What do my Rhode Island Red chickens in Florida have in common with a fabulous art exhibition about brothers at the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth?
The featured exhibit was devoted to a rare collection of 44 paintings by the Le Nain Brothers. These 3 French painting brothers were well known in the 1630’s and 1640’s. You can see some of their remarkable works here.
So where is the commonality and what is the mystery? Our, “Le Chicks” are pretty impossible to tell apart and art historians have had an almost impossible time trying to figure which of the brothers painted which paintings. In fact all 3 brothers worked together, apparently in harmony and signed all the paintings with just “Le Nain.”
Antoine, Louis and Mathieu have had the art world scratching their collective heads for a long time. A detailed chart at the Kimbell tried to ferret out the differences in signature painting styles, etc. But the fact remains that this art “who done it” will remain a mystery. Apparently the Le Nain brothers didn’t care who got credit. La Nativite a la Torche was one of my favorites, solid, sculptural, sensitively composed with the light focused on mother and child. As you can see from this Nativity scene, they were in synch!
Very little is known about them, but they shared a studio, remained unmarried and seemed to be utterly devoted to their work. How did they do it?
Who figured out the compositions? The works are seamless. Did all three stand there and paint? Did they work in shifts? Was there discord? They must have enjoyed it or they wouldn’t have worked together for such a long period of time. And finally, how in the world did they subordinate their egos?
In a “me first” world, this is a rare picture of brotherly love. Romans 12:10 (TLB) instructs us to “Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.” But I think 1 Peter 3:8-12 (MSG) puts it in perspective for me, “Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing”
Do you know any other painters that paint together to create one work? How would you characterize the Le Nain’s approach to harmony? Have you experienced that kind of collaboration with your siblings? I know I have, but I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences. BTW, the exhibit concludes on September 11th, so if you’re in the Dallas area and you have a chance, don’t miss it!