JR: You have selected a painting by your Grandfather, of your Grandmother Vera, which he gifted to her on the occasion of a wedding anniversary. This painting is a near replica of Amedeo Modigliani’s (1918) Portrait of the Artist’s Wife. The background, the pose, the color scheme are all near identical. The only substantial difference is in the subject’s head and face. What can you tell me about your Grandfather? Was he a professional artist or was painting more of an avocation for him? And what do you know about what guided his decision to paint your grandmother in this way?
BG: My grandfather was actually a professional graphic designer, and a painter by hobby. His design firm in Philadelphia was quite renowned; Kramer, Miller, Lomden, and Glassman. They designed many famous logos. He did go to art school, and painted for most of his life. He showed at galleries very infrequently however, he mostly kept his paintings to himself and gifts. I believe he painted my grandmother like this because of both of their love for classic art. She treasures this painting even to this day.
JR: Given that the painting is deliberately a near replica of the Modigliani, where only the face of your grandmother substantially differentiates them, how well would you say this painting captures your grandmother? Does it? Or is it more about the fun of inserting her into the known work that they shared an appreciation for?
BG: The painting, I think, captures her likeness as a young woman quite well. In fact I believe my grandfather picked Modigliani deliberately as his style easily incorporated my grandmother’s image.
JR: Can you tell me about your grandmother and how this might (to one who knows her) capture the personality? Though it’s a bit abstract, there is noticeable expression in her face and a distinctive hairstyle. The pose and elegant dress are from the Modigliani but perhaps it is also a pose your grandmother would naturally strike and a style that approximates her own?
BG: Of course! My grandmother is to this day a very austere woman even at the age of 90. In the painting, her head is turned as if she is listening, a quirk she exhibits in real life as well. She was slender with a posture that made her seem intimidating. This pose though replicated from the painting is definitely something she would strike in the real world.
JR: How important is it for you to have beauty present in your life? In what ways is it important or, what, if anything, does it contribute to your life?
BG: Beauty is very important in my life. I’m a very visual person, and love to look at art, nature, anything that makes me think to myself, “wow, that is beautiful.” It contributes greatly to my mood and overall happiness as well. Life is unfulfilling without beauty in it, in my eyes. I like to think that beauty is one of the things that we as humans strive to experience, as Nehamas said.