Howard Finster’s Youth of Abraham (1988) is one of my favorite works in the Museum Collection for use in teaching. I think it is also, slowly, becoming one of my favorite works in the Museum, period. People are often surprised when I tell them how much I am taken with this artwork, and I sometimes get the dreaded comment “It looks like something a child could do.”
When I first decided to teach with Youth of Abraham, I was nervous because it is so driven by spirituality, which can lead to difficult conversations (on top of that, I am not a particularly spiritual person myself). Nevertheless, I decided to challenge myself with it, leading an inquiry-based session with the education department. The session was surprisingly successful, so I later used Youth of Abraham with college education students and found myself in one of the best conversations I’ve ever had about a work of art.
There is just something about this painting.