiled eggs. Memories of those Easter eggs are all wrapped up with memories of dressing up and going to church for the Easter Sunday service.

For many those chocolate eggs are now just treats to be bought and consumed. But for the children we see in the painting above Easter eggs were much more.

The Easter Eggs they are using are real eggs, boiled and colored. A young boy watches closely as a young woman concentrates on the roll of the egg she has just let go. We can see that they are serious about what they are doing.  The little ones are too young to care, but their lack of interest only emphasizes the concentration of the older two.

Whose egg will roll further down the polished wooden chute? Where will it stop on the heavy coat that covers the floor, cushioning the precious eggs so they do not break as they leave the chute and stopping them from rolling too far? Will hers hit or tap another egg?

The picture was painted by the Russian artist Nikolai Andreevich Koshelev in the nineteenth century. At the time he was painting depictions of village life and traditions – later he went on to develop a great reputation as a painter of historical and religious pictures. Here he was painting a traditional Easter game.

Egg rolling is still part of Easter in places in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. So why are they rolling eggs? And why do people continue to do it?

Before the coming of Christianity, the egg symbolized fertility, the coming of Spring, and the rebirth of the land. Easter falls at about the time that Spring arrives; egg rolling competitions and games probably celebrated the arrival of Spring. When some pagan customs were absorbed into Christian holy days eggs became a symbol of Easter and the rolling of the egg took on an added significance. It came to be seen as a symbol of the rolling away of the stone from Christ’s grave.

Just a seasonal chocolate treat? Maybe it’s time to look at the Easter egg a little differently…

Sleeping Innocence

Bernardo Strozzi, Sleeping Child

Bernardo Strozzi, Sleeping Child

A baby sleeps so innocently.  Resting quietly they seem at their most vulnerable and yet most full of possibilities. We look at them knowing what they do not – that they have so far to go, so far to grow.

We see that childish innocence in Bernardo Strozzi’s painting. A little child lies turned toward the light, covered against the dangers of the darkness behind her. There are bracelets on her small chubby arms, probably coral bracelets meant to protect her from unseen threats. Her cheeks are pink, her lips baby-small. She is wrapped in a richly colored red blanket to protect her from the cold of the night.  It is a color as rich as her life may be.

Strozzi was a 17th century Italian artist who led an interesting life. He studied painting for a short while then, when he was seventeen, entered a Capuchin monastery. While he was a friar there he used his skills and talent as a painter to produce devotional works. Then his father died and he was allowed to leave the monastery to look after his mother and sister.  Again he used his skills as a painter, this time to support them and himself.

After his mother died and his sister married he was expected to return to the monastery. But after twenty years working as an artist outside the monastery’s walls he refused to go back to that life. He was taken to court, even imprisoned briefly, in an effort to make him return.

Instead he fled from his home in Genoa to Venice, where he continued his work as a painter.  There his talent and skill brought him considerable success and recognition. His was not an innocent’s life, but the life of a talented and determined man.

Still he saw the beauty of a sleeping child, and shared their “innocent sleep” with us.

 ***

“Innocent sleep” – Shakespeare, in Macbeth, described sleep this way:

…the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.