What does happen when you get old? When your closest person is no longer with you? When your children are grown-ups and might have their own grandchildren. Sometimes they call you to ask how are you. Sometimes you get to see your grandchildren and grand-grandchildren. Not very often. And you notice they don’t especially like being with you. There are other, more interesting things to do: video games, football (soccer), baseball, friends, the neighbour’s girl who giggles in a funny way and whose eyes are so sparkling.
How can she be happy living this lonely life? What’s the meaning of her life now?
This painting gives a simple answer.
Again, look at it closely. What do you see there? What’s the story? What are the details?
An old lady is mending Xmas tree toys.
She took them out from their storage box and is checking whether the threads that are attached are ok. If not, she cuts them and makes new ones.
Let’s feel at home and look around while she’s busy.
It is a clean flat. Tidy. Poor. The furniture is vintage Ikea, dating back to when Ikea was not even there in the Soviet Union. Yet, it is being maintained in immaculate condition. You can’t see any items out of place. There is a sewing box on the table, but it is there, because it is needed now. She’ll take it to a drawer which is guaranteed to have things laid out in a very organised way.
So, the answer to the question about the meaning of her life is very simple. She’s the last link between the past and future generations of her family and she maintains family values, traditions and history to have that link unbroken even when she’s no longer around to decorate a puny Christmas tree with toys what were out of fashion 30 years ago. She’s doing that with dignity and determination. She keeps calm and carries on. Regardless.
And this is another example of a typically Russian painting. As I wrote here, a Russian painting may be simple and straightforward in terms of what it shows, but it’s going to be loaded with messages like a Tolstoy’s story.