The law and politics, human emotions, failings and desires, as well as survival and reproductive success in the biological sense all contribute to the notion of ‘family’ as we know it today. There are also fine and subtle variations determined by location (and dislocation, such as is caused by migration), race, religion, and a host of other complications devised, and brought about unwittingly, by humankind.
In this family portrait the most important aspects are composition and palette. Prominence is given to the pet in the foreground. The color scheme also shows that the bespectacled boy, drawn in red, seems to have preference over the shadowy presence of sister, mom and dad. All are unsmiling: this could have a number of reasons. Is the pet being given away? Is the boy in trouble? Are boy and dog ganging up on the rest of the family? The three heads in the background could be snipped off at the corner, leaving boy and dog, who occupy most of the frame. This possibility gives this family a fault-line. All is not as happy as it looks on first look.
The monotone color choice for this picture is deceptive, suggesting less happiness and unity than is visible on closer inspection. A mother and daughter are occupied in a yoga exercise that unites them in shape, concentration and harmony. They are almost one shape, so they make a family: they are dressed similarly, and only a singular purpose could keep a person in that pose. They both want to do this very much. They like to be together: are all families like this? This picture looks old-fashioned, like a woodcut, but its premise is contemporary. A single mother can bring up her daughter alone and they can enjoy harmony.
The Gravenor family looks very correct, contained and harmonious, thanks to the artist’s composition and choices of color. Father, mother and two daughters? Or father, wife, daughter and grandmother? From this