Shortly after her nineteenth birthday Reneé became the lifelong muse of a her husband Richard, a visual artist. She passed on March 10, 2016. She would be 90 on May 7. That day is also her great granddaugher Brooklyn’s birthday.
The painting above is among my favorites in the Reneé series.
Over a couple of decades Richard decided this painting was “finished” before returning to make changes, often abrupt. Until shortly before his passing he worked on this latest iteration which is in dramatic contrast to earlier versions and from my lay eye appears considerably more complex. He revisited this work, I’m guessing, because as he gained greater insight into Reneé’s growth, depth, and complexity, he grew dissatisfied with its composition. The sky’s entire composition is much different, darker and more volatile than before, as is Reneé’s expression.
As beautiful as a flower, Reneé at Ogden’s municipal gardens.
This painting of Reneé and her youngest child Nick is more than a depiction of motherhood, revealing Reneé’s candor, comfort, and selective defiance. She did not breastfeed her first three children. Reneé began with Rob in 1964 which, during the 60s and early 70s, as now in some intellectually challenged circles, was tolerated only in private. Reneé did not suffer well those who feared or shunned the sight (or idea) of breasts in this context, those who feared some moral contamination of themselves, their children or husbands, those who considered breastfeeding somehow sexual, unnatural or uncivilized, or something that must remain out of sight. She was, after all, married to an art professor whose reverence for the human form and condition manifests in his artwork and teaching (as a professor he often taught the Life Drawing courses which employed undraped…