Like many families that carry on traditions of particular professions for generations, my family has a running history of making art as a career. My grandfather Bjorn Egeli left Norway early in life and then settled in the U.S., establishing himself as a successful portrait and marine painter. His wife, my grandmother Lois Baldwin Egeli, was a very accomplished painter. All five of their children pursued careers as professional painters, including my dad, portrait and marine painter Peter Egeli. In my generation at least four of us (that I know of) are working as artists, and I can already see hints that we could have a few more in the next generation who choose to continue the tradition.
It is not unique to have multiple generations of artists in the family, think Peale family, Wyeth family and many others. But it seems to be rare, perhaps because it’s a challenging way to earn a living, or perhaps because there are just many other options for the creative types. Having so many artists in one family has benefits (support and understanding, knowledge passed down) as well as difficulties (defining your own work, not stepping on each others’ toes), but on the whole, it provides a rich setting for an interesting life.
My father, Peter Egeli, has written a wonderful book about his father, Bjorn Egeli. While not an in-depth biography, it captures his life through photos of him, his paintings, his boats (he was also a boat-builder), and provides some context for those of us following in his footsteps.
Understanding the context of how we got to where we are now can give us clarity and confidence and a deeper well from which to draw. I am very grateful for the deep well of creativity in my family history.