Fine Art for the Right Family Law Mood

By Jeanne E. Murphy posted 07-31-2017 09:16


On stepping out of an elevator into the lobby of a family law office, during a very stressful time, I was greeted by this painting:

Antibes, Claude Monet, 1888

Yes, this is a sunny day, but that lone tree, long-blasted by wind, was not, I would suggest, the right image for the office. To my mind, they might as well have had this hanging on the wall:

Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange, 1936

It was an act of will not to get back onto the elevator and leave.

People visiting family law offices are often experiencing a high level of anxiety, and the images in your office can either soothe and inspire, or agitate. So look carefully at the pictures you have hanging on the walls.

There are a number of moods that you can choose to foster for your clients through art. One option is to instill confidence in your clients that you can and will fight for them. I recommend Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David (1805):

Napoleon, who kept the armies of Europe in a dither for a couple of decades, can handle anything. And if he can’t, that horse certainly can. Or Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix (1830):

Liberty is walking over the corpses of the fallen to bring freedom to her people. Victory is assured!

A second option is to make the client feel that everyone is pulling together to get the results needed:

The Biglin Brothers Racing, Thomas Eakins, 1872

This conveys that you and your client are in the same boat, your client’s interests are your interests, and you will strain every muscle to get the right result.

I would suggest that you avoid this masterwork:

Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1632

While apt in the sense that this team is skilled at cutting through extraneous issues, it may be a little too painful for the client who is picking over the bones of his or her relationship.

Another option is to attempt to soothe your client’s troubled soul with landscapes. The key to selecting the right painting is the weather. You want to avoid these scenes:

Approaching Storm Clouds, Thomas Moran, 1893-1897

Bright and sunny on the left, but a nasty storm is coming in from the right. Your client does not need to be reminded of the storm. Your client is in the storm.  

For a soothing landscape, you could try Huang Gongwang’s Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (1350).

Your client can project himself or herself into this quiet landscape, sit in the pavilion beside the water under the trees, and mentally rest while waiting for you.

Finally, you can decide against figurative art altogether and opt for something like Untitled #8 by Agnes Martin (1990):


Many people will have no reaction to such an abstract painting, and this may be a good strategy in a family law office. But where some people see simple stripes, the artist saw something else. Martin has said, “I would like [my pictures] to represent beauty, innocence and happiness.” If artwork can put your clients into such a state of mind, that may be the best choice of all.