Nagging children about homework is everyday for parents. Some children might be good at homework, but it is fare to say no child likes it. Finnish painter Yrjö Ollila depicted the tension between a mother and a child around homework.
The mother is reading a book to her son, which is probably his homework. The boy in a black uniform looks distracted and is looking away as if he is daydreaming. He is probably thinking about playing with his friends or worried that he might get embarrassed during the reading class. The mother, with her eyes fixated at the book, does not look happy either. She seems to be so deep in thought that she does not even realize her dress has fallen off the shoulder.
Born in 1887, Ollila was a man with many talents: He was a great painter, designer and muralist. He won a scholarship to study Impressionism in France before he came back to Finland to create an Impressionist group. Unfortunately, he went broke while trying to build a theater and had to leave for Paris in 1920 with his family. He designed stage sets and wallpaper to support his family, while his wife, a fellow painter, made artificial flowers and wreaths. This painting was drawn around this time. The mother and the child are thought to be his wife and son. His son was attending a French elementary school. He probably had more difficulties reading and writing French than his peers as a child of immigrants, and it is not hard to imagine how difficult it would have been for his mother who had to help with his homework.
They probably put their child’s education before their career as artists. The couple who did not want to raise their son as French decided to go back to Finland after seven years of living in Paris. Ollila built a reputation as a muralist in Finland and became a household name in 1932 after drawing the murals for the Finnish National Theater. However, unfortunately, he passed away in November due to the dyes and paints he was exposed to while working on the murals. He was 45 years old, and it was only five years after he returned to his home country.