It’s almost Mother’s Day, a time when you celebrate the woman who brought you into this world whether you liked it or not.
In celebration of this decidedly weird holiday, let’s take a look at some moms who will never get the Edible Arrangement bouquet or Walgreens card you got on the way to brunch because they are trapped in paintings. From Whistler’s mom in a chair to spiders 30 feet in the air, here are The Best Art Moms.
Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1871)
James McNeill Whistler
Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1871), better known as “Whistler’s Mother,” immediately evokes feelings of motherhood, religious values, and sitting. Originally, Whistler envisioned the subject of his painting standing but changed the portrait to seated as his mother would be uncomfortable standing for long periods of time. What a caring son!
Portrait of Artist’s Mother (1888)
Vincent van Gogh
Better known for his paintings of flowers and landscapes, Vincent van Gogh honored his artist mother in the same way children do today less successfully with hard macaroni: by painting her portrait. Based off of a black-and-white photo of his mother, van Gogh was able to capture his mother’s spirit and show the world that sometimes it is easy being green.
The Cradle (1872)
This is a painting of the artist’s sister as she watches her sleeping child. You can almost hear her thoughts, “Oh shit, is she breathing? Oh good, she’s breathing. Oh, wait though is she? Should I get a mirror and hold it to her face to see if it fogs up? No, that’s crazy. She’s fine, she’s good. Lemme go get the mirror just in case…”
To Louise Bourgeois, the spider is the ultimate representation of a woman: strong, cunning, protective, and needing to constantly fix and re-fix her web after its destroyed by prey, predators, and swiffers with attachments. With a philandering father, Bourgeois grew up with a mother who had to keep their family of five together at all costs. A spider is a perfect tribute to a woman who protects what’s hers but will eat you if she has to.
Mother and Child (1926)
American visual artist Alice Neel was a prolific portrait artist. After the unfortunate death of her daughter, Neel began exploring the mother-daughter relationship even more in her art. Here we see a mother and daughter in Havana, where Neel lived with her husband. The mother looks adoringly at her child, unaware that one day she’ll be a teen who resents her and then a 20-something who feels guilty about it.
Madonna of the Book (1480)
Perhaps the OG-est of art moms, the Virgin Mary has been represented on canvas for as long as canvas was a thing. In “Madonna of the Book” by Sandro Botticelli, we see her holding a young baby J while she gets some reading done. Long before his days of walking on water and making wine happen, Jesus was just a needy baby who wouldn’t let his mom get anything done too. Stars, they’re just like us.
Mary Cassatt may be the most prolific of all art mom painters. As she became more well known as an artist, she almost exclusively focused on the subject of the mother/child relationship. And of course, the closest we ever are to our mothers outside the womb is when we literally consume sustenance from their bodies.
Isis and Horus
While our moms might be goddesses, Isis is a literal goddess, seen here preparing to nurse her son Horus. One of the most worshiped of Egyptian deities, Isis was thought to have the power to heal the sick and help the dead into the afterlife. So she may even have been the first mother to say, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out again.”
Beyoncé’s Pregnancy Photoshoot (2017)
We wouldn’t be doing our job talking about art moms without mentioning the queen of all things and mother of Blue Ivy, Rumi, and Sir, Beyonce. Our moms are great but if Beyonce is looking to adopt, we’re available.
Be sure to share this post with your mom and tell her you love her and are sorry for everything you yelled at her about as a teenager. Happy Mothers’ Day!
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Scholarly Shout-outs 🌟
- art-vanGogh. Vincent van Gogh - Portrait of the Artist's Mother 1888. http://art-vangogh.com/arles_113.html
- Coleman, C. (2017, February 2nd). Beyoncé Shows Off Growing Baby Bump In This Epic Pregnancy Photoshoot. https://www.essence.com/celebrity/beyonce-pregnancy-photoshoot-twins
- McCain, S. (2018, April 26th). Important Art by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. http://www.theartstory.org/artist-whistler-james-abbott-mcneill-artworks.htm
- The Met. (Gift of David Dows, 1945). Isis and Horus. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/545969
- Musee d’Orsay. (2006). Le Berceau [The Cradle]. http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/painting/commentaire_id/the-cradle-8953.html?tx_commentaire_pi1%5BpidLi%5D=509&tx_commentaire_pi1%5Bfrom%5D=841&cHash=26c27dd211
- Resource Library Magazine, (2012). Alice Neel: Kinships. http://www.tfaoi.com/newsmu/nmus18f1.htm
- Revolvy. Maman (sculpture). https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Maman%20(sculpture)
- Sirani, E. Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna and Child (Madonna del libro), 1480-1481. https://nmwa.org/meetmary?img=Botticelli-Sandro_Madonna-of-the-Book_Poldi-Pezzoli.png
- VisiMuZ Editions. (2016, May 30th). Maternity, 1890, Mary Cassatt. http://www.visimuz.com/cassatt-maternite/