Painting

This is a portrait of my grandfather, painted in 1922 by the father of a family friend who happened to be a neighbour in the same tenement in the Bronx.

I actually love the painting, but it's in stark contrast to my feelings about my grandfather who was estranged from the family for most of my life, and who was actually a very vindictive, bitter, and spiteful character. By all measures, he wasn't a nice man and treated us very badly. Growing up I so wanted to know him and be close to him, mainly because he had so much knowledge of our family history that I desperately wanted to learn, and he was quite a dandy which impressed me. He was known for his sartorial splendour, and one of my last encounters with him was meeting on Santa Monica Blvd in the 1980s where he was dressed in a denim safari suit, with matching cap, and white patent leather shoes and belt.

I have been told by others in the family that he was always a mercurial character, even as a young man, with a quick temper but that he wasn't particularly nasty. With the onset of diabetes in his middle age, his personality changed completely and he became ill-natured and hostile. He died at the age of 89, taking his secrets to the grave with him and leaving me angry and resentful. It was only after he passed away that a few items of his finally made their way over to my father, and eventually on to me. Apart from this painting, my grandfather really left us nothing, certainly no fond memories, but I do actually love and cherish this painting as it is actually a frozen moment and a link back to my family's narrative.

Alex Sunshine
Photographer