Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shepherds at Peace

Baila Feldman's later naive style included a number of paintings with themes from the Bible.  But one of the themes she returned to frequently was the shepherd.  I know of at least four paintings of this theme - and they all represent shepherds from the Old Testament.  In the two examples shown here we see the same peaceful energy and subject: the middle-eastern shepherd holding a small black sheep.  In each there is a major visual element behind the shepherd.  In the gold leaf sky version, above, it's Biblical Jericho (recognized from a canvas depicting Joshua at the gates of Jericho - in an upcoming post).  The sun shines in a six pointed star of David to underscore the Jewish Biblical context.  The scan above is taken from a proof for a Holiday card Baila had printed for sale at galleries and stationary shops.  I recognize the Holiday card format in the scale of her signature at lower right.  She made the name big for cards because she wanted it to be legible in the small format of a card.  

In the blue shepherd scene, below, the major element is the sinuous and astonishingly beautiful tree.  The dynamic energy in the flowing tree's limbs is a contrast to the stolid blocky forms of the animals and shepherd.  The contrast gives the lower figures a greater sense of repose.  Notice the dove of peace, bringing what appears to be a twig to her chicks in a nest in the tree.  Conflating nest building with feeding fledglings might be an error - or it might be a symbolic statement.  I just don't know.