Mother: Portraits by 40 Great Artists by Juliet Heslewood

This week’s Random Book of the Week is a quick post as I shortly have to make the trek from Sarf to Norf London in order to worship at the altar of The Woman Who Gave Me Life. Yes folks, it’s Mothering Sunday, that day of the year when Clintons et al make a lot of money out of guilt-tripping us into doing that Mother Hero Worship thing which we know we should really be doing every day of the year, given what our mums went through to carry us (morning sickness!) give birth to us (episiotomies!) and keep us alive (a load of bloody effort!).

In Mother: Portraits by 40 Great Artists, Juliet Heslewood has collated the various ways in which forty artists have depicted their own Women Who Gave Them Life. Whistler’s portrait of his ma (below) is probably the most well-known example of this, but there are plenty more here: Durer, Rembrandt, Morisot, Constable, Cassatt, Seurat, van Gogh, Freud, Picasso, Hockney and  others. It’s a jaunt through some great art, but somehow more than that: after all, as Heslewood notes:

…the evolution of such a picture begins with a unique and intimate relationship. Mother is not just anybody. She is the artist’s mother.

It’s touching to look at these portraits and imagine the conversations between the artists and their mothers as they painted them. ‘Oh Albrecht darling! Whatever you paint will be lovely!’. And we have a lot thank these ladies for, given their endurance of aforementioned morning sickness/episiotomies/a load of bloody effort that brought the little Manets, Chagalls and Moores,  and therefore lots of great art, into the world. I hope they at least got a card each Mothering Sunday…

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums – a salutation that extends to all the other ‘types’ of mum too: the adoptive mums, foster mums, step mums, dads doubling up as mums, grannies being mums, who all ‘give life’ too.  Thanks for everything!

My Grandparents, My Parents and Me by Frida Kahlo, 1936


Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 by James McNeill Whistler, 1871
The Woman Who Gave Me Life aka Donna Ann Turner, by Brontë Turner, 2016. Yeah, this picture ain’t hangin’ in  no gallery, but it’s hangin’ in my heart.

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