Christmas Comes Early for SR!

Several years ago I found a slightly scruffy picture in an even scruffier frame at a flea market in San Antonio, but I fell in love with it on the spot and went home hugging my little purchase to myself, much pleased. In fact the picture was just cut out from a magazine, but I really didn’t care. It took pride of place in my living room. When I left the US, I left nearly everything behind, but I brought that picture back, even though the lady who bought my house tried to tempt me to part with it by offering me a ridiculous sum.

For the last 10 years or so, I’ve been trying to find out who painted it and what it’s called. I thought it was vaguely Andrew Wyeth Senior-ish, but not. My knowledge of American art isn’t great and I failed to discover the artist – until today when I found out that he was a German immigrant, Julius Gari(baldi) Melchers, and the picture is unsurprisingly entitled Mother And Child, and the artist painted it in 1906. It hangs in the Art Institute Chicago.

I’ve even found a litho which I’m thinking of buying myself for Christmas, although nervous about getting it shipped as things have a habit of disappearing in the US/UK postal systems.

And what is all the fuss about? See for yourself. I hope you like it too!

33 thoughts on “Christmas Comes Early for SR!

    • Thanks, Sakura. I was not sure anyone would be interested but me,but I am so excited.

      In this copy I’ve found and posted, the signature is visible, which it is not on mine as the background is much darker.

      • I think the expression in the mother’s eyes is really interesting and ambiguous, almost like she is preparing to fight to protect her child or something like that. It is really unusual ! ! !

        I can understand why you love it so much ! ! !

  1. Love the way the mother is shielding the baby while the bay is leaning forward and is more open, looking directly at us. The future of the world is innocent, inquisitive and hopeful but the mother’s experience of the world makes her cautious and protective.

  2. Hi SpottedRichard. Interesting placement of the mother’s hand. I like it. It seems to provide just enough quiet support for him to feel protected but it also offers him the freedom to wobble at will if he so chooses. Lovely. lr x

  3. Reminds me a bit of some of Munches stuff ( not The Scream, obviously). Wouldn’t want it on my wall but then I’m a bloke and I don’t like being stared at.

    • I must love being stared at, as I gravitate towards people/portraiture artworks, not that I don’t love other stuff too. I don’t know if Munch was an influence, but he knew John Singer Sergent.

  4. Well, as i haven’t a maternal bone in my body i’m generally kind of unmoved by stuff like this, and Mary Cassat type paintings.

    However, i think the woman has a really lovely and handsome face, and from the picture or 2 i’ve seen of you, there seems to be a bit of resemblence in the facial features?

    • Whoa, Amylee! Now you’re digging into the realms of the narcissistic personality! 🙂

      As we know, I don’t have kids either. I’m sad and regretful but not sentimental about it. The only Mary Cassatt picture I really love is the one of her sister Lydia at the opera Lydia Leaning On Her Arms with its almost punk feel with the acid yellows and orange. I have a copy on canvas and must get it framed.

      I hope that young woman and her baby avoided TB, the Spanish Flu and being casualties of the wars and lived happy lives. I can’t see a resemblance myself. Too much soft living evident in my features. 🙂

      • “Now you’re digging into the realms of the narcissistic personality! ”

        Actually, i wasn’t! I really did see a resemblence! Not that i in any way thought that you were aware of it. But i’m a visual sort, first things that i notice.

        I have always loved Boticelli’s Birth of Venus, for no rational reason. It took me many years to realie that the Venus had, not in any way as dead ringer, but some features similar to my (very much younger) face.

        I have also always loved Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, partially for the beautiful face (which bears zero resemblence to my own), but more for the two cherubs at the bottom, who have by now been appropriated and pimped out for commercial endeavors ad nauseum for decades. Still does it for me when i see them on the painting as a whole though.

      • I was talking about my narcissicm. I’m not very good at recognizing my own features but I’ll take the compliment with thanks.

        Similar features to Botticelli’s lovely and delicate Venus! Lovely. No doubt when not being serenaded by those cherubs she was rocking out at some beer joint. It’s a shame that Rafael’s cherubs have been hijacked by what I call decorart.

        I thought we’d had a conversation once about our lack of rugrats. Probably imagined it…

        Lovely, lovely, lovely!!!

