Day’s End

Francis de Erdely
Day’s End
Oil on canvas, c. 1947
60 x 40 1/2 inches
Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation
1980.018

In Day’s End, Francis De Erdely presents a poor worker’s family as a modern Holy Family. The sleeping child is wrapped in the most humble of cloth; its mother bows her head in silence as a dim, soft light illuminates her breasts; and the father, back turned to us, uses his own hands to support his weary head. Dingy garments hang out to dry, and a still life of the most basic fruits and vegetables reminds us that the family’s evening meal will be a frugal one.

But Day’s End may be about more than the dignity of labor and endurance in the face of poverty. Implicit here is an element of threat, best revealed in the man’s pose—one that captured soldiers must hold. Perhaps it is meant to leave us with a question. Are we not all capable of persecution and must we not be internally vigilant in the face of that?

De Erdely studied in some of the finest academies in Europe, built a fortune from his art, and traveled the world after receiving early notice for his royal portrait of the Queen of Spain. Nevertheless, he was no stranger to unrest and tragedy. Due to his strong anti-war, anti-Nazi paintings, he was forced to flee Europe in 1939 at the onset of World War II.

Day’s Endwas exhibited in the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s “Paintings of the Year” exhibition in February 1948 and came in third in the popular vote. It was also featured in the May 1948 issue of American Artist magazine to illustrate the artist’s creative process from the birth of an idea to a finished painting.