Harry’s Story – the Unknown Gift of Art

One of the reasons we create art is to provide the gift of beauty to others. Once it leaves our hands, the influence of that artwork is unknown.  It’s hard to know what the unknown gift of art will be for another.  What are the stories they bring to the image?  What is meaningful to them?  What emotions do they feel when they see a painting?  How do they connect to our work?

I’d like to share Harry’s story with you.

Last winter, during our holiday art show, an elderly gentleman started chatting with me about this print I had on display.

The Courtyard Egg Tempera on Panel 7 1/8x10 © Nelia Harper
The Courtyard Egg Tempera on Panel 7 1/8×10 © Nelia Harper

He asked me questions about the location, and we chatted for a bit about our various travels.  He used to travel for work and lived all over the world.  The print reminded him of a place where he had lived.  I shared with him the story of Bagnoreggio and the process of creating the painting. He dug into his pockets for some cash, and bought the print.  I signed it for him, and after chatting a few more minutes, we wished each other a ‘happy holiday’ and parted.

This year the story came full circle.  As I was setting up my prints for our annual holiday show, fellow artist Jenifer came over and asked me, “Do you remember Harry, that older gentleman that bought a print from you last year?”

“Oh, yes.” I replied.  “He bought  a print of the Bagnoreggio courtyard.  I remember we had a really nice talk, and he was so excited about that print.”

“He sure was.” she said.  “Shortly after he bought that print, his health started to decline.  He died a few months later.  He kept that print right next to his bed.  And, he looked at it every day.  It reminded him of the places he had lived and kept it close to him.  I would like to think that it reminded him of happier times.  He was a gentle, kind and happy soul and remained that way through the end – happy and positive.”

I was so stunned by the story that the weight of it didn’t touch me until later.  I picture him, frail and aging, remembering the good times, knowing that the end was near.  And, I see him holding that print, thinking of all the times past.

God speed Harry.  Thank you for touching my life.


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