10 Favorite Fathers in Art

A Father's Day Special

Michelangelo's 'Creation Of Adam'
Detail of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel shows the 'Creation of Adam,' a panel in the massive narrative work by Italian artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, completed between 1508 and 1512, Vatican City, Holy See. Hulton Archive / Staff/ Hulton Fine Art Collection/ Getty Images

He's a wage earner, roof provider, shoe tier, ball thrower, story reader and all-around great guy. Fathers are credited with many things (often including creating the world) but, for my money, fathers usually don't get enough credit. What follows is my humble, reversed-order artistic salute to my favorite Super Hero: Dad.

10. Michelangelo Buonarotti, The Creation of Adam (c. 1510)

When speaking of fathers in art, this most famous scene must naturally be included.

Here, Adam receives knowledge from his Father - the Father he will shortly grievously disappoint. Despite our best efforts, children don't always turn out as we've hoped.

9. M.C. Escher, Escher's Father, G.A. Escher (1916)

In the hubbub over Escher's incredible drawings, his cut prints are sometimes overlooked. In this, the earliest of his known works, he portrays his civil engineer father. Presumably, it was his father's background that fostered Escher's interest in math and skewed perspectives - and, we hope, not an unnavigable staircase G. A. had hand-built in the Escher home.

8. Francisco de Goya, Saturn Devouring his Son (1820-23)

It's bizarrely comforting to know that even fathers of titanic status have their...er...let's call them "off" days. In retrospect, Saturn Junior really should have put down that game controller and taken out the garbage when he was asked.

7. Winslow Homer, Dad's Coming!

(1873)

How often is a similar scene played out every day, world wide? Here each family member is eagerly awaiting Dad's return from the workaday world. Sonny cannot wait to leap into (that which his tender years perceive as) the adventurous world of earning a living, himself, and Mother! Mother is clearly dying to talk to another adult and let him hold that baby for a while.

6. Fernando Botero, A Family (1996)

In this scene, Dad is home, looking rather stunned and a tad edgy. Judging by the porcine crowd waiting for him, one gets the impression that Dad has not come straight from celebrating Mass at the cathedral in the distance. No, he more likely preceded that cigarette by throwing back a couple of blasts in a cantina on the way home. Botero's works never fail to make me grin.

5. John Biggers, The House My Father Built (1983)

John Biggers frequently incorporates "shotgun" houses into his work. While these resemble the classic "kid" representation of "house" (i.e.: triangle on top of rectangle), they are, in reality, a significant African American architectural contribution. Biggers maintains these houses actually harken back to the "shogun", Yoruban for "God's house."

In this wonderfully geometric, symbolic composition, he shows us not only the shogun, but the unbroken circle of life. The father-head might be the kneeling youth's father, some wise paternal ancestor, or the Great Father. I like not being sure, in this instance, as all three are necessary toward creating a life with meaning.

4. Edgar Degas, La Place de la Concorde (1873)

Also known as Viscount Lepic and His Daughters, the gentleman in the painting was a friend of Degas' with whom he frequented the opera and race track.

Here, the Viscount has taken time off from his spotty artistic career to spend quality time with the girls and what appears to resemble a lurcher (dog).

3. Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son (c. 1662)

No matter which -- or how many -- foolish mistakes they may make, we love our children. When Rembrandt painted this profoundly moving scene, he, the master of shadow, chose to highlight the father's face, radiating tender mercy, love and forgiveness for his weary, weeping son.

2. Honoré Daumier, The Kiss (c. 1845-48)

Daumier's paintings never contained the biting satire of his prints and caricature sculpture. Here is a man who is obviously not wealthy, home from the day's labor. He's passionately kissing the baby while the other children queue up for the same. A random moment in a random fatherhood, miraculous in its Realistic simplicity.

1. Norman Rockwell, Breaking Home Ties (1954)

Norman Rockwell, who could paint human emotion as well or better than any artist who's ever tried, has given us a scene of farewell. The young man is eagerly awaiting the train that will take him to the start of his adult life. The father, quietly reposed in his waiting, will soon take the Model A home, alone with the dog. It is his time to step back and let go.

In the blink of an eye, the day arrives when a child leaves for worlds we can no longer share. To all of the fathers who helped us learn to walk, and then gracefully watched us walk away, thank you and Happy Father's Day.

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Esaak, Shelley. "10 Favorite Fathers in Art." ThoughtCo, Jun. 17, 2014, thoughtco.com/favorite-fathers-in-art-183256. Esaak, Shelley. (2014, June 17). 10 Favorite Fathers in Art. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/favorite-fathers-in-art-183256 Esaak, Shelley. "10 Favorite Fathers in Art." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/favorite-fathers-in-art-183256 (accessed December 12, 2017).