“The burro is standing patiently, dead still, in the hot bright sunlight with only his nose tucked into the shadow.”
There’s something about this time of year: the holidays are behind us, the spring seems miles ahead, and work is in high gear. Many of us juggle a long to-do list and wake in the night, certain that we haven’t crossed something off of it. Hulings was fascinated by work, and he studied it from all angles and all around the world; he was perpetually curious about bustling, noisy workplaces such as markets as well as quiet, “just get it done” moments such as this one. Although the visual stories in traditional ways of life show this more clearly than the image of a contemporary dad on his computer—finishing an important email while stopping his toddler from feeding lego to the dog—essentially we’re all in the same boat: we have things we must do for our livelihood and for our families.
More Naps, Please
As our Hulings fans know, nothing expresses his understanding of the dignity of labor quite so well as a donkey—or for a Spanish scene, a burro. These animals have worked alongside us on the good days and the bad for thousands of years with strength, sensitivity and endurance. Although there are two people in the composition, we see the burro because his dark brown color stands out against the sunlit white stucco. His packs are full and he looks like he needs a siesta.
In Clark’s Words
“The burro is standing patiently, dead still, in the hot bright sunlight with only his nose tucked into the shadow. Not a stirring of wind, not a sound. The serenity is broken by the two figures, the man hauling water in his pail and the woman hanging laundry on her roof-terrace clothesline. The silence is broken by her yelling something to him. Were it not for this unseen diagonal line of tension created between them, the picture would be dull.” —A Gallery of Paintings
Up on the Roof
Hulings has created a number of elements to direct us to the upper left corner where the washerwoman is working: the stripe of the white building running along the left side of the frame, the shrub, and the slope of the terra-cotta roof tile. The man turning to her completes the diagonal line Hulings refers to above, then brings our eye back to our burro with his forehead resting against the building, sneaking in a moment of respite.