Hands 1918

During the Great War, Canadian artists were commissioned to memorialize significant individuals, places, battles, and monuments. Among those selected as a subject was Lady Julia Drummond. Florence Carlyle was selected as the artist. Drummond had relocated to London in order to be closer to the front lines of the war effort. (Wait for more on Drummond… it’s coming!) In order to find even small pockets of time to observe her subject, Carlyle moved into Drummond’s home located around the corner from Buckingham Palace. Between guests and meetings and outings, Carlyle found it hard to sequester Drummond for uninterrupted posing sessions. But even when she did procure those rare pockets of uninterrupted time, she found Drummond’s hands impossible to paint: “It is impossible for her to keep them still. They moved constantly and she was not aware of it.”

These were hands that years and years earlier had held her own baby’s hand long after his heart stopped beating. These were hands that had wiped the brow of her dying husbands. Not once but twice. These were hands that had torn open a telegram just months earlier announcing that her only living son was no longer living, that he too was a casualty of Ypres. These were hands that were busy with packages and letters and appeals and bills and pleas, ever moving in an effort to end the darkness that seemed to cover her world.

These were hands aching to hold her baby grandson, that child who would never know his father. I wonder if that was what kept her hands moving.

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