This is not the happiest beginning to our An Art Work A Day series, but the painting stirred something profound in my soul and it seemed a wonderful vehicle for discussing how children are affected by divorce. Though I love my stepmother, I remember vividly feeling despondent and despairing at my father’s wedding.
Her Father’s Wedding by John Kelley, Oil 24″ x 36″.
Max’s observations after reading the title of the painting, medium, and measurements.
“Hey Mom, that’s Olivia! Why does is say she is at her father’s wedding? Olivia’s parents are married and they’re not divorced.”
I explained that Olivia was modeling for John and that John, the artist, was attempting to convey a particular mood and feeling in this painting. Olivia, as his model, was helping him do this. Then I let him look at the painting and share his thoughts. He sat quietly in my lap and noted:
“I think he chose oil to make it life-like. Oil makes things look more realistic, you know, and I guess he wanted this to seem real. It does seem real.”
“There’s not just flowers but also spools of ribbon and scissors so she must be tying up the flowers. She’s the flower girl. She looks sad because her dad must be marrying somebody that is not her real mom. Her face is just really sad.”
I really liked his attention to the details. We talked a little bit about how the light seemed focused on Olivia’s face in this painting- how all the rich hues and textures surrounding her seemed dull in comparison to the radiance of her face.
Then we discussed portraits- realistic portraits which attempt to convey a life-like impression of a living person in a living moment. What is this little girl living? What is her moment? How does the use of white paint and contrasting colors help us understand what the artist means in this portrait?
Max decided he wanted to write a journal entry about the painting and how it made him feel. He wrote it as a conversation between him and the girl in the portrait. Honestly, it was beautiful but a little too intimate to share (you know how sometimes your child writes something that you feel just needs to be gently protected).
If you like this painting, please add a little “like” for John underneath it. I admire his courage in breaching such a tender, overly-sanitized subject in our culture. The little girl in me thanks him.