I find the above painting very moving. It is “The Thankful Poor” by Henry Ossawa Tanner. On this day, the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I think it is especially poignant…though most of us (especially myself) have more than they need–food, clothing, shelter, family, etc.–we still desire more, and sometimes we (again, I’m mostly speaking of myself here) forget to stop and be thankful for all that we have in our lives…and that we not only have everything we need we actually have more than we need. I personally should be more aware of all the grace and gifts that I have in my life, and the above painting is a good reminder for me.
The next couple paragraphs is an excerpt from an article regarding Tanner and his work. I came across it at the Washington Post (written by Jabari Asim), click here to read the full story.
Tanner did his best work in Paris after arriving there in 1891. The son of escaped slaves, he had studied for six years with Thomas Eakins, the dean of the American Naturalist school, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Tanner was grateful for Eakins’ tutelage as well as for the generous financial support of Bishop and Mrs. Joseph Hartzell of Philadelphia, who paid for his journey overseas. But his benefactors were enlightened exceptions to the American racism of that period. In search of a less encumbered lifestyle, Tanner settled in the City of Light and eventually won widespread acclaim.
In 1894 Tanner painted “The Thankful Poor,” an oil-on-canvas portrait of an elderly black man sitting down to supper with a young boy. Their heads are bowed in prayer. The man’s rough hands and the boy’s bedraggled clothes suggest that they are no strangers to privation and toil. The table is plain and sparse, but Tanner has endowed the humble pair with an aura of hard-earned dignity — even a rough-edged beauty.
“The Thankful Poor” is slowly becoming a familiar image. After lingering in a school closet for 75 years, it was rediscovered and auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1981. Bill and Camille Cosby purchased it for $250,000, at the time the most ever spent for a painting by an African-American artist.
“Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.”
— Robert C. Linter
“If thank you is the only prayer you say, that will be enough.”
— Meister Eckhart
“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”
— W.J. Cameron
“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”
“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.”