How artists have honoured their mothers and motherhood 06 Mar

With Mother’s Day just around the corner we are all thinking of how we can tell our mum’s that we think they are great! Whether it is making them a card or painting a portrait there are lots of creative ways to honour your mum. Throughout art history artists have chosen to represent their mothers and their own experiences of motherhood in a variety of ways, here are just a few of our favourties.

#1 Louise Bourgeoise, Maman, 1999


To some, spiders are terrifying but for Louise Bourgeois, within her work, spiders were a symbolic representation of her mother. In a series of etchings titled Ode à ma mere (Ode to my Mother) Louise Bourgeois first compared her mother to a spider;

“The friend (the spider – why the spider?) because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider.”
Pg 62 in Louise Bourgeois

The towering sculpture of steel and marble, titled Maman, encourages the viewer to look up, in the same way that a small child would to its mother. The spiders eight spindly legs forming a protective circle around anyone stood underneath.

#2 Lucian Freud, The Painters Mother II, 1973



After the death of his father, Lucien Freud began a series of portraits of his mother, over the space of 10 years Lucie Freud sat for over one thousand times for her son. Suffering from depression, Lucie’s face looks filled with sadness and grief. It has been suggested that Freud began painting his mother to help ease her sadness and help her get over the loss of her husband.

#3 Barbara Hepworth, Mother and Child, 1934

Mother and Child 1934 by Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975


Barbara Hepworth carved Mother and Child during her pregnancy and marks her experience of motherhood. The Cumberland alabaster has been carved into two abstracted figures and through her subtle references to the human form we can interpret the sculpture as a mother lying down with her small child.

We are lucky enough to be a train ride away from the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield which houses a permanent collection of Barbara Hepworths work, we definitely recommend a visit.

#4 David Hockney, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, Mrs Laura Hockney, 1972

Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Mrs Laura Hockney, Bradford 1972 by David Hockney born 1937

In this portrait David Hockney’s mother looks relaxed, almost unaware that her son is drawing her as she looks out into the distance, rather than directly at the artist.

#5 Mary Kelly, Post-Partum Document, 1973-79


Over the course of 6 years conceptual artist Mary Kelly explored the relationship between mother and child, from her sons birth through his development as he grew. The installation features the analysis of nappy stains through to documentation of her sons language development.

Post-Partum Document, informed by feminism and psychoanalysis has had a profound impact on on the development of contemporary art and we were lucky to see the work at the Whitworth Art Gallery in a retrospective of Mary Kelly’s work.

Post a comment or ask a question