For many artists their mothers were their first unofficial art teachers, whether they provided actual instructions or encouraged their creativity by example. We learn from art history that Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s mother was a dressmaker and Gustav Klimt’s mother had an unrealized ambition to be a musical performer.
It is widely known that Vincent van Gogh’s mother was an artist and that she shared her love of nature, drawing and watercolors with her son. Mary Cassatt was also blessed. Her lifelong friend Louisine Havemeyer wrote in her memoirs: “Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Mary Cassatt’s mother would know at once that it was from her and her alone that (Mary) inherited her ability.”
In an interview in ARTNews magazine Fernando Botero (one of the wealthiest artists alive) once noted, “My father was a traveling salesman. He died when I was five. My mother was a seamstress. When I told my mother that I wanted to be an artist, she said, ‘You’re going to die of hunger.’”
Our early memories of how our mothers guided us to appreciate art and develop our innate talent may last a lifetime. With Mother’s Day in mind, and curious about mother-daughter relationships among artists, I started a conversation on Facebook with this:
“As an artist, how did your mother nurture your creativity? Was she your first art teacher? Please comment if you’re an artist. Your comment may end up in an article I’m writing in honor of Mothers.”
Here are a few of the comments I received.
Ann Dunbar wrote: “I am positive that if it was not for my mum, I would not have been an artist. She particularly encouraged my drawing and when I received my first paint box I painted a horse, as I knew she loved them…When I saw the pleasure on her face when she peered at that horse and the love and dedication she offered so that I will succeed in my studies, I felt my destiny was clear.”
This comment came from Nancy Christy-Moore: “My mom was a stay at home mom when I was a child, but had been trained professionally as a fashion illustrator at the Chicago Art Institute. She would set up still lifes, give me her watercolors and brushes and paper and taught me how to draw and paint what I saw, use color, how to blend the colors, and how to express shadows… Later in my teen years she entered my work in the State Fair that gave me my first taste of winning awards for my efforts.”
Aaron Caldwell stated: “My mother was always creating something and said to me every year she learns a new art style. She encouraged me to be creative and give anything a go. She was my first art teacher and today she is my biggest supporter. My mother — the inspiration.”
Maritza Noa-Cabrera posted: “My mother taught me how to be creative. I’ve watched her make a dress out of remnants, cook a beautiful meal out of whatever there was left in the fridge, and knit cushions to make her home beautiful, yet she never ‘taught’ me as such, she just did.”
Similarly, Sandra Gea wrote: “My mother used to up cycle clothes our neighbours and relatives gave her into new garments for us. She could combine colours and patterns and make something ‘old’ look brand new. She is also an amazing embroider, she literally paints on the fabric with her needle. An amazing cook too. Gifted with everything her hands touched. What I saw in her, I became.”
Lyn Miller had this to say: “My Mother was very supportive, from a young age when I had an injury that forced me to take it easy one whole summer my Mom fostered my creativity to keep me from being board. My Mom was my biggest fan in High School at art shows…”
Lisa Altshuler Freidus expressed her appreciation for her mother this way: “Mother’s Day was every day with my mother. A woman of many talents; a beautiful voice, great style, and an amazing eye for design. I inherited her ability to sing and I also developed a design sense which I incorporate into my artwork. When creating my whimsical paintings I hear music, which I use to spread joy within my compositions.”
On the other hand, not all artists share the same sentiments about their mothers. If you’re one of them, you’re not alone. It is equally important to share these two comments:
Roopa Dudley responded to my question this way: “No. My mother always wanted me to be practical and become something along the lines of a Childcare Provider. Basically anything but an Artist.”
Sydney Berger Wellman posted: “I am an artist in spite of my mother. She would say to me ‘why don’t you do something besides that stupid art?’ She was a self-centered, selfish woman who undermined and criticized my every accomplishment. And I was an adopted only child. But the good news is I survived her and never took my eye off my goal of being an artist.”
How has your mother influenced and/or nurtured you as an artist? Your comments are always welcome.