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Mothers in Art: Some Mother's Day Paintings and Pictures by Mary Cassatt & Other Great Artists

Amanda is a keen artist and art historian with a particular interest in 19th-century art, especially the work of the Pre-Raphaelites.

 by Mary Cassatt 1890

by Mary Cassatt 1890

Some Thoughts on Mothers

It’s coming up to Mother’s Day here in the UK, and I thought I’d celebrate by compiling a hub about Mothers in Art. Initially, I thought of blue gowned Renaissance madonnas, chubby cheeked Renoir infants balanced precariously on the knees of bonny-looking country lasses, and of course, the touching mother and child paintings of Mary Cassatt. Searching out images for a picture hub is always a great pleasure for me, and this one was no different, except that I don’t normally get tearful researching a hub. I wasn’t prepared for that.

I got to thinking as I gathered together images of mums with their little ones, just how important our mothers are in shaping who we are, and setting us on our path in life. I started to think about my own children, and whether I’m doing the best I can to raise them to be honest, and sensible, hard-working, and caring. I thought about the two of them as babies, and remembered the wonder of it all. Those precious, warm little bundles nuzzling into my arms, fragrant with that special baby scent that melts your heart. I waited a long time to have children, and it was so worth the wait.

My own Mum died in 1999, a little less than two months after the birth of my second child. She never got to see my fine, blonde boy, growing tall and strong. She didn’t get to see my beautiful girl, who she adored, change from toddler, to child, to young woman. I lost my Mum, and the kids lost their Grandma.

Even now, ten years on, just thinking of my Mum brings a tear to my eye. She was a very special lady who was well-loved and well-respected by friends and family alike. There were six of us, and money wasn’t always plentiful when we were growing up, but she and my Dad did their best to give us a happy childhood. The house was always full of music and laughter. Our friends were made welcome, too, and Mum was forever making and baking. I know what a treasure we lost when she passed into the next life, and I only hope my own children remember me even half so fondly.

Sleeping Baby, by Mary Cassatt, 1910


An American Impressionist - Mary Cassatt

American Impressionist, Mary Cassatt worked and exhibited alongside Degas, Renoir and Monet, the original Impressionist artists. Cassatt claimed to "hate conventional art" and when Edgar Degas suggested that she exhibit with this group of independent artists she was delighted to accept. Female Impressionists were extremely rare, and American Impressionists even more so.

Daughter of a wealthy investment banker, Mary Stephenson Cassatt was born on May 22, 1844 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, and entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1861, then continued her studies in Paris in 1865, where, after a period of travelling, and studying in Italy, Spain and Belgium, she settled permanently from 1875 onwards.

She became most famous for her paintings of mothers with children, engaged in everyday activities. Despite, or perhaps because, of the domestic nature of the paintings, her style has an engaging warmth and intimacy.

Mary Cassatt died at Beaufresne, France on June 14 1926.

Mother and Child 1886, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir


From Porcelain Painter to Impressionist Genius

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges on 25th of February 1841, and died in Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1919. He had a long and productive life, completing several thousand paintings, and is probably the best known of the French Impressionists.

Renoir started his career in art at the porcelain factory in Limoges, where he quckly became highly skilled in decorating the products. Encouraged by the admiration of his co-workers, Renoir headed to Paris in 1862 to study under Charles Gyre, and there he began to develop his highly-individual and distinctive style of art, which is now known and loved by a wide and appreciative audience.

'Quiet' by James Tissot, 1881


The Lost Love That Shaped Tissot's Art

James Tissot is thought of by many as an English artist, but in fact he was a Frenchman, born in Nantes in 1836. Originally named Jacques-Joseph, he adopted the name James when he moved to England, and many of his major works were completed in the UK.

Tissot is particularly famed for his exquisitely detailed and highly finished paintings of beautiful women in sumptuous settings, but his most touching images are of his lover Kathleen Newton and her two children. Sadly, Kathleen died within a year or two of this painting being completed at the tragically young age of 28. Kathleen was the great love of Tissot's life, and her sad decline from healthy young woman, to pale invalid is recorded in his many portraits of her.

The Cradle by Berthe Morisot


A Woman With 'No Profession'

I love this wonderfully loose painting of a mother tenderly gazing at her sleeping baby. The artist, Berthe Morisot, was a woman of no small talents, who, like Mary Cassatt, painted and exhibited along-side the original French Impressionists. Berthe married Eugene Manet, the brother of Edouard Manet, in 1874, and their home soon became a magnet for influential writers and artists of the era.

