‘The Thankful Poor’ Antique Dresser



As with all my pieces, I want them to tell a story. More recently, I’ve been drawn to work that is reflective of current events. I find that my art is a way to maintain a sense of sanity in an often crazy world.

Today’s unrest has shown me that I need to expand my vision, and I need to educate myself in regards to African American history, something that I have been woefully short on (I’m originally from England). As part of my ‘schooling’ I began to search African American paintings, and came across this magnificent painting; called ‘The Thankful Poor’ it was painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1894 (based on a photograph that he had taken in Atlanta of a grandfather and his grandson, a few years prior). The image moved me incredibly because it shows the generational connection that we have with our elders; and the feeling is one of quiet dignity. It’s one of those images that you immediately want to put your hand over your heart, and feel gratitude.

The dresser itself is post-depression, lovely moldings. Yes, it has a few nicks and dents, but I never want to make my pieces look freshly painted – I want them to look authentic – so the slight flaws I embrace.

The piece itself came about very effortlessly, and trust me, I love when that happens. While the image is perfect for this time, I had to think about what color to use on the body of the dresser. Often I pull colors from the paintings themselves, but sometimes I use colors to reflect a certain mood. If I want high energy I’ll go with reds/oranges etc, a calming theme will likely see me favoring blues/greens. Hopeful/joyful maybe I’ll go with a yellow palette. I stared at this painting for a long time. If you notice, the grandfather is painted with dark tones, almost in the shadows – while the young boy was surrounded by light yellow tones. For me, this represented the dark history that the grandfather had endured, but he was looking at the more hopeful colors of his grandson. So I wanted dark and light in the piece – and surely, those two colors would be a stark contrast on a piece of furniture – and not give the calming element that I wanted.

So – I started to think about dark colors. Sure I could do a dark blue/dark green – but meh, too trendy. Black? Too harsh and cold. Brown – beautiful, soft, rich, earthy brown. Yes, YES YES!!! Was I thinking about the richness of the brown skin? Nope, strangely that didn’t even cross my mind. What touched me was One: brown is the color of the earth – we all belong here, and many generations of Americans have broken their backs working that earth so that things can grow in it – and to grow you need to nurture it (and more importantly, perhaps each other). Two: You can throw all the different colors you have together and ultimately what you’ll always end up with brown. Always. THAT is what I wanted to try and express, we need diversity to get to the gorgeous richness. Brown is the color of complete inclusion. Period. Am I being hokey? Talking nonsense? Sure, you can think that. I don’t. OK, maybe I did at first when the analogy came to me. But the longer I thought about it, the truer it became.

I had to use a rich brown. And then, I needed to add the light – a soft yellow in the highlights. Because, hopefully, light will always lead the way to a better place.

The final touch for the piece was in the molding. The original wood molding needed some attention and I love gold leaf, it’s so much softer than silver. Rich and warm, opulent at times. Clearly, this piece with it’s image would look ridiculous with bright shiny gold. Rather than doing the obvious, I tarnished the gold.It represents that there is always value hidden underneath the ravages of time and age; all it needs to reveal itself is the correct treatment. We all glisten and gleam under the right conditions.

And so this is how the piece came to be. In a time of great unrest I turn to art, because art is a healer and it will always soothe the soul. And this painting did that for me.

Local pickup from Portland, Oregon is greatly appreciated. However, if you need shipping, please message me and I’ll be happy to find you a reasonable shipping rate. (the shipping rate is just an estimate and will likely change depending on your zip code).
Measures are: 51″H x 20″D x 38″W.

As always, thanks for stopping by!
Diane aka The Paint Factory



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