Sunday, January 3, 2010

Beautiful children

That Bellini I posted for New Year’s Day has me thinking about paintings of children, so I’ve decided to do a little series of posts on the subject. This painting, A Fisher-Girl by Ilya Repin (1874), is one of my favorites. It captures the particular expression of innocent melancholy that you only see in children. Note her hands—you can almost feel how rough they must be, in contrast to her soft little face. It’s a very sad image to contemplate, this beautiful child already worn down by work and poverty. It’s also a troubling painting, in that her ragged clothes and her suffering are part of her beauty. I find myself a little suspicious of my own response to it. Do you think it fetishizes the poor?

Their guild is giving money to the poor.
The worthy poor. The very very worthy
And beautiful poor. Perhaps just not too swarthy?
perhaps just not too dirty nor too dim
Nor—passionate. In truth, what they could wish
Is—something less than derelict or dull.
Not staunch enough to stab, though, gaze for gaze!
God shield them sharply from the beggar-bold!
The noxious needy ones whose battle’s bald
Nonetheless for being voiceless, hits one down.

From "The Lovers of the Poor" by Gwendolyn Brooks. The complete poem is here.


Nika said...

Childred aren't easy to paint,this is a nice portrait. I'm surprised I don't remember it, I used to know Repin's paintings pretty well. He did portray many downtrodden people, I don't know if feteshizing is the best way to describe it. It's more like he really respects and dignifies the poor.

BitterGrace said...

I wish there was more of Repin's work online, Nika. It's wonderful--I keep looking for some excuse to post "Ivan the Terrible and His Son."

PS--Glad to see you're going to be blogging!

Nika said...

Too bad you live a few states away, I have a nice album of Repin's work, if you lived nearby I'd be happy to loan it to you. Ivan the Terrible is something else, I remember being fearful of those terrible eyes when I first saw that painting at the tender age of five. Repin's canvases are amazing in person, very vivid and lucid.
Hehe, I guess my little blog secret is out. Me and my friend Julissa will start posting some of our latest figurative sketches/paintings and drawings later this week. If nothing else it will keep me motivated. Please stop by when you have a chance.