Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, 1889
About the object
Thoma’s dignified portrait of his mother Rosa at the age of eighty-five is also impressively realistic. She is holding a Bible, in the background it is possible to make out the meadows and pastures around Bernau. The original frame was designed by the artist himself.
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Throughout his entire life, Hans Thoma maintained close contact with his family and his hometown of Bernau in the Black Forest. He was especially fond of his mother. Here, with great dignity, he presents his mother Rosa Thoma (née Maier, 1804–1897), who at the time was 85 years old. She gazes at the viewer with an earnest, somewhat sad and stubborn expression. She holds a Bible in her hand, while a meadow landscape from the region around Bernau appears in the background. With striking realism, Thoma shows his mother at the end of her life; the wrinkles in her face and the weariness in her eyes are not concealed. The frontal perspective gives the painting an almost abrasive directness. Nonetheless, it is a respectful and dignified view of a woman looking back on a life of hard work. In contrast to the somber colors of the painting, the frame—designed by Thoma himself with decorative carving and painting—seems cheerful and light, almost like a modern halo. In 1893, Thoma told his friend, the art historian Henry Thode (1857–1920), of his new enthusiasm for designing his own frames in order to give his pictures a completely different effect: “In order to do something after all, I have painted frames with flowers and arabesques—which don’t look bad at all and lend the pictures a mural-like quality. – Gold frames and stupid carpentry around pictures is more and more an abomination to me.” TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)