In yesterday's post I mentioned my mother's dreams of becoming a commercial artist. Though she never achieved that goal, she did leave behind a number of drawings, sketches and a few paintings. She did a handful of paintings on wood panels that we've had in our family since my earliest memories. For awhile some of them hung in my sister's childhood bedroom. When we sold that house after the death of my father, some of the things that we wanted to keep were sent to my house for storage and safekeeping, until my sister and I could sort them out and decide who gets what. These wood panel paintings were some of those things that I've been in custody of since 2005, the year the house sold.
I'm not sure what year my mother painted these, but I think it was while she was a teenager, in the early to mid 1930s. My mother always encouraged me in my artistic pursuits and she was very up front when I did something that she didn't think was good. I don't remember her criticizing the work I did as a child, but I do remember a few critical comments she made about work that I did as an adult. But she always encouraged me to draw and to take art lessons. Sometimes I think she may have been living her artistic pursuits vicariously through me. I wish that she had been able to continue her studies in art and had been able to practice her artistic skills. I would love to have seen where she would have gone with them if she had been able to continue. Since she never had the chance to be published during her lifetime, I thought that putting some of her work on my blog might be a nice way of commemorating her talents.
I think the painting of Peter Pan is probably my favorite. I love the way that Peter's shadow is painted in a flat color, perfectly mimicking his pose as he leaps through the window. I also love the somewhat off kilter perspective that makes you feel, as the viewer, that you are also flying above the bed and the sleeping Wendy. In the painting with the child praying at his mother's knee, I do like the composition and use of color, especially the way that she has a large vertical yellow block of color to the left behind the mother with a horizontal green block beneath it. The green is picked up again in the vertical shape of the curtains. The blue in the mother's dress is echoed in the panes of the window. The only pattern, other than the window panes, is seen in the chair's base and the ottoman upon which the child kneels. The figure of the mother and child are a nice contrast to the abstract, geometric background.
I love these pieces for a number of reasons. First, and most obviously because they were painted by my mother at a time in her life when she still had hopes and dreams. But I also love them for their innocent subject matter and their somewhat naive execution. From clippings that I've found among my mother's things, along with her sketches, I know that the artwork that she created was often copied from other sources. I don't think she always had enough confidence in her skills in order to be able to draw from memory or imagination, so she often used other works as reference. Often they were people in advertisements or other children's book illustrations. What she chose to draw or paint were always things that appealed to her and to her imagination. If she saw an illustration that she particularly liked, she often tried to see if she could draw (or paint) it herself. I don't know where she got the ideas for these wood panel paintings or if she copied them from other sources, but I do know that in her execution of them, she managed to make them charmingly her own.