But it is The Banjo Lesson that has become the iconic painting of his entire career. Its economy of scale, its emotional delicacy, its nuanced orchestration of light and shadow and symbolism situates it in a resonant space in American art history. Both The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor were remarkable achievements for Tanner—works that according to the art historian Judith Wilson, “invest their ordinary, underprivileged, Black subjects with a degree of dignity and self-possession that seems extraordinary for the times in which they were painted.” It is a testament to Tanner’s vision as an artist, and his personal convictions as an African-American, amid the possibilities offered by twentieth century, that these two paintings continue to speak so profoundly to us now.
Blanche and Dorothy: “The Triangle” (season one, episode five): This is another early episode that sticks out for how well it sells the complicated dynamic among the three central women. A theme that comes up again and again is how men can come between the girls—especially Blanche and Dorothy, who both have domineering personalities and a lot of willpower. In this episode, a man Dorothy is dating makes a pass at Blanche, but Dorothy doesn’t believe it. The conflict and eventual resolution lay the foundation for a lot of what happens between Blanche and Dorothy over the course of the series—their friction, their grudging mutual respect. Rose’s sneaky do-gooding is not to be missed, either.