Heavy Canvas

cracking a smile
detail from The Veth Sisters by Jan Veth, remastered with FaceApp

Heavy Canvas

The modern portrait comes in many gazes –
Some are staring at us,
While others ponder into space –
And profiles never even know we’re there.
But the thing that most amazes
Is the thing we barely suss,
Until the aggregate of faces
Steals upon us what it is they share:

It is their air of serious concern –
The weight upon their brows,
Their watchful eyes,
Their level lips.
These sitters sit unblinking, deep and stern,
In ranks of frowns and scowls,
And endless masks of empty guise
Through which their boredom slips.

They’re pictured well, each grave expression,
Well enough to find them in a crowd –
And yes, they entertain us for a time,
For all their dour style.
So portraiture’s a serious profession,
Justly resolute and proud –
And yet…can it be such a crime
To sometimes paint one with a smile ?

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