The Meaning of Harvey Specter’s Duck Painting (Suits)

Harvey Specter’s Duck Painting (Intro)

I’ve been binge-watching the TV show Suits on Netflix, and I just watched season 6 episode 12.

And, even though this episode might be old news for some of you serious Suits fans out there, I just had to write about what I think is the meaning behind Harvey’s “duck painting”.

QUICK FACT: Harvey’s duck painting is actually called Listen Closely (prints on Etsy), a painting created by Canadian artist, Heather Millar.

What Does the Duck Painting Mean to Harvey?

* Please Note: If you haven’t watched up to season 6 episode 12 of Suits yet, you might want to watch it before reading this article.

Elliot Stemple Gives Harvey an Ultimatum

In season 6 episode 2, Elliot Stemple gave an ultimatum to Harvey:

  1. Either Harvey had to give Stemple 20 million dollars, or
  2. Harvey had to give Stemple the duck painting.

If Harvey didn’t pick one of those two choices, Stemple was going to put Harvey’s firm in the ground.

Stemple’s Goal: Harvey’s Emotional Pain

Elliott Stemple calls Harvey’s painting “duck painting”. Yet there’s no duck in the painting at all.

My guess is that this was a way for Stemple to devalue the painting. It shows he didn’t look at the painting long enough to even know what the subjects really are.

Stemple doesn’t care about the painting or the 20 million dollars. He only cares about taking the painting to give Harvey emotional pain.

Stemple obviously knows that the painting means something to Harvey. Why else would he equate a painting to 20 million dollars?

“… you’ve had that thing as long as I’ve known you, and there’s no way a guy like you has a painting like that unless it means everything to him.”

Elliott Stemple (Suits, Season 6 Episode 2)

The History of Harvey’s Painting and His Mother

Harvey’s mother made the painting. But we also know that Harvey’s relationship with his mother is the opposite of peaceful. In season 6 episode 12, he mentions that he hadn’t seen his mom in seven years.

When Harvey was a little boy, he caught his mom cheating on his dad. His mom had asked Harvey to keep that a secret from his dad. That secret lasted 20 years before Harvey told his dad the truth.

Harvey’s relationship with his mother had been in turmoil ever since he found out about the affair.

Why Was the Duck Painting Important to Harvey?

So, back to Stemple’s ultimatum…

At first, I assumed that Harvey would have handed the painting to Stemple without any further thought.

No problem, right? It’s better than paying $20,000,000!

Yet, Harvey is visibly torn when he hands the painting to Stemple.

So why is Harvey so attached to this painting? Why is he so emotionally connected to a piece of art that his mother created when he was little? A mother with who he clearly has a strained relationship with.

Even Jessica Pearson expresses her sympathy towards Harvey for having to give up the painting to save the firm.

“Harvey? I remember you told me that painting was the one happy memory you had of your mother before…”

Jessica Pearson (Suits, Season 6 Episode 2)

At the end of season 6 episode 2, we see a photograph of Harvey watching his mother paint the duck painting. This was a memory that happened before Harvey knew his mom was cheating on his dad.

I think that Harvey’s attachment to the painting is about his longing for a time when he was a happy little boy and his family was whole. He craves the comfort and safety he felt from his family before his mother had an affair.