The Painted Father: 10 Images of Fatherhood Depicted in Art

The great art collectors of the world, those mega-rich gillionaires sipping at their vintage 1932 Chateau Fru-Fru in the gloaming, the men and women who stare upon their Van Goghs and Degas hung regally upon thick mansion walls: they all know damn well that I pose less of a threat to them at the next Sotheby’s auction than a stowaway field mouse with a sweet-tooth for painted canvas.

My appreciation is my collection. And I love it so. Over time, gradually digging into this hunk of art and that one, has led me down some excellent lanes. Lately, I find myself Googling artists names I’ve heard/ and with a little plying: discovering ones I hadn’t. I’ve been looking at pictures of pictures and falling in love with so many of them.

So, I’ve put together a little expose of how different artists, both legendary and unsung, have chosen to portray in their work something close to the bone for me: fatherhood.  This time out, I decided to concentrate on the Father/Son relationship. Before long, we’ll look at the Father/Daughter one, too.

So, let’s hit the halls of the cyber-gallery shall we? And please: feel free to point me/ to point us, in the direction of any painting or artist that you really dig. Art discovery rules!

  • John Koch, Father and Son, 1955 1 of 10
    This self-portrait of the New Yorker, Koch, stopping his own painting to speak with his son, who is drawing down on the floor, is fascinating. I love how the artist's brush is just frozen in his hand, seemingly mid stroke, as he takes the time to talk a little shop with his boy.
    Photo credit: HeritageAuctions.com
  • Mary Cassatt, Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt, 1884 2 of 10
    Sometimes the doppelganger effect of a child sitting next to his or her parent is astounding, even before we know that they are indeed related. Here Cassatt captures that blood likeness so perfectly in this painting of her brother and his son. An interesting note: it is said that young Robert hated posing each day for hours as his aunt painted him. He doesn't seem the happiest of lads there, does he?
    Photo credit: Hoocher.com
  • Edgar Degas, Place de la Concorde, 1875 3 of 10
    Here the master, Degas, uses oils to depict a fellow artist friend along with his children and their dog on an outing in Paris. I love how the father seems rather determined to move forward with his walk despite the very reality of two toddlers and a pet who each seem intent on roaming off in different directions. Interesting note: many historians feel Degas was largely influenced by photography (negative space, cropping, perspective) when painting this. Cool, huh?
    Photo credit: AskDegas
  • LS Lowry, Father and Two Sons, 1950 4 of 10
    LS Lowry was an Englishman who was sometimes, ridiculously, labeled "naive" and "a Sunday painter" by critics in his time. But looking at any of his work, including this sad introspective portrait, it's fairly plain to see that the critics were blind. Here, as he often did in his work, Lowry really exhibits and projects the very cold/rainy/industrial way of life in his native Northern England. Look at this father and his boys, dressed in their ragged Sunday best, but slouched beneath the weight of the world. And the driving rain they seem to be standing in? It all seems a fabulous depiction of family ties in a rough land to me.
    Photo credit: This Northern Soul
  • Bahram Gonche pour, Father and Son, 2008 5 of 10
    Bahram Gonche pour is an Iranian artist whose Father and Son captures something classical and true: the divide that often falls between men and their sons. In this painting there is a dad and his boy relaxing on a grassy hill, in repose. But the thing that grabs the eye of the witness and holds it hostage is that proverbial line in the sand dividing the two: in this case, that menacing twig, painted right down between our characters. Thus, this little idyllic scene shoves something harsh and powerful at us, whether we want it or not.
    Photo credit: Saatchi Online
  • Gediminas Pranckevieius, My Little Friend, 2010 6 of 10
    This one is a little different. Pranckevieius is a wildly talented artist whose work here is done in the digital realm. This example of his stuff is just a fantastic look at how youngsters often see their fathers: as giants. With candy. They loom so large in our eyes and often hold the key to our happiness in their mitts. Of course, we al know how complex that can become later on in life. I think this Lithuanian artist is pure genius.
    Photo credit: CGHub
  • Steve Hanks, Traveling with Dad, 2000 7 of 10
    Hanks is quite famous for his watercolors and it's easy to see why. This self-portrait of his boy in his arms was based on an actual journey, as he tells it. In the midst of a divorce, the artist found himself waiting on a train, with his son,, their futures each uncertain and scary. Hanks' ability to render detail makes his work incredibly moving, I think. This one is just masterful.
    Photo credit: Artist Daily
  • Michael Sowa, Father and Son, 2001 8 of 10
    Michael Sowa, to me, is one of the greatest living painters that I have come across. The German native's surrealistic work often uses animals to portray extremely human moments in time. His depiction of a father rabbit and his son here just feels wintery and winding down, like the final chapter of some long wonderful novel. Or maybe I'm just nuts. Still, I love Sowa's paintings so much.
    Photo credit: All Posters
  • Vincent van Gogh, First Steps, after Millet, 1890 9 of 10
    Ahhhh, van Gogh. What can I say that hasn't been said? In this one, a copy of a work by Millet, who van Gogh really respected, our fellow frames one of the most treasured moments of fatherhood/ of parenthood. His ability to gauze the world in pastoral shimmer is something so rare, so beautiful, that we should all just be glad he lived before us, so that his work was waiting for us when we got here.
    Photo credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Federico Barocci, Aeneas Flees Burning Troy, 1598 10 of 10
    As Rome burned, history tells of how Aeneas heaved his elderly father upon his shoulders and and saved him. Barocci's stunning Renaissance painting of Virgil's tale of the depth's of a son's commitment to his father makes me think about my boy, Henry. And it makes me hope that I can be the sort of father to him that might inspire him to do as Aeneas did, someday, if it ever came down to that.
    Photo credit: ibiblio



Article Posted 6 years Ago

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