Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Impressionism (pt. 20)

Arguably the artist's most famous work, this painting, called The Cradle, is another one of Morisot's quiet and humble domestic scenes of ordinary, daily life.
I think there is a profundity here that speaks for itself.  All you mothers out there will instantly know this kind of scene and feel intimately acquainted with what thoughts could be going on in the mind of the woman on the left, who leans over the cradle and gazes into the face of her sleeping child.  Several decades later, in the wake of the Modernist period of literary history, James Joyce famously wrote that "whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother's love is not."
Like The Woman at Her Toilette, this, too, pictures a societal function of women; that they exist in everyday life as mothers, even to a degree that it defines them.  This is also a part of the domestic side to Modern life.  This woman here bends down over her baby's bed and very gently holds onto a bit of fabric near the child's feet.  In her other hand she rests her cheek in thoughtful muse.  Her face is not one of an angel.  Folds of her hair stream down somewhat untidily, and her eyelids droop nearly three-quarters of the way closed.  She is likely exhausted or perhaps even impatient about something.  But she stares at her baby with the face of one lost in meditation and reverie.  The sleepless mind of a mother's care.  But the artist has painted a veil over the infant, creating a strong diagonal line across the center of the canvas, splitting mother and child.  The baby is obscured from clear view and alone behind the protective covering—not even its mother lay inside with it.  Perhaps this is the embodiment of the generation gap and the parent's knowledge that ultimately the child will move on from him or her.  Definitely in the latter half of the Victorian Age there was an increasing lack of hope for the future generation, and we can see some of that in this painting, in the mother's almost unhappy eyes.  But the child's asleep and wrapped up in its own, private, safe world for now (in "The Cradle," which the painting's title describes); and it has its mother standing by ready to provide for it at a moment's notice.  Her dress even has a low cut in the front to imply her readiness as a mother to provide that most maternal service for her child (breast feeding is implied) at any time.  In our study of art history, this is definitely another one of the most profound images to look at and ponder.

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