A Guide to Positive Role Models in Art

It is my humble opinion that art galleries and museums are some of the only locations left that look to actively give courage to us and attempt to elevate us. The antithesis of art is social media and television which unfortunately does the exact opposite. Whilst art can portray a host of emotions and events to which words cannot necessarily do justice, the team here at The Everyday Man decided to look at positive role models within paintings and sculptures.

We wanted to write this article for a number of reasons, but mainly so that we could show you that by visiting museums and taking an interest in art, you are able to become a better version of yourself. Art, when understood, intrinsically helps us to become greater than we already are, to give us the power to fulfil our potential.

Passing Mother’s Grave by Jozef Israels

One of the most popular painters in The Netherlands, Jozef Israels was a Dutch realist artist and was one of the Hague School of Painters. One of Israel’s most important paintings, Passing Mother’s Grave hangs in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and was Israel’s first foray into realism.

The painting portrays a widowed peasant fisherman walking past his deceased wife’s grave with his two children in his hands. In his left hand, he clutches his baby to his chest whilst in his right hand he holds the hand of his little son who holds a fishing net in his own hand. His son looks up to him in several senses as all three family members walk past the site of what is thought to be their dead mother/wife’s grave. Although it has been criticised as sentimental, the painting influenced later artists in The Netherlands including Van Gogh who listed Passing Mother’s Grave among his favourite works of art.

Several of Israel’s works portray Dutch fishermen in everyday life. The painter spent time in different Dutch fishing villages where he spent time living with and observing fishermen and their families. It is apparent that this painting would have been posed for, but that does not subtract from the realism of the scene. Despite everything, the fisherman does not give in to depression or anger, instead, he does what he needs to do in order to support himself and his children.

Michelangelo’s David

The most famous sculpture in the world, Michelangelo’s David statue emphasises the potential of human beings. Anyone who has seen the statue in person will know just how tall it is, indeed, plenty of people have been completely taken aback by just how big the statue is. David represents human perfection and is arguably the most famous piece of art from the Renaissance, a period of art that signified the era in which Europe came out of the dark ages and embraced a new period of learning, wisdom, art and culture.

Although David is obviously a male, he represents humans as a whole and how we can all reach our potential if only we try hard enough. Perfection and strength are no longer reserved to holy beings and Kings and Queens, we all have potential that can now be reached. In fact, many people are intimidated by art, including Michelangelo’s David, because they represent all that we can be.

A Cherry Seller at the Door by Abraham Van Strij

A poignant painting from Van Strij, this oil painting on the panel features a cherry seller going from door to door in what comes across as a pleasant neighbourhood. The finely dressed occupant of the house (most likely the mother of the child) holds up a handful of cherries for which her little daughter eagerly reaches for.

This painting exudes a pleasant atmosphere and showcases a positive female role model caring for her little daughter. The only part of this painting that does not portray harmony is the cat on the right side of the painting which is frightened of the dog.

A Woman Peeling Apples by Pieter de Hooch

This painting represents a positive female role model who is showing her little daughter how to peel apples. See how delicately the mother is peeling the apples and smiling whilst showing how she does it to her inquisitive and sweet-looking little daughter. The light-filled interior of the room is typical of de Hooch. In fact, this painting was wrongfully attributed to Johannes Vermeer.

The natural light streaming through the windows mixes in with the pleasant atmosphere portrayed by the painting. The complimentary theme of marital love is suggested by the Cupid on the fireplace pillar too, just above the mother’s right shoulder. This painting is located in London in The Wallace Collection within the East Gallery 2.

Art in Modern Times

Of course, art continues to evolve. Whereas much of the paintings we have discussed here looked to portray beauty and courage, much of modern art is about challenging norms. Art is even well-represented in modern culture through the likes of popular slot games and video games. I recently visited Amsterdam and attended the MOCO museum. One artist had created a perfect sculpture of a pair of sneakers. Although this may come across as crass to use such things as a sculpture, perhaps it was to remind us that even modernity can be beautiful. Or perhaps as humans our thoughts have shifted, and we really do crave a new pair of sneakers now more than w

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