      • Maybe we did have that conversation. Old age, memory is total shit. What’s really embarassing is being introduced to someone and forgetting their name 5 minutes later. I’m really bad with names anyway.

  5. The woman’s face is fantastic – really powerful. Sort of face that’s truly serious but when a smile forms it lights up the entire room and changes your perception of the person.. or she’s on some kind of opiates.

    (If that had been taken on a modern camera – you know the little bugger would be all blurry from wriggling around so much .. heehee)

    Glad you’ve found something to bring you pleasure.

  6. It’s a really interesting picture, SR. Like one or two others, I’m not sure I could cope with it on my wall, but I can see how it would reward repeated viewings. (Have I just contradicted myself there?!)

    I absolutely agree that that woman looks like she would kill for her child – and as though she’s had such a tough life up to this point. I’m quite taken with what may well be my own fanciful notion (projecting from my own experience of being (s)mothered, no doubt!) that the baby, although well guarded, is pulling away from her. It feels to me as if life has hardened her to such an extent that she is unable to be maternal in any nurturing, mirroring, empathic way and he (it is a he, isn’t it?) must look elsewhere for emotional warmth and comfort. All she can do is act as a guard dog, fighting off potential aggressors.

    • You’ve totally floored me with your view on this painting, bish, I want to cry! I can’t say that you are wrong, because looking closely the things you say are so very possibly there. I hope that you are wrong though!

      I am going to stay true. I like this woman, I think she has that strong set of the jaw and a sweet transforming smile (as Shane says) and the baby is a smart, curious little boy whose mama loves him.

      • Oh no! I’m so sorry. Ignore me! As I say, I suspect I’m projecting my own stuff into it. Which I suppose is often what art is ‘for’. But I didn’t intend to skew your appreciation of the piece. It is a lovely, interesting painting – and how satisfying to finally track down its creator!

      • No apologies and obviously I am not going to ignore your intriguing view – isn’t that what art is all about? It’s not spoiled my perspective at all, it’s rather enriched my appreciation of the painting because there is so much to be conjectured about the subjects and what the artist was seeing and trying to capture and everybody adds something when they share their experience of it. So thanks bish. In fact thanks everyone. t’s been fun getting feedback on a favourite picture.

        Maybe I’ll put up a favourite Corot or Millet next month 🙂

  7. I am rather behind with .. well, everything, really, but I am glad that I caught up with this post. It is an utterly gorgeous picture. I love the way the artist has captured the planes in the mother’s face, in particular. And the stories that can be projected onto the pair …

    Now, the version you have posted is, I think, a pastel. (See the way that the clothes – paticulary the mother’s sleeve – almost disintegrate into sketchy lines?) Elsewhere on the Internet, a version in oils can be found – the best reproduction that I spotted was here:

    A bit more digging and it seems that the pastel (Yes! I wuz right!) you show ids in Boston:

    • I like both the pastel and the oil, by the way.

      As to why Melchers made several versions of this image, I am not entirely sure – but it is likely that at least some were working sketches, made with the sitter(s) in front of him. I supect that he knew that this was one of his “occasional moments of genius” and may have revisited his sketches more than once.

      I note that the baby looks more relaxed in the Chicago oil.

    • My tatty print is of the oil painting. It showed up too dark to post, but I do think it’s a more sympathetic portrait and the mother looks anxious and determined rather than stern, while the baby is busy engaging with the painter.

      Thanks for the links. Much appreciated. I’m totally fascinated by this picture, and the artist now.

  8. My only comment is that it is my pleasure to write that the woman and child shown here is my grandmother Johanna Dekker with her first born, my uncle Niek. This was made in the summer of the year 1908. Her son (my uncle) was born in may 1908 and only three months old when he was portayed together with his mum. I already shared old photo’s from my grandmother with Curator Joanna D. Catron from the Gari Melchers Home & Studio.
    If you want to exchange thoughts Joanna has my e-mail.
    Kind regards, Arian de Koning – The Netherlands.

    • Hi Arian. I felt quite teary-eyed reading your comment and learning the names of the mother and child. Yes I would love to see some photos and hear about how things turned out for them. Thank you for your very kind offer. I have your email address which was picked up with the comment, so I’ll be in touch very soon. Thank you.

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