This is definitely not the first painting I ever saw (my mom had actually made flashcards with famous paintings on them that she taught me along with the alphabet. She was very "classical music in the womb" at that point). But it is the first one I remember. I must have been 3 or 4 and was visiting my grandparents' Baptist church in rural Tennessee. We were walking down a basement corridor decked out in '60s office drab when I looked into a classroom decorated with smiling cartoon biblical men in beards, the "footprints in the sand" poster, and this poster in a frame:
I walked into the classroom, which wasn't lit and had some cloudy window light so I could see the poster. I sort of remember hearing the grown-ups exclaiming "damnit, where'd the kid go?" and just not caring. Someone eventually had to come find me. I told my mom I was looking at that painting and she said, "well, it's ok but not really my thing." It was SO my thing. She looked like a princess and I wanted to be a princess because, duh. But it was inexplicably so much cooler than "pretty." I thought it was cool how none of the whites were white and the composition (I didn't know that word) was weird. It seemed utterly mysterious.