This painting is done by Arthur Hughes. For more of Hughes, see the other post today.
What's in a painting for the viewer? I was perusing through all of Arthur Hughes work and this one caught my eye. I love this image... for symbolic reasons. The bible story of Ruth has always been one of my favorites. This painting reminds me of that. The account of Ruth is a beautiful story of loyalty, love and provision. It shows how sometimes bad things can happen that can change the course of your life but if you stay the course, things can turn around again.
I like this image too because way in the back is a little windmill, a symbol of my heritage.
Effective art speaks to the viewer. When a painting, photograph or poem grabs your heart, you need to listen and decipher the message. What is this painting saying to me right now?
Ruth means "loyal friend, companion". This woman is working hard in the field gleaning food for herself and her family. The act of gleaning is picking up what the harvesters have left. It gives her just enough but not too much. She can barely make it on her own. If it weren't for the owner of the field telling her workers to drop a bit extra wheat so that she can glean it she would have inadequate supplies.
Day in and day out, Ruth heads out to the fields to get wheat to bake bread and sell it to provide for her and her mother-in-law Naomi. She does not tire, she perseveres. The act of gleaning is not "beneath her" for she is a poor widow in a foreign land. She also does it slow and steadily. She is not in a hurry or playing beat the clock. This woman is calm.
Later in the story, Ruth catches the eye of Boaz, the rich owner of the field. He takes her under his wing and marries her. She no longer has to glean but has ample provision and then some. Oh happy ending....
This painting gives me hope. It reminds me to stay calm and focused on the simple task at hand. It reminds me that people do get "lucky breaks" sometimes and that there is someone watching over me who cares for my needs and provides for me. It screams patient perseverance. It teaches me to be still.
A don't know what the purpose behind this painting was originally. It could have just been a pretty picture to Hughes, but 100 or more years later, I can glean great wisdom from this work, pun intended. That's why art is good for the soul!