One of the many things I love about the internet is being able to find and learn about artists and artwork that I have never seen before. Recently I came across a photo of a painting that just stopped me in mid mouse click.
Originally presented without a title, the artist wanted viewers to form their own opinions and ideas about what the piece represented. Eventually, Hugo Simberg, the artist (1873 -1917) titled the canvas 'The Wounded Angel'.
The Wounded Angel, painted in 1903, was to become the artist's favorite work. A sentiment shared by the Finnish people, who voted it The National Painting of Finland in 2006.
Simberg painted The Wounded Angel at a time when he was just recovering from a long illness. Some critics feel the work is representative of his feelings about that time period. Simberg refused to offer any explanation for the meaning of the work. He preferred to leave this challenge to the individual.
Over time, there has been a consensus of opinion by art historians and experts that the little angel-girl is being carried by the two boys along the pathway of a park in Elaintarha, Helsinki and the water in the background is Toolonlahti Bay.
At the time this painting was done, this area was frequented by those of the working class. Along the pathways were institutions that offered help to the poor, the ill, the homeless. It is believed that the angel-girl is being carried to the Blind Girls' School and Home for Cripples. The angel carries a small cluster of white snowdrop flowers which symbolize healing and rebirth.
When I look at this painting, I see two little boys who are taking their task very seriously. The first boy carefully leading the way, looks down at the ground as he walks because he wants nothing to distract him or obstruct him from his job. The the second boy, like the little voice inside our heads that questions our actions, deeds, thoughts, is staring accusingly as if asking the viewer 'did you do this?" . And, the little angel-clutching the poles tightly, I don't see as a sign of weakness, but rather as one who is gathering her strength and will. The blindfold represents the unknown that lies ahead. The little flowers in her hand, and if you notice, all along the path they are on, as symbols that she is going to heal and get better. And, I think hopefulness. So, I guess, though at first I looked and thought what a sad little painting, after looking at it for a while, and looking past the obvious I see it as a portrait of something much more positive.
What do you see when you look at this painting?
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