Portraying the Young and the Old

When you compare and contrast taking care of a toddler and geriatric person, you find yourself focusing on brain growth and brain damage. It is simply wonderful, in fact enchanting, to read aloud to your child and see how your child absorbs knowledge, language, and illustrations as a dried-out sponge. This is such a rewarding and pleasant, if not addictive, task, it brings pure joy. That lovely warm body of a relaxed child to hold close to you, seeing these beautiful big eyes staring at illustrations, and these sweet small fingers pointing out what riddles him or her.

Taking care of a geriatric person is completely different. It feels like a Sisyphean task. (What is a Sisyphean Task, click here). There is forgetfulness, decline, less energy, and an increasing need for rest. Eventually, just like taking care of a baby, you end up just sitting close, holding hands and dwelling in the here and now without expectation or ambition.

Roman sculpture: Silenus with Dionysus by Lysippos. Glyptothek Museum Munich Germany

I had an uncle who was full of character. He thought that the old only had a ‘nuisance value’. He was in his late seventies when he talked about this, so we laughed off his notions. The first time he made my husband and me aware of his old age ‘nuisance value’ ethics was when he had to stop his car (in which we sat) and wait a long time for a very old person, bending like a crooked tree branch, to cross a street. All the while step… wait… step… wait. .…my uncle shared his philosophy on nonexistent values of old age. He knew that old men often become aggressive and very old women often grow depressed. To him there was no way out of this Sisyphean predicament other than dying on time, which he did.

Whether you agree or disagree with the nuisance value philosophy, we need to be grateful to both the young and the old. We need to be able to nourish one’s soul, keep the brain going, and see that sharing every ounce of love is worth the effort.

Guido Reni’s St. Joseph with infant Jesus; the beauty of young and old united. For more on this painting click here.

The difference between taking care of a toddler and an old person is that with a toddler you are gearing all education towards gaining independence in the future. Whereas with an old person, you accept the loss of independence and find comfort in sharing memories about the past. One embraces the inevitable and inescapable short timeline we all have. Whilst it is so incredibly fulfilling to witness the growth of a child and its growing cognitive capacities, it takes courage to come to terms with loss, with a changing brain, a brain that is shutting down operations. That said, is it therefore not wondrous that in an old person, childhood memories are so manifest? The first memories that were written in stone (in the brain) are those who will disappear last. I find incredible comfort in this because it shows that a healthy and happy childhood keeps its value for a lifetime. That said, it is also an urgent reminder how we need to take excellent care of every single child’s early life. (‘It is easier to raise a happy child than to fix a broken man’)

As an artist, I like to add that painters overall seem to be more inspired by old age than by young life. A baby is a tabula rasa, a clean slate, nothing written on it yet. It is lovely, beautiful and adorable, yet it has no depth. A baby is like an angel, alluding to heavenly innocence.

Raphael’s baby Jesus with Maria

Take the old, they have lived. Lived! Life has thrown 101 blessings and troubles to them. They have dealt with war, conflict, illnesses, labour and misfortune. Oldies have weathered heavy storms. How did they do that and what resilience shows in their countenances? That is the inspiring challenge to deal with whilst painting an old man or woman; trying to capture the many layered life experiences that a human being has endured.

The same counts for painting a sea or body of water. A calm sea only mirrors the heavens (like babies do), whilst a stormy sea is great fun for an artist; one hardly can’t go wrong with the wildness and chaos of high waves and lots of foam (just like the wrinkles in an old person’s face).

Christian Seybold (1695 – 1768) Portrait of an older woman.
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany

Make sure you have lived…because life has been given to you and staying a young is no option. Keep your brain active, keep your enthusiasm going. Accept high waves. Give a portrait painter enough wrinkles and a biographer enough soul.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Dutch artist at Etsy & Instagram & Linktree

In Memoriam M.B.P. (Michael) Kuitenbrouwer (1961-2022)

Mr. Michael Bernardus Plechelmus Kuitenbrouwer


Beste familie, vrienden, (oud) collega’s en jaargenoten,

Met groot verdriet deel ik u mede dat mijn broer Michael op 28 januari 2022 plotseling is overleden. Graag wil ik stilstaan bij mijn lieve broer en u een schets geven over zijn leven, wie hij was en wat hij heeft gedaan.

