Of Dads and Art

These works—some by fathers themselves—celebrate what makes a dad a dad:  their children.

Relief of Akhenaten and his family, 14th c BC, Egypt

Considered the first domestic scene in art, the Akhenaten relief, pictured above, features the 18th dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh with his wife, Nefertiti, and three of their children. The doting king lifts one child close to his face to kiss him in an unusual display of fatherly affection, while the other two climb all over their royal mom.

Hélène Fourment and two of her children, Peter Paul Rubens

When Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens wasn’t away on diplomatic missions in  royal courts, he turned his attention – and paint brushes – to his own family. The father of eight children from two mariages, the painting above, in the Louvre, depicts his second wife and two of their five offspring. Studies of the painting reveal that the painter began to paint a third child on the canvas before abandoning the work, leaving it unfinished.

Claude Renoir in Clown Costume, Auguste Renoir, 1909

The Impressionist artist August Renoir painted his children so often that his oeuvre includes a virtual album of their early childhood. In the above portrait in the Orangerie museum, eight-year-old Claude Renoir poses in a clown costume. His father allegedly coaxed the child into wearing the itchy stockings and puffy suit with the promise of a train set!

Pablo Picasso drawing with his children, Paloma and Claude, photograph by Edward Quinn, 1953

Spanish-born artist Pablo Picasso once said while observing children make art: “It took me many years to learn how to draw like them.” Deeply nostalgic of the youthful exuberance that he felt was sacrificed in his own academic training, the artist strove to see the world as if seeing it for the first time, just like a child. Perhaps becoming a dad helped him do so.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads everywhere!