Universal Family Theme in Art History

Universal Family Theme in Art History

Heather Schoenbein-Steiny
December 19, 2008
Term Paper

Universal Theme of Family
Mother & Child

There are many definitions of family. I prefer the definition I found at “brainyquote.com”:

Those who descend from one common progenitor; a tribe, clan, or race; kindred; house; as, the human family; the family of Abraham; the father of a family.

I prefer this definition because it includes reference to “a tribe or clan” , which in my understanding means it can include close friends. Living in New York City, away from family (2000 miles away), I have made many close friends that I consider family and their children even call me “Auntie Heather”. My mother would claim family is blood, and blood comes before friends, which is why I have chosen to focus my essay on “Mother and Child” for two works and the family unit for the third.

Throughout art history, artists have used the theme of mother and child for religious purposes, for cultural purposes, and for expressing the strong relationship between mother and child. The mother and child theme can be found in every culture and in every society throughout human history there are examples mother and child in the art of Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Medieval art and art of the Renaissance often depicts Mary and the Christ child to communicate bible stories for those that could not read. Tribes of Africa, Asian art, Native American art, and even folk art often depict a non-religious representation of the mother and child. Many photographs taken during the Great Depression or during wartime show the anguish, poverty, and yet the bonds between the mother and child.

I chose three works from Henry Moore. His story of how he moved into the mother and child and family theme I found to be very touching. In 1940 Moore was named the “war artist”, the era in which he initiated his famous series of anti-aerial refuge drawings. In 1941 he was elected a member of the council of the Tate Gallery, where he...

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