Daily Art Moment: Shirley Gittelsohn

Shirley Gittelsohn (American, 1925–2015), Family Portrait, 1977, oil on linen, 72 in x 144 in, Gift of the Families of Shirley Gittelsohn and Ernest Bonyhadi. Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, 2017.49.1

Shirley Gittelsohn’s Family Portrait is featured in the current exhibition, Portraiture from the Collection of Northwest Art. The painting depicts her adult children, the family pets, her relaxed husband, herself, and their Cannon Beach gathering place. I’ve been drawn to different details of this piece over time, most recently focusing on Gittelsohn’s self-portrait. She is on the far right, standing slightly behind one of her daughters. Gittelsohn’s gaze focuses on this daughter. Her arm is outstretched, but she does not take her daughter’s arm. As a mother, she has the expression of hesitation and worry. Reflecting on this particular moment in the painting, I think about the shifting, unending role of parenthood as children come into their own. The gesture of Gittelsohn’s hesitation and worry feels especially resonant as families have sent their children back to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic with concerns of how to keep our children safe while allowing them the freedom to engage with their peers and really feel a part of the community.

Grace Kook-Anderson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art

Shirley Gittelsohn (American, 1925–2015), Family Portrait, 1977. Oil on linen. Gift of the Families of Shirley Gittelsohn and Ernest Bonyhadi, 2017.49.1 © 1977 Shirley Gittelsohn

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