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Husband Problems

Artists have compassionately portrayed the challenges that wives sometimes face when things go wrong for their husbands.

Sergei Grigorev - He's Come Back, 1954
In Sergei Grigorev's Soviet-era Painting, the man of the house has returned home. He set his hat and a couple of gifts on his daughter's toy table, hardly noticing the little teacups at his feet. He slumps forward, looking inward, clutching a cigarette and cradling a leather satchel in his lap. There's a picture of the smiling young Wife on the wall, but an empty space where her husband's picture had been.

Evidently he is educated and relatively prosperous, but perhaps he is in political trouble or he has just returned from the Stalin-era labor camps (Khrushchev had just come into power when this painting was finished). Far from being elated or surprised to see him, as in Repin's They Did Not Expect Him, each member of his family looks upset. The wife seems resigned, the son conflicted, and the daughter fearful.

Vladimir Makovsky, At the Boulevard, 1887, Tretyakov Gallery
Makovsky portrays a young couple on a park bench, but it's not a holiday. It is bitter cold. The wife bundles her baby, and has a cloth-wrapped parcel on the bench beside her. She looks down in worry. Her husband plays his accordion, oblivious to her and their apparent homelessness.

The Mora Fair, 1892 - Anders Zorn, Swedish
The plight of the wife in Zorn's painting is even worse, for her husband is passed out drunk after the fair. No one is stopping to help. She loyally holds his hat and waits for darkness to envelop them.

Each of these paintings speaks to the power of painting to tell gripping human stories on a par with the novelist's art. The difference is that in a novel there is an ending, but in a painting, the outcome will forever be unknown.
A good book for Russian realist painting from the late 19th century through the Soviet era is Socialist Realist Painting, published by the Yale University Press

This post first appeared on Gurney Journey, please read the originial post: here

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Husband Problems


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