COVID brings new perspective to art

  • Photo of Thomas Gainsborough painting of his daughters, part of the collection of the Worcester Art Museum.

  • Close-up of Thomas Gainsborough painting of his daughters, part of the collection of the Worcester Art Museum.

Published: 11/1/2021 2:31:15 PM
Modified: 11/1/2021 2:31:18 PM

Dates have taken on a new meaning. B.C. always referred to something that happened “Before Christ;” now people are often talking about an activity they did “Before Covid.” A new meaning of B.C.

That virus has made a powerful impact on our lives. Husband Gerry and I like to go to museums and our last visit was B.C., so it was with great joy that we recently returned to one of our favorites — the Worcester Art Museum. I viewed the artworks with greater appreciation than ever ... but I will have to say that I’ll be even more thankful when I can view them without the mask being a part of my apparel.

I was particularly drawn to the Thomas Gainsborough portrait of his daughters, and since COVID, I viewed that painting with new eyes. It’s amazing how our life experiences affect how we see things.

Gainsborough was a successful English artist of the 1700s. The elite liked his romantic painting style and the way he could capture their aristocratic status. He was even commissioned by the royal family to do their portraits. He showed off their high fashion and, using artistic license, made them look their glamorous best.

Now, back to the portrait of his daughters. I took two pictures of it, one that shows the whole painting and one that shows a close-up. The painting was done in the early 1760s, and the paint has became somewhat transparent through the years so if you look closely, you can see that Gainsborough originally painted daughter Margaret on the left standing and facing her seated sister, Mary, and then he decided to paint over it, changing her position to be beside her sister. As I look closely at Margaret, I see her as a needy child. Maybe she had special needs and the artist wanted to convey the message that she depended on her sister and felt most secure when she was close to her.

The change in this portrait touched me and made me realize how much we all need other people. COVID has made me think about things I never thought about B.C.

I think about all the people we depend on, all the people we need support from – the medical people and how they carry on, caring and giving their best even though their own lives may be at risk, the people who work in grocery stores continuing to deal with the public to provide our necessary sustenance, the truckers who get our supplies to us, the mail carriers, the editors who prepare the very paper you are reading, the newscasters, the performers who entertain us on T.V. and in films, the athletes we watch, our town officials, the mechanic who services our cars, our clergy, our neighbors, friends, family. We need them all. As independent as we may think we are, we are not. We don’t go through this life alone. We all need others, and we need to appreciate them.

We grow from every experience, even COVID. It made me reflect on Gainsborough’s work of art in a new way, a deeper, richer, more important way.

Carole Gariepy of Phillipston has written seven books, all nonfiction. A recent one is a travel book, “Why Go There?” In her younger years, she was a teacher.

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