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Tulips in the Netherlands

I have done four paintings of subjects like this, capturing the landscape of an ancestor’s homeland.

They have included an ancestor’s farm and outbuildings, a seaside village where an ancestor shopped and attended church, rolling fields of crops where an ancestor was the foreman of a large Danish farm, and this painting of expansive rows of tulips being prepared for market in the Netherlands. All provide a visual identity for the ancestor for whom they were home, and they add to the mere names and dates that otherwise would be the extent of the descendant’s family history record of that ancestor.

This one is particularly vivid, because the location is so immediately recognizable and the family’s nationality connection therefore so apparent. Not all locations make such an obvious link to a family’s ancestry — not to someone outside the family anyway. What counts of course is that the link is known to family descendants and it reveals a story about such valuable facts as an ancestor’s livelihood — helping to bring to life a person for whom only names and dates were previously known. From this beginning, one can learn what clothing an ancestor wore, what was their likely day’s schedule, their mode of transportation, etc. In short, they become a real person to descendants.

Though at first glance such a painting seems to be the least personal reflection of an ancestor, to the descendant family the reverse is true. To have a visual connection with an ancestor’s homeland is to provide the beginning step in knowing the person and that fleshes out a family line, which, in my experience, has invariably brought satisfaction to the descendant acquiring the painting.

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