A Little Mothering, Perhaps…

The word “mother” suffuses Soutine, coming up quite often as a verb. Motherhood is an important theme in Soutine’s paintings as well. He painted several portraits of women with their children on their laps, as did van Gogh. The portrayal of the women and infants in the paintings of both artists is fascinating. It is also interesting, in Soutine’s case, to compare the early paintings to the later ones. The first painting here is from 1919, the other two are from 1942. The latter are among his last. He painted many pictures of children in the two years before he died. Here are three mother/child portraits by Chaim Soutine.

From: Book I, Chapter 1—Portrait of the Village Idiot, part I

…Then she’s there,

as always, to collect him. “What a sight,”

his mother says, and pushes back his hair.

And what a sight indeed.

From: Book II, Chapter 2—Madeleine, part I

It was a matter of a good night’s sleep,

a decent meal. A little mothering,

perhaps. A day exploring in those steep

environs might have come to anything.

From Book V, Chapter  Three—Soutine in the Wind, part III

A dream and not a dream. A bleeding life,

a canvas on which subtle forms are drifting.

Mother, nurse, a model or a wife,

the lines and their relationship keep shifting.


And a van Gogh that comes to mind:


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