The Mother; Thomas Kennington (1856-1916), English; 1895; 1956.037


Aigantighe Art Gallery


The Mother

About this object

Thomas Kennington was born in Great Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire. He studied at the Royal College of Art in London and the Académie Julian in Paris and brought back to London the artistic influence of the French painters he admired. Kennington became a famous portrait and genre painter.

The theme of family life featured strongly in Victorian painting and lessons were to be drawn from the art works. They were visual puzzles to be worked out. Domestic scenes provided models of how adults and children should behave.
This huge painting of The Mother shows her as the cornerstone of the family and the composition of this painting underlines this. The entire work literally centres on the wedding ring on the mother’s finger.

In this painting the mother tends to two of her young children while an older daughter helps. She is being trained up for her future role. The dramatic and darker silhouette of the mother on the right is contrasted with the brighter area of sleeping children on the left bathed in the glow of the lamp she is carrying. It is unusual to find a painting in which the key subject has their back to the viewer and whose face cannot be seen entirely. The mother shields her children from harm and also from the viewer.

While this painting presents an ideal, rosy-hued view the reality for many Victorian mothers was quite different. Early death due to childbirth problems, sickness and hard work were common. Families were much larger and a bed this size would probably have had four to six children sleeping top to toe.

This is one of the key works in Aigantighe’s superb Victorian collection representing narrative painting on a grand scale.


Thomas Kennington (1856-1916), English

Date Made


Medium and Materials

Oil on canvas


115 x 168.2 cm


Aigantighe Art Gallery Collection

Credit Line

Presented in 1956 from the collection of James Craigie.

Object Type


Object number


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