The End of the Quest

I have a confession to make. I’m not really an art person.

But in the summer of 1998, while vacationing with most of our extended family on my dad’s side, I saw a print of a 1921 painting, and I fell in love. We were at a shop somewhere in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, browsing and killing time on a rainy day when we couldn’t go to the beach. And there it was: The End of the Quest by Sir Frank Dicksee.

Dicksee
The End of the Quest by Sir Frank Dicksee (completed 1921)

Doesn’t this painting tell a delightful story?

We know from the title that there was a quest, so this man has probably been away for a long time. Initially, I thought he was on some sort of war campaign or religious crusade, but now I like to imagine he was gone for the sake of science: discovering new places, new species, new landmarks. It was most likely incredibly dangerous, too…I mean, look. He has a sword at his side! I’ll bet she cried a lot of tears when he left.

But now he is back. He has brought her to a quiet place, away from the celebration of his return, and taken her hands in his. He’s asking her a question…except…wait. If you look at her face, you can tell he hasn’t quite asked her yet. Her expression of joyful expectation is almost too much to bear. He is about to ask her something.

I love this painting because it captures a moment balancing on the precipice of jubilation. And sometimes, isn’t the anticipation of something wonderful almost better than the thing itself?

Still, she is very near to breaking into a full smile, falling into his arms, and saying yes. And then they will surely share a kiss. It will be their second kiss. Their first kiss was before he left, brief and chaste, but full of longing for the next time they’d see one another. Their second kiss, ninety seconds after the moment portrayed in this painting, isn’t going to be chaste at all.

In fact, I think they’ll be at the altar tomorrow.

I saw so much in this painting the day I discovered it, and my aunt was wonderful enough to purchase the print for me as a 16th birthday present. Though the frame has since broken, I still have the poster, and the image continues to inspire me in countless ways.

And if you didn’t already think I was a hopeless romantic, well, now you know.

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