Painting

Cute Babies in Art: From Rubens to Cassatt

Rachel Witte 22 May 2022 min Read

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 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 artworks out there as well? We cannot forget those. Just research “cute babies in art” and you will be met with some fascinating or possibly disturbing images.

Cute Babies in Art

1. Mary Cassatt

As an Impressionist female artist in the late 19th century, Mary Cassatt’s oeuvre focuses heavily on the female presence in the world as a 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, PA, USA.

Mother and Child Mary Cassat Sleepy Baby
Mary Cassatt, Sleepy Baby, c. 1910, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, USA.

2. Vincent van Gogh

These Vincent van Gogh’s paintings 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, NY, USA.

Portrait of Marcelle Roulin, Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Marcelle Roulin, 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

3. Gari Melchers

Perhaps lesser known than his American counterpart, Mary Cassatt, Gari 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, IL, USA.

Melchers, Motherhood
Gari Melchers, Motherhood, ca. 1895, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

4. William-Adolphe Bouguereau

A large portion of the French artist’s oeuvre is focused on the female body. Museum of Fine Arts Houston labels William-Adolphe Bouguereau as the “quintessential successful academic painter.” Throughout his realistic paintings, there are numerous children and babies. For instance, the below painting is 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, TX, USA.

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

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Madonna of the Lillies, 1899, private collection. Wikimedia Commons.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Madonna of the Lillies, 1899, private collection. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

5. Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens is known for his religious and mythological paintings of portraits and landscapes. Below are both a sketch of his own son, Nicolas, 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, Albertina, Vienna, Austria.

babies in art
Peter Paul Rubens, Two Sleeping Children, ca. 1612-1613, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan.

6. Cornelis van Cleve

While not all of Cornelis van Cleve‘s paintings of the baby Jesus could be defined as “cute” in nature, this one fits the description. It is a bit more realistic 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, MN, 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 artworks depicting babies in a 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 newborn 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
Maarten van Heemskerck, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, ca. 1530, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Detail.

More Information:

Why babies in medieval paintings look like ugly old men. Posted by Vox via Youtube, 127 Jul 2015.

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