October 19, 2011

Would you like a giant painting of a woman in full radiant bride mode?

The woman, who was 19 when she posed, died last January at 80. Nobody in her family wants it, they say because it's just way too big. It's 6 feet by 4 feet, with a chunky frame and a built-in light.
"She was very proud of that picture," Grace said of her mother. "If company was coming over, that light was going on. We would tease her. I used to call it the dartboard."

Irma was a beautiful woman. The portrait freezes her in her blond, blue-eyed prime and flowing satin dress. She is smiling and looking up and into the future.
Who would want it? (It's free.) Could a hipster decorator imbue it with irony by hanging it in the right way in the right place? Might an artist repaint it, adding bizarre and disturbing extra touches? Of course, a photographer could cut out the face and do portraits of people who stick their face through it. And the woman's own children already thought of using it as a target.

Ideas?

71 comments:

john said...

Is it on velvet? There is a big market for those.

Robert Cook said...

The painting of the dress itself brings to mind the obsessively, almost psychotically, overly detailed and textured surfaces in the paintings of Ivan Albright.

Tank said...

My father-in-law wants it. He's an artist. He'd take that baby, strip off the paint, and re-use the canvas and frame.

Get real.

That stuff is expensive.

Besides - triple score for recyling.

David said...

Perfect office decoration for a divorce lawyer with a sense of humor.

AllenS said...

The only spot open on my wall is about that size. However, I think that it would clash with my vast array of jackalope mounts.

Carol_Herman said...

A smart person would keep this thing, even if just stored, for those who come way after us.

Just like they do in English castles. Where you can walk and see the ancestors.

Other than that? Why doesn't Vera Wang do a "gallery" of these old wedding dressed gals?

It would be fun walking through such a gallery ... even if you were just selling dresses to the modern bride.

The "mistake" belongs to the relatives who thought of it as a "dart board." What schmucks.

Rialby said...

Why would you get rid of a picture of your mother? Seems crazy to me. Why not pop it out of the frame and roll it up?

RC3 said...

Irony is fine in its place, but too many hipsters can't see where it is.

I like the canvas recycling suggestion above, if no respectful use is found.

Coketown said...

I would have buried her with it. Then you can claim that she would have wanted it that way, when really you're just glad to get rid of the damn thing.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

I bet the grandchildren will take it to remember grandmother by.

I had a great, great grandfather that had a seated statue of himself sculpted and placed over his Mausoleum door staring at Atlanta's skyline from Oakland Cemetery.

They say he was eccentric because he was born in 1848.

Remembering ancestors can be valuable.

J said...

said...
bride's head replaced with like...Medusa...yeahh

(posts like this stir up Byro the queer sockpuppet (aka Titis, john, Tyrone etc). It's too stupid to offer any substantive writing--instead just mumbles on about kitschy BS and thinks its hip..or some cheesy anecdote aka lie.
add trad guy to the list. callate, mumbles.

Lem said...

I suppose if and when Warhol falls out of favor his painting will also be a sourse of embarresment, the kind only a mother could overcome.

Wait..

I want to say something terrible about the painting inheritors but they probably would not deserve it.

Dutch Canuck said...

Take a high-quality picture of the whole thing, then get a professional framer to cut out a head-and-shoulders portion of the canvas and hang that on the wall. Then burn the rest of the canvas, and sell the frame on Craigslist.

You're welcome.

I've been through something kinda sorta like this twice -- with both my mother and mother-in-law -- who both had gigantic semi-abstract oil paintings on their livingroom walls. None of the kids wanted these things dominating their houses, and the artists were nobodies -- in one case, the guy who painted sets for an amateur theatre. A careful picture with a high-quality camera then off to Goodwill. Good thing they weren't portraits.

William said...

Early in his career, the cash strapped Edward Hopper used to do wedding portraits under an assumed name. This is a fine example of his early work in that field. You can see the flecks of sorrow and loneliness in her eyes. The family was offered a substantial sum by the Whitney to acquire this piece, but it has too much sentiment and they declined the offer.....Put that story out and let the grandchildren accept bids fifty years from now.

MarkW said...

Take a high-quality picture of the whole thing, then get a professional framer to cut out a head-and-shoulders portion of the canvas and hang that on the wall. Then burn the rest of the canvas, and sell the frame on Craigslist.

Exactly. The 'take a picture and get rid of the thing' approach works great with unwieldy heirlooms. It's also perfect for kids who collect stuff on trips. I have some great shots of 5-year-old hands holding shells and rocks that, had we hauled them back, would have been lost, broken, and forgotten.

Lem said...

They are a___oles!

Dan in Philly said...

sic transit gloria mundi

Hoosier Daddy said...

