Mother’s day is less than 48 hours away and you haven’t bought a card yet. ooops. Just like I did for Valentine’s Day, I have scanned the collections of major museums and print makers and rustled up a handful of artworks worthy of a home-made mother’s day card.
Mary Cassatt was famous for her images of mother and her child. Of Cassatt’s painted portraits, these tend to be my least favorite. But none the less, their tenderness and the atmospheric effect of Cassatt’s brushwork makes these heart warming Hallmark worthy scenes. My favorite is the Banjo Lesson. Mother is a teacher and the daughter leans over her shoulder eager to lean. Give this one to a mom who’s taught you everything you know.
If this Cassatt doesn’t do it for you, google her and you’ll find dozens of prints and paintings that depict mother and child (her most famous center around bath time).
Adam Shattuck’s 1850 painting, The Shattuck Family, Mother, Grandmother and Baby William is a beautiful image of ideal 19th century femininity but also of the timelessness of motherhood. Corsets may go in and out of style, but motherhood is always in. I think this is a great one to give to both your mother and her mother. (The actual painting is in the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Museum — a place worth taking your mum if you have the day)
Blessed art thou among Women is a beautiful photograph from the turn of the century. A mother’s tender kiss, the doorway and image of the annunciation on the wall referencing the western world’s ideal mother (a Virgin named Mary), the soft glow around the subjects — it’s just beautiful. The photograph lives at the Met and is the work of an American Photographer, Gertrude Käsebier.
When Edward Curtis traveled across the US photographing Native Americans in the first quarter of the 20th century, he captured several dual portraits of mothers with their infants. Assiniboin mother and child ranks as my favorite — beautiful natural light, the forest blurring in the background. For Curtis, this was an image of the next, and most likely last, generation of a disappearing race. For today’s viewer, it’s a warm vintage photograph of a new born and its loving parent.
For the mother to be? How about Demi Moore’s famous cover shot for Vanity Fair? Her stomach is huge (she looks like she’s about to pop at any second) but she’s still as sexy as can be — and you know your favorite pregnant friend is feeling pretty far from sexy right now as she watches her butt expand.
The last is my favorite — a New Yorker cover by Danny Shanahan published in 1992 for mothers day. It’s cute and reminds us that motherhood is universal among earth’s creatures (as should be an appreciation of mothers!). This is going on my card.