Daffodil butter

ROBERT GWATHMEY,  Flower Vendor, 1947

ROBERT GWATHMEY, Flower Vendor, 1947

The daffodils are coming!  Daffodils make me about as happy as my other golden love –butter! I think these ladies may be my daffodil soulmates, so lets take a look at Robert Gwathmey’s Flower Vendor today in their honor.

A little back story on the artist will help us appreciate this piece more. Gwathmey grew up in the Depression and painted through the 1980’s.  He is considered a Social Realist painter for his love of painting African-American life in the rural south and his championing of the civil rights movement.  His wife, Rosalie, supported them as a textile designer and you can often see her designs in his work.

Which explains why the women in this painting have so much grace and dignity even while running to market. Yet they are stop motion. The overall composition of the bodies is a large triangle, giving a sense of solidity to the painting which contrasts with the implied movement of the feet. So we have a moving stillness — a ballet like grace imparted to the women.

The wonderfully patterned dresses add even more movement within the borders of the bodies themselves.  He loves the use of lines, but it’s not cubist, the lines do not denote the different planes of  perspective.  Rather the linear partitions of the fabric suggest the multilayer, multifacet of their lives.

Let’s not forget those delightful daffodils, oh, no.  One lady wears a basketcrown of blooms.  All the colors in the palate are spring hues; pinks, turquoises, light blues . . .you can almost smell the greens of the grass. The pastel colors lend softness to the strong forms. And you feel drawn to these ladies and wonder as your affection rises to welcome them. You could almost raise a hand,waving and greeting, “How are you Millie? Auntie Jolene? Slow down now ya’ hear? Don’t break a leg now honey. I gotta mind to buy me a bunch of them daffodils.”