"... Seems crazy to me. Why not pop it out of the frame and roll it up?..."

That would make one helluva joint.

cubanbob said...

I hope the old lady didn't have any money or leave the ingrates any money. They don't deserve it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Irma sounds like she was a bit of a narcissist.

Sixty Grit said...

That is an interesting object. That it won't be preserved by the family is an indication of the family dynamic. I can relate to not wanting it around. I once found my parents wedding picture in a local antiques shop - stuff happens, that's for sure.

Amartel said...

The family seems kind of mean, inadvertently I hope. It's one thing to kid each other in private. It's quite another to take the matter public, posthumously, and sell off an object of lifelong pride, to God knows what fate, while distancing themselves so the uncoolness doesn't rub off on them. Irma's dead so maybe it would be better if they just burned the thing.

J said...

Ahht, even bad ahht is not for crackers, AA. Where does it originate??---italy, greece (granted , a few talented northerners). And crackers aka WASPs hate ...the latinate or hellenic..es la verdad....as much as muslims or ortho-jews do--mo' probably .

Yr lesson for the day

Dutch Canuck said...

Irma sounds like she was a bit of a narcissist.

Not at all. I might agree if, say, she had commissioned the painting herself and then hung it over the headboard of the marital bed, but if you read the story, she posed for the painting to earn a little modelling money and the picture only came into her possession many years later.

How many people of modest means have a full-sized painted portrait of themselves in their prime, like a Rockefeller? Why not be pleased by it?

Freeman Hunt said...

That is so cute. If that were a painting of my mom and she (surprisingly) loved it, I could never bear to part with it. Not that I could bear to hang it up. But it would have a primo spot in the attic.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

How can people stand to look at pictures of themselves like that? Obviously, my use of the "lovely" in my screenname was only chosen for alliterative purposes, but on the whole, I'd say that I'm alright looking. Above average in my age group, at least most of the time.

But if I'm looking at myself in a picture, all I can think of is what's wrong, weird, and off. I instictively look away. Staring at a picture that big? Ugh!

- Lyssa

Pogo said...

It would be a shame to let that leave the family. Roll it up for now; maybe 2 generations hence one of her descendants will be intelligent.

I often come across family items at antiques shops and used bookstores that were so personal it would have been better to destroy them than to give them away.

"Whatever happened to that painting", some great great grandkid will ask, and be horrified by the answer.

Lem said...

My mother gave me my half finished baby pic album..

I lost it.
I havent the hart to tell her..

I keep hoping whoever has it/found it googles me..

No such luck.. I lost it back in 98/99

Kensington said...

"Our house just isn't big enough" sounds like bullshit to me.

It's flat. Stick it against a wall somewhere and forget about it. It's your mother! Don't tell the whole world you don't want a painting of her.

Coketown said...

I'm facing a similar problem. My mom has this, er, collection of urns containing ashes from the dogs we had growing up, and they're very special to her. She used to have them on her mantle, but now they're tucked away in her closet. But she asked that I keep them after she dies. And she knows how I feel about them. I told her that I'd add her to the collection and keep them all on my mantle.

Really, I think I'll keep the ones containing the dogs I liked, and throw away the ones I didn't. People should be more considerate of all the garbage they collect in their lives that they're leaving to posterity.

Hoosier Daddy said...

"...How many people of modest means have a full-sized painted portrait of themselves in their prime, like a Rockefeller? Why not be pleased by it?.."

It's just me. Self portraits just smack of narcissim.

Pogo said...

It would make a great wall insert.

E.M. Davis said...

The only spot open on my wall is about that size. However, I think that it would clash with my vast array of jackalope mounts.

That sounds like a perfect match, imho.

MadisonMan said...

It's a pain as a survivor to deal with the various ephemera that parents have acquired.

Every family has its albatrosses that children feel compelled to hold onto. I give kudos to the kids for recognizing the futility of keeping this painting.

edutcher said...

Clearly, the painting meant something very special to her. Hey, some people think the stuff the hang in hotel rooms really is art.

Can't agree with Hoosier, but I think Freeman's on the right track. You don't have to hang it, but, yeah, keep as a family memento.

Ann Althouse said...

Who would want it? (It's free.) Could a hipster decorator imbue it with irony by hanging it in the right way in the right place? Might an artist repaint it, adding bizarre and disturbing extra touches? Of course, a photographer could cut out the face and do portraits of people who stick their face through it.

That's mean.

Dutch Canuck said...

It's just me. Self portraits just smack of narcissim.

And not everyone can carry it off as well as you do in your portrait, Hoosier.

You cut a very fine figure, by the way. Is that skirt leather?

Pogo said...

I remember seeing a huge painting of James Bond's naked wife.

