This is me, Elizabeth Rose Safran (aka Betty) at about 18 months old. I’m a very happy toddler wandering around my father’s art studio, carrying and chewing on his leather tobacco pouch. He always smoked Bond Street Tobacco in a pipe, and the studio and the rest of the house smelled of it.
The studio was built onto the end of our house and you could enter it either from the living room or from the kitchen. At the time that this picture was taken, my father, Bernard Safran, may have been painting an oil portrait for Time Magazine – perhaps the one of Jean Monnet http://www.safran-arts.com/Jean-Monnet.html that was published in October of 1961.
I was allowed into the studio pretty much whenever I wanted to go in as long as my Dad was there, but when my father was working to deadline we had to be quiet and not bother him. Considering that the studio was full of toxic powders and other non-friendly-to-babies-and-kids stuff, it was pretty cool that I could go in there at all (and chew on his tobacco pouch too).
The picture below is of my Dad, Bernie, at his easel and taboret working on one of the Biblical paintings that he did in the early 1960s. The photo dates from around 1961.
Dad’s wearing his little red wool hat that he wore all the time for pretty much his entire adult life; he wore it working in the studio and he wore it in bed. The painting that he is working on is of my maternal grandmother and grandfather fleeing Soddom and Gomorrah. It may be confusing and odd for some children to see their grannies and grandpas running from the most famous evil cities in the Bible, but to me it was normal to see my grandparents like this. After all, most of my family and neighbors could be seen in dramatic poses in the Biblical paintings series – even me.
One of my Dad’s best friends was painted as Bacchus the ancient Greek god of sex, drinking, and partying, and he hung in our living room for years like this…
As far as I know he only resembled Bacchus physically – I think he was an engineer and worked designing small appliances or something intellectual like that.
This is a picture of my mother Adele.
She was extremely beautiful and glamorous to me when I was little during the 1960s. She mostly sewed her own couturier clothes from Vogue patterns. She always looked amazing; something that I aspired to but eventually gave up on. My mother being a mother and a wife first, explored her artistic side when she could through all sorts of mediums including bookbinding, calligraphy, and printmaking– but her favorite was oil painting. The thing about my mother was that she loved life and approached everything with enthusiasm and joy.
This is a picture of myself with my big sister Barbara.
Barby was five years older than me. I am pretending to be a little angel here in the picture. I’m sure you could ask my sister if that were the case and she’d tell you otherwise.
This is the real me at about age 3 and a half (though I only seem to have one leg here): saucy, goofy, bouncy and usually with skinned knees. Only the inner circle of my family sees this side of me today – it’s too wild and embarrassing to share with most outsiders, or even my extended family.
One thing about being the daughter of two realist painters is that there were endless posed pictures taken of me. “Betty, move your chin up a bit, now tilt your head to the left, now move your eyes this way, now look natural…” I got very tired of having my picture taken mostly because my father loved to take pictures that showed every pimple and bump and pore… as you can see by the age of 14 I just couldn’t stand it any more. This picture could have been a mug shot – I look so enthused…
My parents knew lots of other artists and interesting people while I was growing up. I took this for granted of course, but over time I do believe that being totally immersed in art made me who I am for better or worse. I didn’t become an artist myself – there was way too much competition in the house – but I studied Art History and Archaeology and got a graduate degree in Museum Studies, and now manage the Estate Collection of my late father’s artwork.
So even though I may not make art, I am most definitely Artsy.