10 artists who painted their mothers

To celebrate Mothers Day, we pick our ten favourite mothers in art.

[F]rom Lucien Freud, a man who spent more than 4,000 hours painting his mother (not weird, right?) to John Whistler, whose portrait of his mother has become one of his most identifiable works, if you want to see some of the great artists’ most powerful work, then you need look no further than their portraits of their mothers. To celebrate Mothers Day, here are our top ten favourites, in chronological order…

1. Rembrandt, The Artist’s Mother (1629)

Rembrandt often used his mother Neeltgen Willensdr as a model. This painting captures his fascination with the physical signs of ageing; the sunken eyes, the folded skin. It was something he would return to many times in his work.

2. Paul Cézanne, The Artist’s Mother (1867)

Cézanne’s mother was a romantic who supported her son’s career, while his father, a successful banker, supported him financially.

3. James Whistler, Whistler’s Mother (1871)

One of the most famous works by an American artist outside of the United States, Whistler’s austere portrait of his mother Anna Matilda McNeill marked a shift in his work from realism to the more stylised form that would make his name.

4. Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1888)

Van Gogh’s introduction to art was through his mother, Anna Carbentus Van Gogh, who was herself an amateur artist. This portrait was painted from a black-and-white photograph, into which Van Gogh inserted colour.

5. Pablo Picasso, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1896)

This tender portrait of his mother was one of the best of Picasso’s formative years, and reflected their close bond.

6. Marc Chagall, Mother by the Oven (1914)

Ida Chagall worked in her family home and ran a grocery store. Her son became one of the most influential modernists – and artistic polymaths – of the twentieth century.

7. Andy Warhol, July Warhola (1974)

One of Pop Art’s founding members, Warhol captured his mother in the medium for which he has become best known – silkscreen.

8. Lucien Freud, The Painter’s Mother Resting (1976)

Following the death of Freud’s father Ernst, his mother Lucie fell into a deep depression and her sometimes overbearing interest in her son faded. This enabled him to paint her over a period of seven years. ‘…Resting’ is among the most intimate paintings to have come out of this vital period.

9. David Hockney, My Mother (1986)

In this photomontage (one of his first) portrait of his mother, Hockney used about 30 separate images to create the composition.

10. Tracey Emin, Mum Smoking (1994)

Not the most flattering of portraits from this YBA, but typical of her monoprint work nonetheless.