Michael studeerde lang geleden af aan Faculteit Rechten van de Universiteit Utrecht. Hij was lid van de Utrechtse studentenvereniging Unitas. Na zijn studie volgde hij diverse Scandinavische taaltrainingen aan de Open Universiteit. Wanneer je eindelijk kon onthouden dat hij Deens studeerde, was het inmiddels Noors en wanneer je zeker wist dat het Noors was, studeerde Michael Zweeds voor Beginners. Michael was geïnteresseerd in de verschillen en overeenkomsten tussen de Scandinavische talen.

Michael studeerde breed af hetgeen terug te zien is in de diverse functies die hij had maar ook in de verscheidenheid van onderwerpen waarover hij gespecialiseerde artikelen schreef voor juridische tijdschriften in de periode van 1986-1989, 1995-1999, 2015-1019 en vanaf 2018 op Linkedin.

Het Tijdschrift voor Bouwrecht publiceerde in 2014 Michaels artikel ‘Anti-speculatie bepalingen sinds HR 14 april 2007 en 27 april 2007, een inventarisatie’. In een ander blad Bouwrecht 2015/68 publiceerde hij: ‘Juridische aspecten van handhaving bij permanente bewoning van recreatieverblijven, de stand van zaken van medio 2015’. Het tijdschrift Verkeersrecht publiceerde van Michael op 23-10-2016 ‘Juridische aspecten van de uitwegvergunning’ en in Bouwrecht van 31-12-2016 ‘De evidente privaatrechtelijke belemmeringen bij bouwaanvragen, een kwestie op de grens van het bestuursrecht en het privaatrecht’. Het blad Verkeersrecht publiceerde op 16-3-2018 ‘Verkeer en Evenement’ van Michaels hand. Een inventarisatie van Michaels artikelen is te vinden op Recht.nl.

Mike was tot zijn overlijden Juridisch medewerker evenementen bij de gemeente Breda via detacheringsbureau Solyne B.V.

Michael was een lieve zoon, een lieve broer en een lieve oom met een zeer grote liefde voor Geschiedenis. Hij had een formidabel geheugen voor geschiedkundige feiten.

In oktober 2020 vatte hij het plan op om enkele autobiografische verhalen op papier te zetten. Hij schreef twee A-viertjes vol interessante, grappige en ernstige ervaringen op, maar verder dan een index lijkt hij niet te zijn gekomen.

Een kort opgeschreven herinnering kenmerkt Michael zeer. Het was zomer 2016 en Michael ging op sollicitatiegesprek bij de gemeente Schagen in Noord-Holland. Hij schrijft dat hij gekleed in zwarte en donkergrijze kleding, kort haar, met zwarte schoenen, een zwarte tas en een donkere jas binnenstapte. Michaels fashion mistake resulteert in dat iedereen veronderstelt dat de sollicitant een bezoekende ouderling van de Hervormde Kerk was, waardoor hij zeer vriendelijk door iedereen werd begroet. Michael kon goed lachen over dit soort kleine en alledaagse grappige zaken.

Michael had een enorme werk- en levenslust. Tijdens ontmoetingen en diners konden we steevast rekenen op zijn optimisme en geschiedkundige verhalen. Wij zullen zijn zachtaardige persoonlijkheid vreselijk missen.

Michael is 60 jaar geworden.



In Memoriam Michael Bernardus Plechelmus Kuitenbrouwer
1961-2022 NON INUTILIS VIXI (copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer)

My drawing ‘In Memoriam Michael Kuitenbrouwer‘ shows a border of classical oak leaves, referring to my brother Michael’s love for green and nature. The inside border shows Michael’s baptismal names and Michael’s life dates -1961-2022- in Roman numerals. Non Inutilis Vixi means ‘I have not lived in vain’.

All four corners are decorated with Passionflowers, a plant that is associated with our hope for everlasting life. It also shows passion, which alludes to Michael’s academic dedication: Law and History. Lady Justice (Iustitia) takes centre stage: Michael studied Law and never changed his subject and profession, supplementing it with foreign language training and historical knowledge. The many stacks of books symbolize Michael’s unwavering love for living an intellectual life. In the front lies an open book showing the Latin text Rest in Peace.

Michael was remarkably well-read and he was gifted with an extraordinary memory for the past and the contents of his books. In the background, a buzzard is flying away to the horizon, symbolizing Michael’s departure.

Feel free to contact me should you be a former friend, acquaintance, or colleague of Michael and you would like to receive the above shown Remembrance Card or Ex Libris that I have made to remember and celebrate Michael’s life. I will post this card or bookplate to you without costs. Please, do contact me through the Contact Form.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

In Memoriam Card & Bookplate

All text and images are written and made by Paula Kuitenbrouwer