Mother and Child

Artist: Elizabeth Catlett (Mexican (born United States), Washington, D.C. 1915–2012 Cuernavaca)

Date: 1944

Medium: Lithograph

Dimensions: Sheet:12 3/8 x 9 3/8 in. (31.4 x 23.8 cm)
Image: 7 3/4 x 5 3/4 in. (19.7 x 14.6 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Gift of Reba and Dave Williams, 1999

Accession Number: 1999.529.34


The famous sculptor Elizabeth Catlett has also been a prolific printmaker throughout her long career. This compact image of mother and child embracing looks, in fact, as if it could have been carved from wood or stone. Taking advantage of the various tonal gradations produced by the lithographic process, Catlett articulates the planes of the mother's head with deep shadows and bright highlights. The subject of maternal love and protection is one that the artist has repeated many times in both sculpture and prints. The pose of mother and child (indeed just the mere subject itself) immediately calls to mind religious representations of Mary and the Christ child. But to Catlett, this imagery had a secular meaning, which she wrote about in 1940: "The implications of motherhood, especially Negro motherhood, are quite important to me, as I am a Negro as well as a woman."