Happy Mothers in Art

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Daniel Aguilera
Gender & Western Art
Professor Slatkin
25 May 2013

“Happy Mothers in Art”

Looking at paintings as far back as the 17th century, we can see that throughout art, Motherhood is a widely occurring theme. Motherhood has only grown and advanced through works of art, such as sculptures and paintings. Through new ideals on the “Happy Mother,” status of a woman, in terms of structure within the family, concept of how marriage has changed, role of money and dynamic of the artist and family, we will see how it strongly has influenced the theme of Motherhood.

New ideals on the “Happy Mother” are discussed in Carol Duncan’s “Happy Mothers & Other New Ideas In French Art.” She discusses the ideal of family, which challenges views on parenting as a whole and how to raise children. Children were viewed as “little pets” that needed severe discipline, while having to care for babies was tended to by nurses. Children were sent away to schools or apprenticeships at a very young age, growing up to barely know their parents. New ideals challenged this by advising parents to build and channel upon a child’s need for affection and approval. Only loving parents and especially nursing mothers could provide a healthy, caring, and virtuous child if raised in that type of environment. Artwork that features this ideal can be viewed through the artwork of Louise Hersent’s (1815)“The Good Mother.” This painting deals with the new ideal of being child-rearing in being a good mother, as well as a good parent, loving and caring can produce a healthy, caring and virtuous child. It features a mother serenely gazing upon her child in a loving manner. Her posture alone is painted as what it is to be a good mother. She is also holding what seems to be a piece of paper and a pair of glasses, symbolizing education that she will pass onto her child. The surrounding room behind the characters shows that she has a means to provide for the child as well. The status of...
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