Drawing Basics: Depicting Mother and Child

This time of year puts the focus on family, and at the center of the family is the special relationship between mother and child. Thanks in part to the powerful patronage of the Roman Catholic Church, there are thousands of pencil sketches and preparatory drawings of Mary and baby Jesus. But mother-and-child depictions are touching images regardless of who the mother and the child may be. Mary Cassatt's portrayals of mothers with their children are notable for their ability to express the tenderness of their scene without turning maudlin.

Raphael, Leonardo, Dalí, Picasso–all have depicted mother and child and explored the potent dynamics of this fundamental bond. Does anyone have a favorite drawing in this genre?

Virgin and Child Studies, by Raphael, pen drawing

Virgin and Child Studies, by Raphael, pen drawing over traces of red chalk in the center, 10 x 7 1/4. Collection British Museum, London, England.




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Bob Bahr

About Bob Bahr

Hi. I'm the managing editor of American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing, and Workshop magazines. Drawing magazine is primarily my responsibility so I spend a lot of time looking at drawings, talking with draftsmen, and drawing ... but I love to paint, too.

2 thoughts on “Drawing Basics: Depicting Mother and Child

  1. What many of the famous artists listed noted ,through sketches and studies, was the positioning of the hands as Mother’s cradled babies heads. I am part of a large family and whenever we have a newborn join the ranks I can not help but notice that today’s mothers use the identical position. This speaks to two things; that the artists of the past were critical and talented observewrs of life and that proper positioning of infants is as important today as it has been through history.

  2. I’m not so into the “Old Masters” on this subject, as I think a mother and child is such an amazingly intimate thing, and you dont really see that in the religious paintings; where the baby is so often looking out at the viewer, rather than focused on the mother.


    This one is closer to what I like,

    The babe asleep in Momma’s arms, but again the requisite symbolism of the Lamb, IMHO, is just awkward.

    I was tried to google some images I would like, and I found this colored Pencil Drawing by Ann Adams;

    http://www.nmia.com/~paulos/annadams2.html that feels more right to me with the baby peeking out.

    Oddly Yahoo featured this story a few days ago now, and I was intending to do a study of the illusatration, it is IMHO very intimate, and delicate, and just what a Mother/Child should be …


    Your thoughts, BB.