An Appreciation of Mothers Through Art

The bond between mother and child has long served as a major inspiration for countless artists; artists who honor their mothers, other mothers, and ultimately seek to immortalize relationships between mothers and children. In celebration of Mother’s Day, we’ve compiled 5 artworks that are inspired by motherhood and embrace a mother’s care towards her child.

1. Mother and Child by Kitagawa Utamaro (1793)


Kitagawa Utamaro, Mother and Child (1793)


Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, 14 7/8 x 9 7/8 in

Utamaro was a leading ukiyo-e woodblock printmaker and painter of the Edo period, whose inspiration was rooted in the lives of common people. Women were the primary subjects of his works, and he became known for bijin ōkubi-e (“large-headed pictures of beautiful women”). He was also interested in depicting images of mother and child in daily life [see: Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child, Bathtime (Gyōzui)]. In Mother and Child, he portrays a whimsical interaction between a mother (dressed in red) sticking her tongue out at her child. Another woman laughs and grasps at the child’s belt.

2. Mary Cassatt, The Bath (1891)


Mary Cassatt, The Bath (1891)


Aquatint, Drypoint on paper, Soft-ground etching, 12 3/8 x 9 5/8 in

The Bath is the first print in Cassatt's series of 10 color aquatints, each of which relate to mothers and children. Cassatt was influenced by Japanese art, in subject matter and technique; Japanese woodblock prints often depicted women bathing children, such as Kitagawa Utamaro’s Bathtime (Gyōzui), and did not include as much shading as in Western art.

3. Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Woman and daughter with makeup) (1990)


Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Woman and daughter with makeup) (1990)


Gelatin silver print, mounted to board, 26 7/8 x 26 7/8 in

An American contemporary artist who has received numerous accolades for her multimedia work, Weems engages in activism in her practice, exploring “family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power”. The artist became well-known for her “Kitchen Table Series'' in the early 1990s, which depict herself seated at her kitchen table. Each photograph artfully examines family relationships and women in the domestic sphere, set in the intimate setting of the kitchen. The daughter in this “Untitled” photograph is featured in several other photographs in the series, portraying their relationship as one of “like mother, like daughter”.

4. Louise Bourgeois, Maman (1999)


Louise Bourgeois, Maman (1999)Louise Bourgeois, Maman (1999)


Bronze, marble, and stainless steel, 29 ft 4 3/8 in x 32 ft 1 7/8 in x 38 ft 5/8 in

Bourgeois’ Maman symbolizes a universal maternal figure, and brings the viewer awe and anxiety as it looks up at the sculpture like a child. The spider guards her eggs in a wire-meshed egg sac elevated by a steel body; however, its massive height is contrasted with its slender legs alludes to a poignant vulnerability and beauty. With its commanding presence casting a monumental shadow, the sculpture is regarded as one of Bourgeois’ most ambitious pieces. Maman is a meditation on motherhood and is a reflection of the artist’s memories of her own mother.

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. She could also defend herself, and me, by refusing to answer ‘stupid’, inquisitive, embarrassing, personal questions.

I shall never tire of representing her.

I want to: eat, sleep, argue, hurt, destroy …

Why do you?

My reasons belong exclusively to me.

The treatment of Fear.

– Louise Bourgeois, p. 62


5. Yoko Ono, My Mommy Is Beautiful (2017)


Installation at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

Yoko Ono, My Mommy Is Beautiful (2017)


One of the interactive installations as part of Ono’s ongoing project (since 2004), Ono invited Hirshhorn’s museum-goers to “write your memory of your mother and/or paste a photograph of her on the canvas.” After two months of its opening, the wall received 20,000 messages and memories from visitors.

Closeup of Yoko Ono, My Mommy Is Beautiful (2017)


The “My Mommy is Beautiful” project was given an online and social media presence. On the website, Ono writes:

Mommy, I’m sorry.

How did I know

you were suffering silently?


Your touch, your warm voice and your smile

Will always be with me.


This is a tribute to you and

all mothers of the world

from each of your children.


We love you!

y.o. 2010


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