Berthe died of pneumonia in 1895 at the age of 54, yet despite the great acclaim that her paintings had commanded, her death certificate recorded her as having 'no profession.'

Whistler's Mother


An Arrangement in Grey and Black, 1871

I couldn't resist including this very famous painting of James McNeill Whistler's mother. It's so stern and serious, a strange composition, yet a compelling one. It's austere choice of palette draws the eye, and imprints on the memory.

Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1834, and died in London, England in 1903.

Madonna of the Pinks by Raphael


Raphael's Beautiful Madonna Circa 1506

The thing I really like about this Madonna is it's informality. The Bible tells us that Mary was a young Mother, yet many traditional images depict a mature woman. This Madonna has a joyous, youthful look about her. She and her son are captured in a moment of fun. They are holding 'Pinks', a flower whose botanical name is 'Dianthus' which means 'flower of God'. This Raphael painting can be seen in the National Gallery, London, England.

Karin With Suzanne, 1885


Carl Larsson's Portrait of His Wife and Child

The Swedish artist Carl Larsson rose from a background of abject poverty to become a famous and successful artist and illustrator. Larsson's favourite models were his wife Karin and their seven children, and this delicate portrait is an example painted in the early years of their marriage. Little Suzanne, fluffy haired and rosy cheeked, snuggles contentedly in her mothers embrace, whilst Karin's expression is full of love and warmth.

Young Woman With Her Son, by Angelo Bronzino


A Formal Portrait From Circa 1540

I picked this painting out, because despite the formality of the pose and the unsmiling expression on the sitters faces, there is still an intimacy between the mother and son, suggested by the gentle touching of their hands, and the way that her arms passes around his shoulder. The sitter would have been a wealthy woman. Her dress is richly decorated, and her manner is imperious, but the love between her and her child is self-evident.

Gravesend Bay by William Merritt Chase, 1888


Gravesend Bay

Born in Indiana in 1849 William Chase produced a steady stream of Impressionistic works until his death in 1916. His favourite models were his wife Alice and their children, and he completed many family scenes such as this. The feeling of light, and the subtle colours perfectly express the warm summer's day, and the comfortable relationship between the mother and baby, and the older sibling gazing out at the bay.

Elizabethan Sisters and Their Babies, Circa 1599


The Cholmondeley Sisters and Their Swaddled Babies

This fantastic image is straight from Elizabethan times. It makes me smile every time I look at it. The Cholmondeley sisters sit side-by-side in a double bed proudly showing off their swaddled babies. And just like a modern-day photo shoot of a new mother in Hello magazine, these stars of Tudor times are primped and preened to perfection with their crisply starched ruffs and lacy caps.

Hawaiian Mother and Child by Charles W. Bartlett 1920

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Hawaiian Mother and Child

Charles Bartlett began his working career in the field of metallurgy, but his love of art led him, at the age of 23, to enrol in the Royal Academy of Art, in London. He later entered the private studio school, Academie Julien in Paris, where he continued his studies. In 1889, he returned to England and married Emily Tate, but tragically, his new wife was to die in childbirth early in their marriage, and he also lost his infant son. Bartlett then traveled to Europe, producing many paintings in Holland, Brittany and Venice, working alongside his friend and fellow artist Frank Brangwyn (1867–1956).

1898, he returned to England and married Catherine "Kate" Main. Bartlett and his second wife returned to the Continent where he helped found the Société de la Peinture a l'Eau in Paris in 1908. In 1913, the Bartletts toured India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, and Japan. En route back to England from Japan they stopped off in Hawaii, where they remained —never returning to Europe.

The painting above is typical of Bartlett's style, and it shows a native Hawaiian tenderly playing with her child.

Sweet Dreams by Firmin Baes

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Sweet Dreams by Firmin Baes

Firmin Baes (1874 - 1943) was a Belgian artist, who grew up in an artistic environment, and was fortunate enough to enjoy success right from his earliest days as a working artist. Baes was father to three daughters, and perhaps this provided inspiration for this sweet painting of a mother and her child.

Young Mother Contemplating her Child by Candlelight by Albert Anker 1875

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Mother and Child by Emil Osterman 1910

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

'Summer' by Ivana Kobilca


A Summer Idyll

This is considered to be one of the finest works by Ivana Kobilka (1861-1926), a Slovenian Realist artist. The young mother is helping her two little ones to make a garland of meadow flowers. The attention to detail is breath-taking, and the expression on the older child's face is one of happy concentration.

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Amanda Severn (author) from UK on May 12, 2019:

Thanks Alyssa, glad you enjoyed it!

Alyssa from Ohio on May 10, 2019:

This is a beautiful tribute and collection of art pieces to celebrate moms. Love this!

