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Cute Babies in Art: From Rubens to Cassatt

William Quiller Orchardson, Master Baby, 1886, Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Art State of Mind

Cute Babies in Art: From Rubens to Cassatt

Who doesn’t like a cute baby? Lucky for us, history is full of cute babies in art. And while we could dedicate one whole article to the babies in Mary Cassatt’s paintings alone, there happen to be more artists who excelled in this genre. But where would we be if we forgot to mention the stranger art works out there as well? We cannot forget those. Just research “cute babies in art” and you will be met with some fascinating and possibly disturbing images.

Cute Babies in Art

Mary Cassatt

As an Impressionist female artist in the late 19th century, Cassatt’s oeuvre focuses heavily on the female presence in the world as mother, daughter, etc. If you were to look deeper into her portfolio, the theme is much the same throughout. Her depictions are some of the cutest of all the babies in art history. For example, look at these two paintings; they are intimate in feeling and feature two precious babies.

Maternal Kiss Mary Cassat
Mary Cassatt, Maternal Kiss, 1896, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA.
Mother and Child Mary Cassat Sleepy Baby
Mary Cassatt, Sleepy Baby, c. 1910, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, USA.

Vincent Van Gogh

These Van Gogh painting are bright and vibrant; indicative of Van Gogh’s later style and color palette. While the artist painted many other paintings for the Roulin family, these next two are particularly focused on the infant, Marcelle. Look at those chubby cheeks!

Madame Roulin and her baby, vincent van gogh
Vincent van Gogh, Madame Roulin and Her Baby, 1888, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA.
Portrait of Marcelle Roulin, Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Marcelle Roulin, 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Gari Melchers

Perhaps lesser known than his American counterpart, Mary Cassatt, Melchers also painted women and children. According to the Art Institute of Chicago, Melchers specialized in naturalistic depictions of peasant life.

Melchers Mother and Child
Gari Melchers, Mother and Child, 1906, Art Institute Chicago, Chicago, USA.
Melchers, Motherhood
Gari Melchers, Motherhood, ca. 1895, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

A large portion of the French artist’s oeuvre is focused on the female body. MFA Houston labels Bouguereau as the “quintessential successful academic painter.” Throughout his realistic paintings, there are numerous children and babies in addition to the women. For instance, the below painting of a young girl cradling her younger sibling. He had his own children model for the very clear and hyper-realistic portrait.

Bouguereau, Elder Sister
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Elder Sister, 1869, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, USA.

Again, Bouguereau’s painting of the Madonna and Child hearkens back to the Renaissance style, but with a better approach to Realism.

religious babies in art
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Madonna of the Lillies, 1899, Private Collection, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Peter Paul Rubens

The 17th century Flemish painter is known for his religious and mythological paintings of portraits and landscapes. Below are both a sketch of his own child and a painting of two curly-haired babies in bed believed to be his elder brothers.

babies in art, Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens, Nicolas Rubens With Coral Necklace, ca. 1619, The Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria.
babies in art
Peter Paul Rubens, Two Sleeping Children, ca. 1612-13, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan.

Cornelis van Cleve

While not all of the Flemish artist’s paintings of the Baby Jesus could be defined as ‘cute’ in nature, this one fits the description. It is a more realistic portrait of a baby than what other Renaissance artists were utilizing at around the same time and area of Europe.

babies in art, Madonna and Child
Cornelis van Cleve, Madonna and Child, ca. 1550, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, USA.

Bonus: Not that Cute Babies in Art

Opinions differ on whether all babies are cute, however that is not the argument here. But if you want to see art works depicting babies in an unrealistic or downright strange manner, look no further.

What exactly is happening here? Poor child!

Rembrandt, baby being taken
Rembrandt van Rijn, Abduction of Ganymede, 1635, Dresden State Art Museum, Dresden, Germany.

Is this mother giving birth to a new born infant or an adult?

Medieval Cesarean strange
Medieval Caesarean section, c.1400, British Library, London, UK.

Is this a man or a baby?

Heemskerck, Flight into Egypt
Maerten van Heemskerck, close up of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, ca. 1530, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA.

More Information:

Vox, Why babies in medieval paintings look like ugly old men, Source: Youtube, 2020.

Read more about children and motherhood in art:

Art historian (art lover, artist), coffee drinker, writer, Mom to 2 girls. BA in History and an MA in Art History. Favorite art style is Impressionism. Favorite theme is the Annunciation. Located in Central Kansas.

 

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