Mum had organised an Artist to paint a portrait of my sister Anne as a very young child, the painting shows her with a bow in her wispy golden locks and a soft frilly dress. A cute picture, of a cute sister… I guess the cuteness part depends on who you talk to… It hung in our lounge room and had a dusty dark gold frame. Mum remembers that it had a ‘gilt’ gold frame and at one stage talked about “having it gilt again” dad shook his head and politely in a low voice said, “No…” to both the idea that it had been gilt and to making any change to it. The frame suited the painting and all I can remember is that the whole package must have cost a lot, because my Brothers and I did not get a painted portrait, this privilege was reserved solely for Anne.
I took that picture for granted for many years, giving it only a fleeting glance every now and then, until we moved house and I got to handle the thing, I was barely 16 at the time and recall the brown paper on the back being rather brittle and a finger of mine ‘may have’ punctured the oh so delicate backing… oops. I spent some time looking at it up close, allured by the tiny, wispy brushstrokes and the way Anne’s smile seemed so innocent.
Dusted off and ready to peer out at us for another bunch of years in the new house, until my sister got to claim it as her own, then it was gone and left a ‘hole’ until dad created another picture to go in its place. Many years later and that painting of Anne has been talked about many times. Mum had her story, dad had his own, “I recall the darn thing cost more than a weeks wages!” We would joke that she looks so Angelic in that painting and wondered what had happened to make her to be NOT be so angelic as she got older!
Mum regaled us with a story of how Anne “sat so still while the picture was being painted and how the Artist did not let Me see it until it was finished”. Mum was so proud of it. Other examples the artist had done did not impress mum, but this one did… Softly done in an impressionistic style, while others created for other families were completed with harsher treatment, short choppy angular brushstrokes that turned a gentile child into a chiselled abrupt ‘lump’, no longer a representation of the child but probably more of a comment about the jarring personality of the child.
My Nieces and Nephew on my sister’s side of the family got to look at it for about as long as I did, 16+ years, when my sister hung it at her place, I am sure they have their own stories. Then there are the visitors to their home, other Nieces and Nephews, my brother in law’s family and all their friends. It’s been seen a lot. Each person would have a story or at least some form of impression of what the painting stood for, not so much about what it ‘meant’. Its meaning is simple enough, a romantic sort of image, a nice representation of my sister Anne. So what did it stand for? I’m sure it’s a status symbol, a shining beacon of “Oh look at us we can afford a portrait.”
A few years later and a family photo showed the four siblings together with plastic smiles and slicked down hair in our ‘Sunday best’ clothes. There was no need for a painting of that, and the frame for that photograph was nothing special as I recall, nope my sisters likeness had the nice frame, the nice place of importance in the and I feel sure a psychoanalyst would have something to mutter about the ‘first born’ having pride of place, not just on the wall but in her parents hearts as well. It’s all simple really, a bunch of memories, stories and a fleeting notion of status, all wrapped up in one dusty gold frame with a painted image on a chunk of canvas. Ah the power of art.
We love framing memories and at your friendly professional picture framer we love finding the best way of presenting your families memories so they can be enjoyed for many years to come.
Regards – Steve Gray,
The Picture Framing Shak