Ian Fleming knew the ornithologist James Bond, whose huge family estate was in Philadelphia.

One of the Bond descendants kept a 10 foot painting of Mrs. James Bond (nude) hung high on a massive 60s style living room stone wall.

My father was visiting the house for reasons I no longer recall.

Kit said...

Lyssa, I get that. My folks had a large photo taken of me (at Marshall Fields or Gimbels, I don't recall) at about 4, and had it hanging in our living room, growing up. Just a head shot, life-size, at least. I was always self-consious of it, in part b/c I was the oldest and the only one that had one up.

Now I've got it. It took me a couple years, but now it's up in our hallway. It's still weird to me.

As for this family's dilemma, just take a high quality photo of it and have prints made, then roll it up and hand-down for someone in the family to store.

Rose said...

"A smart person would keep this thing, even if just stored, for those who come way after us."

I agree with Carol.

wv: briedn

Coketown said...

You could use it to cover a secret passageway between the parlor and the kitchen. And cut out the eyes so you can spy on your dinner guests. As the conversation moves about the room, so do the eyes.

NYTNewYorker said...

They should dispose of it in the same manner as the American flag. A dignified burning.
No worries of anybody else handling or defacing or treating it in a manner not approved of.

But for me, being that it meant so much to my mother, I would carefully wrap it tight and store in my basement safely.

I already have other such items that meant much to family members stored the same way.

traditionalguy said...

Correction...Grandpaw Smith was born in 1833, also called "the year the stars fell." I looked him up in Google and they knew more than I remembered.

So they need to find a process to make this painting sculpted stone and stick it outside for the birds to perch on.

Dutch Canuck said...

Coketown: LOL! And that big frozen smile on her face makes it even funnier.

MadisonMan said...
It's a pain as a survivor to deal with the various ephemera that parents have acquired.

Yes, and when my parents and in-laws died, some raw feelings and atavistic behaviour emerged amongst the survivors. To this day, there are some people we don't speak to. After seeing that, it doesn't seem right to judge another family's dilemma too harshly.

I think my Aunt has the right idea. After her husband died, she started giving things away to various family members as she saw fit. By the time she passes, there'll be nothing left but a few sticks of furniture, a TV, dishes, and a couple of photo albums.

Pogo said...

"By the time she passes, there'll be nothing left but a few sticks of furniture, a TV, dishes, and a couple of photo albums."

Good plan; much easier on the surviving relatives.

I plan on leaving one postcard, some lint, and a shadow.

MadisonMan said...

I think my Aunt has the right idea. After her husband died, she started giving things away to various family members as she saw fit.

This is my goal as well. My father's dilemma is that he tries to give stuff away, and no one wants it! Two complete sets of China, service for 12. Who uses that anymore? A 'flapper' dress from the 20s. Silverware. A complete 19th-century ceramic bathing set. The list is endless.

Sixty Grit said...

I always wanted to leave huge piles of stuff - with the occasional $100 bill stuck randomly in the heap, so that I would be a burden to my children and they couldn't just have all of it hauled away - they might miss something valuable.

Now that I am moving that plan has changed, and the minimalist approach is winning.

WV: pikre - yep.

LordSomber said...

Can't they just Photoshop it to make it smaller?

Pogo said...

Grandpa gave everyone a Bible when they got married. Some gave them to Goodwill. Only a few found the $100 bill stuck inside.

ricpic said...

Hey, some people think the stuff the hang in hotel rooms really is art.

Guilty! True story. I stopped in a mom and pop motel in Northern Arizona once and there was a picture on the wall, 16" x 20", of a pale grey stallion standing on a desert bluff under a threatening dark grey sky. Wow! It was beautiful. And I...stole it. I did leave a double sawbuck but theft is theft. But it's SO beautiful!

Kirk Parker said...

William: Awesome idea, but even better if they said it was by Nat Tate.

Carnifex said...

My girlfriend found a map owned by her grandfather rolled up in her parents attic. It was missing several states Oklahoma, North and South Dakota,etc...I tried to get her to loan or donate it to the local museum but she wanted to keep it. And so I custom made a frame for it, and it hangs in her tv room.
The map is 7 and a half feet long by 5 and a half feet tall, and full occupies 1/2 of one wall. A bugger to design around but neater than all get out. (please forgive my vulgarity)

Petunia said...

Coketown, why not scatter the dogs' ashes at a dog park?

gerry said...

Is there money behind the canvas?

I bought a box of books at an estate sale. One of them was a paperback catalog from a general merchandise mail order company in Chicago (NOT Sears). Lots of "smokeless fireworks for use indoors" and bulbs for the amazing, fast-growing, luxuriously leafy Kudzu.

AllenS said...

Coketown @ 1:40 PM won this thread. That was great.

