Sarah & Hagar – Genesis 12-23
Sarah initially known as Sarai, was the barren wife of Abraham. Throughout their time together travelling through foreign lands, Abraham passed her off twice as his sister in exchange for safety. Each time this displeased God, but she was always kept safe. God promised her a son, but as time and years passed by, Sarah had still not conceived. At one point even laughing at the thought of giving birth in old age. She decided to give her handmaid, Hagar, to her husband as wife to obtain children through Hagar. Once Hagar became pregnant, Hagar despised Sarah. Humiliated, Sarah starts to deal with Hagar so harshly it makes Hagar run away. Hagar returns, and has a son, Ishmael. Eventually Sarah also gives birth to Isaac, but fears for Isaac’s position in the household, and insists that Abraham get rid of Hagar and Hagar’s son, Ishmael. Abraham gives a ration of bread and water to Hagar and Ishmael and sends them away to wander in the desert.
Sarah’s life shows that God is faithful to his promises, even when it seems too late. After my second read through of the Sarah and Hagar story, I had a different reaction. I no longer fully sympathized with Hagar, but I also felt sorry for Sarah. The verse in Gen 16:4 “…and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.” stood out to me. Hagar, upon getting pregnant before Sarah, now looked down on Sarah, and despised her. I imagined the humiliation Sarah must’ve felt, and it opened my eyes more that Sarah had also suffered a hard life.
With this painting, I wanted it to be quite jarring. I wanted a close up of a face covered in story. The harshness of the face lines and wrinkles mirroring the hard life she led. I tried to keep a softness in the eye expression, but wanting the eyes to somewhat be in shadow signifying the dark times she endured.