Happy Mother’s Day all you moms out there! In honour of this special day, DAF presents a selection of well known portraits of artists’ mothers. Throughout history, many artists have painted their mothers for a variety reasons; “as a loving tribute, to capture a memorable face, to work through conflicting emotions, as a family legacy, or the simple availability of a model.”
The development of photography in the 19th century however, had a significant impact on portrait painting. Many turned to photography studios to have their portraits made as a cheaper alternative. Some artists found photography to be a useful aid to composition and from the Impressionists onward, artists have found numerous ways to expand their techniques and reinterpret the portrait to compete effectively with photography:
“Henri Matisse produced powerful portraits using non-naturalistic, even garish, colours for skin tones. Cézanne relied on highly simplified forms in his portraits, avoiding detail while emphasizing colour juxtapositions. Gustav Klimt‘s unique style applied Byzantine motifs and gold paint to his memorable portraits. Picasso painted many portraits, including several cubist renderings of his mistresses, in which the likeness of the subject is grossly distorted to achieve an emotional statement well beyond the bounds of normal caricature.”
As a result of an increased interest in abstract and non-figurative art, portrait painting in Europe and the Americas declined in the 1940s and 50s. In the 1960s and 70s, however, a revival of portraiture began. Artists such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, and other contemporary artists have made the human face a focal point of their work. As well, photographic portraiture has become fully accepted in the art world and photo portraits are exhibited alongside painters in galleries and museum.
Whether a portrait of one’s mother or family member, friend or a stranger on the street; in our era of mass-media and the web, where images can be exchanged in seconds, our desire to create and commission unique images of ourselves lives on.