Cultural Artifact – Mother and Child

In a room tucked in a corner of the National Gallery in Oslo, there were people sitting in chairs along the perimeter, intently sketching a sculpture in the center.  The words “seeing through drawing” were displayed on the wall. The cork boards along the walls, were covered with sketches of this sculpture by the gallery’s visitors.  In the center was the sculpture Mother and Child by Gustav Vigeland.

Mother and Child

Mother and Child by Gustav Vigeland (picture not mine)

I took a vacant seat and joined the others in attempting to draw the Mother and Child.  At first, I didn’t recognize that the piece was by Vigeland since it didn’t have the familiar layer of greenish rust on it, nor did the figures appear as full bodied as the ones in Vigeland park. However, as I spent more time looking at the sculpture, I realized that the nude, vulnerable, and emotionally expressive figures showing a deep familial connection was a signature of Gustav Vigeland.

Vigeland’s sculptures depict the importance of family  in Norwegian culture.  One can see this in the paid paternal and maternal leave. I also saw this in visiting the Hertzberg’s home, where the whole family seemed to work together to prepare dinner and shared the responsibility of cleaning up.  The son, Nikolai was helpful around the house and clearly a dutiful son to his parents.

In the Mother and Child, The boy is leaning on his mother’s shoulder, crying, while his mother kneels down below him to embrace him and support him.  It shows the loving sacrifice of the mother whose child depends on her greatly.

It made me think  about my own relationship to my mother, who has also sacrificed so much for me, and about the many times I had rushed to her arms and cried on her shoulder.  The sculpture reminds me of her unconditional love, which is more valuable than anything in the world.  I’m glad to have had an opportunity to see it.


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sketch by yours truly


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