J said...

Spruce her up--put a mantis head on her.


(First person imbecilities ala ricpic--definite sign of the Bubba troll.

Christy said...

Before moving last time, I sold or gave away most of my books. Towards the end I was leafing through a Galloping Gourmet cookbook to see if it was worth saving and found $180. One of those heart sinking moments as I vaguely remembered regularly sticking money in books 20 years ago and regretted not checking the books already gone.

Lovely Lyssa asked How can people stand to look at pictures of themselves like that?

As a woman of a certain age I am always surprised and delighted to come across pictures of myself as a young woman. Because the picture came to her after several years I suspect she found the imperfections no longer troublesome.

Michael K said...

Irma sounds like she was a bit of a narcissist.

She was beautiful and looks happy. I doubt there are many similar portraits from recent years.

My god ! I was about to enter college that year !

Geoff Matthews said...

Put it in a gallery and call it 'Narcissism'.
Should be able to sell for a few bucks.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

"And the woman's own children already thought of using it as a target."

Now THAT is a statement.

As far as hipsters and such, and other naredowells who might replace her human head with that of a mantis, well...I have the name of a therapist for you.

Robert Cook said...

"naredowells"

?????

Do you mean ne'er do wells?

Conserve Liberty said...

We have inherited family items dating to the 17th C, including a large oil portrait of a great-grandmother. Each generation adds to the trove. We're happy with our history around us and can't imagine not valuing our past.

We have codicils to oir wills naming bequests of major items. We did round robin picks and expect our children will do likewise.

Someone will regret destroying that portrait.

Lem said...

Someone will regret destroying that portrait.

Here here..

Rialby said...

I've done some family history research in my time and believe me - although the people around you may have grown tired of you from close human contact (see: ungrateful children), the generations who have no memory of you may give their right arm for the faintest of images. Something like this should be preserved.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Perhaps they could give it to a bridal salon that specialized in vintage dresses....

Michael said...

Traditionalguy, I've seen your great-grandfather! He looks awesome sitting up there.

I have a B&W photo of my mom in her wedding dress that's about half that size. I don't really know what to do with it (it's currently in the basement), but there's no way I would ever get rid of it.

jeff said...

"The "mistake" belongs to the relatives who thought of it as a "dart board." What schmucks."

OR maybe they were kidding their mother. good nature banter. Like people do. I seriously doubt any of them told their mother they wanted to use it as a dart board. Perhaps they also have a few thousand photos of their parents and don't see the need to haul around a 6X4 painting. Who knows? Since none of that is addressed in the story, best we just make up motives and reasoning.

Teri said...

We have a similar portrait issue. It's not six feet tall but it's pretty big. In 1975 my family did our annual photo series at Olan Mills, various combinations of us all. One photo was the four sibs, (three teenagers and a 6-year-old). My sister and I had long dresses on, don't remember why, but it was the thing in the mid-70s in the Midwest.

Anyway, the store liked the portrait, and asked my parents if they could use it at the Home Show to demonstrate a new technique - a photo that had the texture of a painting. They said sure, the company made it 30 x 24 inches, then gave it to my parents after the show was over.

They built that picture into the wall of their house, over the fireplace. Then in 1979 one of my brothers died, then in 1982 my parents divorced. And there's still that painting built into the wall.

My mom got the house and spent the next 30 years with her armchair and TV oriented so that the picture was in her field of vision at all times.

In 2010 she moved to a senior living place. We managed to pry the picture out of the wall (realtor not happy because they left the wall raw behind it, didn't put in the fireplace stones, so he had to go find another picture!). I got it framed, and took it to my mom and put it up in her tiny little room, over the TV. When I took it to her, she said, "Oh! What a wonderful mother's day gift! You children are so sweet!"

I said, "um, er, yeah! We all thought you would like it" then hightailed it back to the store, because I had charged it on her credit card like all the other moving expenses. I managed to get it off her card and put it on mine. And, um, it had totally escaped my notice that it was Mother's Day when I brought it to her. (Bad daughter!)

Anyway, Mom passed away a few months later. So we had the picture issue, with the three remaining siblings. I would have been happy to take it but my husband thought it was creepy. The other two rolled their eyes. So I asked my dad if he wanted it. Took a year to get it down there, but he has it. Not sure if he's actually going to put it up or if he was just humoring us.

Thing is, we've only really punted the problem down the road. Somehow over the next few years I have to convince hubby that it's not creepy to have a giant picture of my sibs in our house.

Big Mike said...

Preserve it in a time vault for 400 years or so. The great-great-great-great-great-grandchild can donate it to a museum as an old master.

Robin said...

That's very sad.

IggyRules said...

I was waiting for that - you're right Robin - very sad indeed.