Primitive Portrait

I love primitive Americana style portraits. Whenever I see a room where one hangs, my eye goes right to it. What is it about these rustic “naive” style portraits, as they’re sometimes called, that is so enchanting?

For me, I love the history and ‘moment in time’ they convey in a way that their stuffy and formal European counterparts rarely do. Early American portraits came about as our nation began to find it’s voice and blossom. People started to make money and succeed and they carried with them the memory of homelands where the rich and powerful had their likenesses made for posterity. So, by golly, they would too.
Eagerly, local artists began to fill that need, whether by creating quick silhouette works (which I love), painted portraits, and even murals. However, most of these artists (like myself) lacked the formal and classical training of European artists. But what they lacked in training they made up for with personality and unique flare.
Lately I’ve really been enamored with this time in history and the art it produces. I’m a history lover, but more than that I think I’m more of a lover of anthropology– the study of the life and culture and art. I’m more interested in how people lived and thought, their every day mundaneness that is at the same time so foreign and familiar to us now so many decades and even centuries later. I love, as always, the story more than the bare facts and timelines. I love the idea of looking at a portrait of a young mother from 250 years ago and thinking I know just what’s she’s feeling.
And so. With that on my mind I created “Susannah and Mercy Butler.” They are totally and utterly made up out of my own head. But I liked the names and wanted a portrait that was rustic but had an autumn feel. I love that whoever eventually puts this painting in their home will be able to create a story in their mind for Susannah and Mercy, if they so wish.
What about you? What do you think their story would be? Where are they from? How did they get here? What was their adventure in life? The possibilities are endless….
~H

15 thoughts on “Primitive Portrait

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