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Moms at the Museum

6 artworks from 6 artists across 6 galleries
The tour will begin from the Michigan Avenue entrance, if you enter from the Modern Wing, begin your tour in reverse order.

Celebrate Mother's Day with these artworks recognizing moms of all kinds across the museum.

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  • Mother-and-Child Figure (Bwanga bwa Chibola)

    Luluwa

    This delicate rendering of a mother holding her newborn child celebrates human fertility. Scarification patterns, hairstyles, jewelry, and anatomical details express the Luluwa concept of bwimpe, which unites beauty with goodness. Such figures may have served as both containers for medicine and symbols of status, reflecting societal changes in the latter half of the 19th century.

    "This Luluwa figure was related to rituals dedicated to helping women with childbirth and preventing infant mortality."

  • Goddess Hariti Seated Holding a Child

    Originally a child-devouring demoness, Hariti ultimately became a benevolent protector of children after the Buddha kidnapped one of her own to demonstrate the distress she had been inflicting upon other parents. As a Buddhist goddess, she was honored by female devotees for fertility and healthy childbirth. She was especially popular in the Gandharan region, where Greco-Roman sculptural styles had been adopted.

    "Being a mom means being needed—a lot. Hariti, who had hundreds of children, is here shown with one child in her lap tugging on her necklace, another tapping her left shoulder, and a third clinging to her skirt by her left knee."

  • The Red Room, Etretat

    Félix Edouard Vallotton

    Inspired by a personal photograph, this work reflects Vallotton's focus on the daily life of his household. This example employs bold blocks of solid color: the red of the bed and the pink of the child's dress, for example. The result is a graphic simplicity similar to the artist's woodblock prints of interior scenes created during this same period.

    "Despite not having children of his own, Vallotton painted many intimate scenes of family life. Pictured here is his wife, Gabrielle, as she cares for their young niece, Germaine, who plays on the floor at her feet."

  • A Young Mother

    Bessie Potter Vonnoh

    In this work Vonnoh recasted a traditional subject into a modern, lively composition of a woman and child. It is Impressionist in finish rather than detailed and polished. Raised and trained in Chicago, Vonnoh set up a studio in the city in the mid-1890s, garnering wide acclaim for her sculptures of female figures, whose small scale suited domestic spaces.

    "The woman’s features and the lines of her dressing gown evoke a contemporary sitter, yet rather than a portrait, the work offers a broader interpretation of maternal affection."

  • The Child's Bath

    Mary Cassatt

    Known for her sensitive yet unsentimental scenes of women and children, Mary Cassatt was the only American invited to exhibit with the original French Impressionist group. In The Child’s Bath, one of her masterworks, she used cropped forms, bold patterns and outlines, and a flattened perspective, all of which she derived from her study of Japanese woodblock prints.

    "The woman in this painting may be a nurse, but she is more likely the child’s mother. In the 1890s, scientific understandings of childhood were changing, and mothers were increasingly encouraged to participate fully in the everyday care of their children."

  • Mother and Child

    Pablo Picasso

    In the late 1910s and early 1920, Picasso was inspired by ancient and Renaissance art and took up a new classical style marked by sculptural, naturalistically rendered forms. This was seen as a "return to order" following the abstraction of Cubism. Between 1921 and 1923 he used this style to produce at least 12 works on the subject of mothers and children, full of classical-period figures that are majestic in proportion and feeling.

    "Picasso created this work after his son, Paolo, was born. His treatment of the mother and child expresses a serenity and stability that characterized his own life at this time."


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