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 to some of you serious fans out there, I just had to write about the meaning behind this duck painting.
Prints for Sale
Just in case you’re in a hurry to get your hands on a print of Harvey Specter’s duck painting, you can buy this print directly from the artist (Etsy).
The duck painting is actually called Listen Closely by Heather Millar.
The Meaning of Harvey Specter’s Duck Painting
* Please Note: If you haven’t watched up to season 6 episode 12 of Suits yet, this post is full of spoilers.
I have to admit, I didn’t realize that there was an oil painting of a China doll and an alligator hanging in Harvey’s office. And apparently, it’s been there since the beginning of the show.
I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before because I don’t find it matches Harvey’s contemporary, minimalist office at all. It should have stood out to me from the very beginning.
So what happened that finally made me curious about Harvey’s painting?
Stemple Gives Harvey an Ultimatum
In season 6 episode 2, Elliot Stemple gave an ultimatum to Harvey:
- Either Harvey had to give Stemple 20 million dollars, or
- 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.
Harvey’s Attachment to the Duck Painting
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? Hey! It’s better than paying $20,000,000. Phew! Score!
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?
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 yearns for the comfort and safety he felt from his family before his mother had an affair.
About Heather Millar and Her Art
Here’s a little information about Heather Millar, the artist who created the painting Listen Closely (aka duck painting).
About Heather Millar
- She’s a professional painter working in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
- She’s originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
- She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary (1998).
About Heather Millar’s Art
- At the time of writing this post, she only had one print for sale online on Etsy. The print is of the oil painting Listen Closely (aka Harvey Specter’s duck painting).
- She has original paintings for sale. Visit her website, heathermillarart.com for more information.
- She creates her art using oil paints on canvas.
- Her subjects are:
- Her style is definitely unique. I would describe it as vintage mixed with a touch of pop-art.
In my opinion, it appears as though Millar has a sentimental attachment to the past. More specifically, it’s as though her artwork connects the past with personal happiness. This is particularly obvious when looking at her paintings of people and toys.
This is why I think choosing Millar’s painting, Listen Closely, was a perfect fit for the show Suits. Harvey shares that same longing for the past when happy memories were formed.