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on May 02, 2011:

Hi IslandVoice, thanks for your visit and your appreciation. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

Sylvia Van Velzer from Hawaii on May 02, 2011:

Fabulous! A wonderful Mother's Day offering on some of the best and beloved 'Mother and Child' theme artworks that say's it all... "pictures are worth a thousand words'. Sharing this one on my artpage in facebook.

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 25, 2010:

Hi Gigi, congratulations on your news. I hope to be a grandma one day, though I hope it won't be for a few years yet! I hope your Mum is not in too much discomfort. My best wishes to you.

Gigi2 from UK on February 25, 2010:

What a beautiful hub. I have just started to paint after many years of raising my children. What an inspiration you are, thank you. I was very moved by your story. We never truly know what we have until it's gone. My mum is very ill, I try to treasure every day we have. I'm about to be a grandmother soon, I'm so excited. Thanks again for the beauty of your hub. Take care.

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on October 03, 2009:

Thanks Livingsta. You're absolutely right - no love on this earth can be greater than a mother's love.

livingsta from United Kingdom on October 03, 2009:

Great hub Amanda, I miss so many things while going through this hub. the pictures made me emotional . No love on this earth can be greater than a mother's love. Thanks Amanda

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on April 09, 2009:

Have a great Easter Shalini.

Shalini Kagal from India on April 09, 2009:

Wow - an exhibition! All the very best Amanda - and Happy Easter to all of you. We're all well and my family's coming over for Easter.

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on April 09, 2009:

Thanks Shalini - I'm not about so much these days either. Work has been busier, plus I'm getting paintings ready for an exhibition in May. Other than that, we're all fine and enjoying the children's Easter break. I hope you guys are all keeping well too!

Shalini Kagal from India on April 09, 2009:

Hi Amanda - saw you on Hubtivity and popped in to say Hi! Haven't been as regular on HubPages as I used to be - trust all is well with you and yours!

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on March 06, 2009:

You're welcome Shalini.

Shalini Kagal from India on March 05, 2009:

I agree with you Amanda - don't want ANY surprises :D But yes, I do hope she isn't like me, waiting well into her thirties to have kids! I went back and looked at all those pictures again - just to feel warm and good and a bit teary inside - so thank you again :)

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on March 05, 2009:

Thanks, Shalini, for your comments. Sadly my children only have one Grandparent living, and that's my husband's father. They've scarcely known things to be any different, although my daughter has vague memories of my Mum and Dad. She was three and a half when my Mum died. She remembers least about my Dad because he was a bed-bound invalid for the last few years of his life, and probably not very exciting or memorable to a small child.

Your girl is a little older than mine, so perhaps you will be a grandmother before me. I don't want any surprises in the next few years, but equally I hope I don't have to wait until my daughter's in her thirties! Meanwhile you have your pups, and I have my great-nephews and nieces.

Shalini Kagal from India on March 04, 2009:

Amanda - what a wonderful collection of 'mother love' paintings (OK, I agree with Cris - not the Whistler one though in all fairness, that's the one that I remember most!) But I think over and above just a compilation is the warmth you infuse into your hubs - once I'd read the introduction, somehow every painting was seen in the light of the warm 'mother' tone you set.

Though, like you, I got married late, my daughter was fortunate to have both sets of grandparents till recently when my husband's parents passed away. I treasure each day now knowing mine are still around - and for me. knowing I can pick up the phone and talk to my Mom - and revert to being a child again - at my age!! - is a blessing I will never take for granted.

Thank you Amanda - enjoyed this - and I miss those cuddly warm baby smells too! I make do with the pups till hopefully the grandchildren come along :)

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on March 03, 2009:

Hi Storytellersrus

I paint portraits too, and always have back up shots to refer to. I know that some of the impressionists were heavily influenced by photography (hence Degas and Lautrec's experimental cut-off compositions) but I don't know if they used photography for portraiture. I suspect that it's no co-incedence that several of the younger children are actually asleep!

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on March 02, 2009:

How ever did the artist get these darling children to pose long enough to paint these magnificent portraits? My mother in law is a portrait artist and when she painted me with my newborn son, she employed the use of a camera. Lovely, Amanda. Thanks.

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on March 01, 2009:

Hi Aya,

I'm glad you still have your Mom and that Sword has the chance to know her. Sadly I lost my Dad just 14 months after my Mum. I was my parents fifth child and they were in their mid-thirties when I arrived. I then waited into my late thirties to have my own children, so of course, that meant older grandparents. At least they both got to see their youngest grandchild, even though he has no memory of them.

