Sunday, January 3, 2010
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.