Post Office, by David Gilmour Blythe

This is probably David Gilmour Blythe’s masterpiece, although old Pa Pitt would certainly listen to arguments in favor of The Coal Carrier. It has all the comical details you expect from one of his larger paintings, perfectly executed and worked into an overall composition that is also just about perfect. And yet there is perhaps a whiff of tragedy in the midst of the comedy: this was probably painted during the Civil War (Blythe didn’t date most of his paintings, so we’re just guessing), when you would have seen a crush at the General Delivery window every time the mail came in, because hundreds of people were waiting to hear whether their sons and brothers and husbands were still alive.

The strange power of Blythe is that he paints humanity at its worst, and yet we come away thinking that humanity is worth saving after all.

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