Update: This painting had a great sale at the Scottsdale Art Auction! Congratulations to the new owners.
“I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember.” —Elie Wiesel
This is a quiet, mid-afternoon Spanish scene. The sun falls across the courtyard with a strong line of shadow across the rogue grass growing through the cobblestones. A very sophisticated color palette shows rich, warm browns and pinks punctuated by green and contrasted with dark doorways and windows. Hulings was a master of decisions about detail: when to use hard and soft edges, when to gloss over an area, and when to render it in sharp, attention-catching specificity—as we saw with his advice about painting flowers a couple of weeks ago in the Aix-en-Provence painting. Here we see that skill in the play of textures on the alternating plaster and exposed brick on the walls, the terracotta tile roof, the ground, and the stonework of the courtyard.
But the soul of this painting is in the five figures: the lady midway through the work of the day wearing her widow’s black, the seated older person sitting next to a sociable chicken, the long-eared white burro wearing a bridle and saddle on a break from work, and the little boy in short pants. The boy has a couple of toys in tow and looks like he’s in the middle of some serious playtime; the bright yellow truck is a bold little area of color in the scene. It is his engagement in his play that brightens this simple moment, showing a family working together with their animals to make a good life for the next generation.
Spain was one of Clark Hulings’ early childhood homes, and he traveled back there to paint throughout his life. Ever in search of traditional but unsentimental moments, his themes in Spain were diverse: spanning colorful markets, big cities and small farms, buildings from extravagant to humble, animals, and most of all, people. Spain has been a dynamic and often volatile mix of cultures and religions for centuries. Jewish history there is very complex from the late Roman Empire onward, culminating in the expulsion or forced conversion of Jewish people in 1492. Many of the “ghettos” or segregated areas of European cities are quite old and were officially dismantled in the 19th century, although some of them were re-established in WWII—marking a tragic resurgence of persecution.
Bring the Old World Home
This is the third Hulings painting in our series about the work featured at Scottsdale Art Auction this Saturday, April 6th. There’s still time to make arrangements to bid remotely, so just let us know if you’re interested in this 20 x 40″ circa 1976 work. Passover is only a couple of weeks away, and we’re wishing all who are preparing for the celebration, chag sameach.