The Tissot painting is very beautiful, and well observed, but I always find his paintings from this period very sad, perhaps because I know the end of the story. Twenty-eight is such a young age to die, and Tissot and the children had to watch Kathleen fading away.

Aya Katz from The Ozarks on March 01, 2009:

Amanda, great hub with exquisitely beautiful art. I think when we wait to have our children later in life, sometimes we deprive them of grandparents. My mother is still alive and in my daughter's life, but my father's presence is sorely missed.

I thought the picture of the Elizabethan sisters was a bit bizarre. It makes one think that they did everything together, maybe even giving birth in the same bed.

I really liked "Quiet" by James Tissot. There's just something about it ... The way the little girl seems to be squirming and shading her eyes, and the light and the dog. It's at once realistic but also romantic.

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on March 01, 2009:

Hi Cris,

I'll let you know when I publish. Probably not til next weekend now though!

Hi Brian,

It's good to know that there are other art-lovers here on Hub-Pages. Thanks for stopping by.

Brian Stephens from Laroque des Alberes, France on March 01, 2009:

Some more very impressive artwork and lovely paintings, really good to see this being published on the internet.

Cris A from Manila, Philippines on February 28, 2009:

i'll bookmark this hub then! No escape! LOL :D

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 28, 2009:

That sounds like a good idea! Thanks!

Cris A from Manila, Philippines on February 28, 2009:

Hope you find it and maybe do a hub! ok... i think i just made a request :D

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 28, 2009:

Sounds intriguing! I'll check it out!

Cris A from Manila, Philippines on February 28, 2009:

Well try to look for it. It is very interesting. That mother could break a painter's heart. But that's all I'm gonna tell so as not spoil the entertainment :D

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 28, 2009:

Hi Laila,

Yes, my Mum was a lovely lady, and one of the kindest people I've ever met. It's hard to get it right 100% of the time as a parent, but I guess we can only do our best! Thanks for stopping by Laila, and I'm glad you enjoyed the paintings.

Hi Cris,

I didn't see that documentary, but I would certainly like to see it at some point. I believe Whistler was quite a character in his own right, and often eccentric behaviour has it's roots in childhood, and in the interaction between parent and child! (LOL!)

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 28, 2009:

Hi Bunyameen,

Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Hi online_business,

Art is a very compelling hobby, and I'm glad that you and your sister enjoy it too. I also love to paint, as well as admire and it's good to get inspiration from some of the greats!

Cris A from Manila, Philippines on February 28, 2009:


And that's just one anecdote! Have you seen BBC's feature on her relationship with her painter son? It is very dynamic to say the least :D

Laila Rajaratnam from India on February 28, 2009:

Amanda ..a truly great hub! I enjoyed all the paintings and was particularly touched by your tribute to your mom.Even I often do wonder whether my children will think so very fondly of me as I do about my mom and grandmom!Thanks for sharing!:)

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 28, 2009:

Hi Cris

I couldn't resist including Whistler's Mother. It's such a forbidding painting isn't it? Apparently it was originally intended to be a standing portrait, but the old girl had trouble with the pose, and they settled on her being seated instead.

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 28, 2009:

Hi Elena,

Yes, it's hard to choose a favourite, but as you say, the Cassatts are beautiful, and so is the Kobilka. I had never come across Ivana Kobilka before either, but she clearly had a very special talent and deserves to be better known. Her work reminds me of the British Pre-Raphaelite painters; Millais, Holman Hunt, and Ford Madox Brown. It must have taken endless patience to compete this painting, and also very small brushes! (LOL!)

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 28, 2009:

H Netters,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoed the pictures.

online_business on February 28, 2009:

Great paintings. My sister draws well too. She just finished one such picture. But seeing these shes so moved and she decided to draw another. I am not much of a painting buff.I do pencil drawings. Not colouring though.

bunyameen on February 28, 2009:

vry nice tutch in heart

Cris A from Manila, Philippines on February 28, 2009:

This is a nice tribute to all mothers - there's no love like the love between mother and child (but i don't know about Whistler and his mom LOL) Such wonderful paintings and thanks for sharing :D

Elena. from Madrid on February 28, 2009:

Amanda, this is wonderful, a sight for sore eyes! Difficult, muy dificil, to pick a favorite, so maybe I won't ... still, the Cassatts.... and 'Summer' by this Slovenian artist -- first time I hear of her, incidentally... I think I'll just go to bed now, with the images in my head :-)

Netters from Land of Enchantment - NM on February 28, 2009:

I love this hub! Beautiful pictures and very well written. Thank you so much.