Other Wind
23 / January23 / January23 / January

Darn Cute


The Children of the Marquis de Béthune, 1761, Françoise-Hubert Drouais, French

Three for Five, 1890, John G. Brown, English/American

I like to buy postcards of paintings from museum stores, but only if I’ve actually seen the paintings in the museum. I bought these from the Birmingham Museum of Art last summer.

I giggled at the painting of the children and the dog. Anne Geddes must have taken lessons from Drouais on how to force the viewer into gushing “Now, that’s darn cute!” Of course, since he couldn’t copy his images en masse and fill every Borders and Barnes and Nobles to the brim with them, I’m tickled rather than irritated. I had to buy the card when I spotted it on the postcard rack. One day when we have children, maybe I can replicate it using our cat Jabba. No, probably not. Poor dog, though.

The caption on the wall by the other painting said that the artist hoped to herald the cause of street children and child laborers by portraying these children as clean, meek, and angelic—or something like that. Well, I’m sure his patrons preferred these images over realistic ones. It’s the reverse of the WPA photographs during the Depression, when photographers found the grittiest people they could and asked them to look as sad as possible.