History behind the most famous mother and child paintings


The world of art is unimaginable without heartwarming mother and child images. For centuries these paintings have been a clear symbolism of family, purity, and fertility. With Christianity, this representation of mother and child painting was seen as the Virgin and baby Jesus.

Sometimes in so many images of mother and child, one gets lost. Nevertheless, a doubt remains; Is there any mystery behind these paintings?

Reine Lefebvre Holding a Nude Baby

Mary Cassatt presented to the world one of the most noteworthy pieces of art, “Reine Lefebvre Holding a Nude Baby”. The woman is Cassatt’s neighbor who posed in other sketches of the artist.

If you focus on the painting, you will notice that there is nothing in the background of the mother and child painting. Mary Cassatt omitted all the details that could distract our attention from the duo. The picture invites us to look and settle our attention to the faces of the characters. Their faces are calm, covered with a gentle smile. The mother’s pose, who tries to set a comfortable position for the child to sit, shows a deep motherly love.

Nevertheless, Reine looks tired. Cassatt opts for a realistic expression of her characters. A mother dealing with a child is usually tired; this emotion is sealed in this painting.

Mother and Child

“Mother and Child” was painted in 1905 by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. Klimt challenged the traditional canonical rules. Erotic and decorative details characterize his style. This piece of art is actually a cropped image from a larger painting called “The Three Ages of a Woman”.

The curiosity about this painting reveals the changes a woman undergoes in her transition from a girl to woman, from a woman to mother. This is one of the less erotic paintings of Klimt. You will be surprised to learn that the Japanese art style has influenced this impressive mother and child painting. This picture transmits calmness and love; dreamy traces of the mother and the child make it illusory and romantic.

Motherly Love

“Motherly Love” is a painting by Auguste Toulmouche, a French artist of the mid-Victorian period. His paintings speak with us; they tell their story. The historical period in which Toulmouch lived and worked was plagued with cholera and disasters. Families were being collapsed by death and epidemic. Mothers were dying during the birth of babies.

This painting expresses love and tenderness covered with sadness and exhaustion. Auguste Toulmouche has always paid attention to the clothes of his female characters. This mother painting is not an exception.

Mother and Child

Pablo Picasso painted “Mother and Child” during his blue period of depression and anxiety, sadness and stress.

The scene has been witnessed in prison by the artist himself. Picasso visited Saint Lazare prison next to Paris. Women in this period had a hard time managing their life. They were involved in prostitution, and other activities considered a crime as a means to survive. Picasso was shocked to see a child in prison. This painting shows all the bitterness of the situation. The author has deprived the mother’s dress of the shape, which drives our attention to the faces of the characters. The white cloth on her head symbolizes hope, even though it is a part of the prison uniform.

The strength of the painting is in the smile that the mother tries to show under the pain and suffering.

Madonna Litta

“Madonna Litta” was painted in 1490 and is a collaboration between Leonardo da Vinci and Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio. It is believed that the image of the mother represents Virgin Mary, and the child is Jesus. The woman in the painting is breastfeeding the child.

The artists focused heavily on the clothes of the Virgin. These types of clothes were designed to make the process of breastfeeding easier for mothers.

The baby has sleepy eyes. On the other hand, the child is not looking at his mother. He seems to be distracted by something.

Lord Thy Will Be Done

Philip Hermogenes Calderon is the author of this pre-Raphaelite style artwork called “Lord Thy Will be Done”. The title of the painting is one of the seven petitions of the prayer. The woman in the artwork is holding a child and praying. Details of the painting also drive our attention to the prayer. For example, a loaf of bread represents our daily bread for which we thank God.

Calderon shows that the economic situation of the family is not good enough; the furniture and other details of the room are old or deteriorated. The picture on the wall and the newspaper on the floor are signs of the military situation, indicating that her husband can be in the war, and she is praying for his security.

Camille Monet and Child

This unique mother and child painting is Claude Monet’s handwork. Camille is Claude’s first wife and is the most popular character of his works. The brushstrokes of vivid colors give a specific beauty to this work. This style provides nature and flowers a singular beauty. Meanwhile, the faces of Camille and the child do not show distinctive features. They are focused on their pursuit.

Monet has painted many works representing his family involved in different random tasks and activities. Critics think the setting takes place in the garden of the Argenteuil house of the painter.

Final Thoughts

An emblematic mother and child painting can have a strong symbolic impact on art history. The undeniable relationship between mother and child has been moved from real life to the canvas, and many of these representations create a similarity of these mother and child images with the Virgin and Jesus.

These paintings are not always happy artworks but mirrors of the historical periods’ reality when they were created. A mother and child painting can be heartwarming and hold a lot of information as well.