As I first entered the Baltimore Museum of Art, I was shocked. I hadn t been to an art museum since I was a child, and of course I was to young to appreciate anything. As I walked my way throughout the museum observing all of the statues, portraits and antiques, I was asking everyone that worked there where I could find paintings before 1850. After a worker explained that only a few paintings are open to public due to construction, I thought to myself I am going to be forced to choose out of like five paintings. As I walked into the exhibit, immediately I was attracted to a painting of two young boys, one black and one white. This painted using oil on canvas by an American named John Hesselius in the year of 1761. Perhaps it was the detailed outfits that the two boys were wearing, but immediately I knew I wanted to write about the painting. Even if the whole exhibit was open to view, I know I still would have chosen this painting.
Charles Calvert, who is the son of Bennedict and Elizabeth Calvert, is shown here in the painting at the age of five with a young Calvert family slave. At the time of this painting, around 1761, it was common for children to be accompanied by slaves when the parents were not around to care for them. Slaves were used for cooking meals for the family and for babysitting the children when needed.
In this painting, Charles is standing next to his slave pointing to what appears to be a city behind them. Charles, with drumsticks in his hand, is located in the middle of the painting as his slave is kneeling on the ground holding the drum. It seems that Charles is planning out which way to walk. Charles is looking at us while the slave is looking where Charles is pointing, which looks like towards a town of some kind. They are located in a field with a river behind them, and a set of mountains in the distance. Behind where they are standing there is a church, which is identifiable by its large steeple.
Charles and his slave seem to be richly dressed in fashionable attire for the time. Their clothing seems to be very detailed with fancy buttons and lace cuffs. Charles appears to look like the average American child. He has blonde hair, blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and looks a little chubby. Charles looks like a very innocent man who perhaps could have made best friends with the slave. Due to the rich outfits though, it could be a possibility that his wealthy parents treated their slaves cruelly like many other southern Americans at the time.
The slave, who is a very dark skinned child with dark brown eyes, is wearing an off-white outfit. Charles and his slave are wearing the same outfit but in different colors.
Although Charles and his slave are wearing very bright outfits, the rest of the picture seems so dull. The objects in the background are painted with muggy looking colors. The blue mountains, the green grass, the blue water in the river, and the gray sky, are all painted with dull colors. Nowhere near as detailed as the clothing or the skin of the Charles or his slave. Hesselius probably used dull colors for everything else than Charles and his slave, to make them stand out from the rest of this picture.
The reason why I chose this picture was because of the detail and the bright colors of the children, and also because of the reality of it. It seems awkward that Charles at the age of five has a slave about the same age to do him favors. Today, although some people still hold the old southern views towards blacks, black and white children are seen playing with each other daily. Perhaps that is why I chose this because if shows how time has changed.
After reading a couple of articles and seeing some other paintings by John Hesselius on the internet galleries, I noticed that Hesselius seems to paint his other paintings as he did the painting of Charles Calvert and his slave. The painting of John Paca which was painted by Hesselius in 1762, seems to have the same body details and clothing details as does the painting of Charles Calvert and his slave. The painting details the clothing and skin of Paca, yet the background was the same type of dull paint that was used in the painting I chose to write about. As well, after learning that Hesselius was the instructor of another artist named Charles Pearle, I recall Pearle s painting of the Thomson family, which was displayed right next to the painting of Charles Calvert and his slave. As I remember, Pearle as did his former instructor, painted the clothing and skin features with great details.
I think now that I have done this review of the painting of Charles Calvert and his slave, I think paintings will be more appealing to me now that I know what kind of details to look for as I have a painting in my memory to compare to.