• Manoj Kumar

The Breastfed Child and Motherhood by Pablo Picasso, 1905

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Maternity by Pablo Picasso 1905 PC – Wikipedia

Maternité, Painted during Picasso’s Rose period which started in 1904 and ended in 1906, Picasso experimented with primitivism; influenced by pre-Roman Iberian sculpture, Oceanic and African art.

There are few things more sacred than the bond between a mother and her child and it is that very bond that Picasso has captured in this painting. The mother, like all mothers, an angel, looks down upon her progeny suckling on the sweet essence of sustenance and love. In her gaze one sees that she is beyond this world of material pleasures, unaware of anyone except her child, unaware of us, the observers, gaping at her, observing her, decoding her. Her eyes fixed, calm and blissful in demeanour, her flower-patterned silken dress slipping off her shoulders, enveloping her baby. She holds her infant delicately and gracefully, all the while as the child suckles, utterly unaware of a world that exists beyond the warmth of that motherly embrace.

The mother, though tranquil in expression, a phantasmagorical animation representing her sentiment rises out of the image. A tender yet powerful essence, surreal and intangible, enfolds and cocoons the observer, making them feel and emotionally experience the quintessence of a mothers’ love towards her child, the inner joy she feels from motherhood and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real genius of Pablo Picasso.

But then again, the world has changed a lot since 1905, since Picasso made this painting. In these contemporary times, our society has splintered and we have become increasingly opinionated towards women sharing images of them breastfeeding their children on social media. When a celebrity does share such an image, similar to the painting by Picasso, the digital comment boxes get filled with a myriad of opinions, some shouting abuses, some crying for modesty and some congratulating the freedoms of today.

This splintering of thoughts and opinions between the digital and real-world is most obvious when one observes the attitude of people towards breastfeeding women in the real world. All across India, on busses and bus stops, on train and railway platforms and every other conceivable place, the common Indian woman breastfeeds her child, without a single iota of thought. She is free and so is her child, to cherish in the essence of what Picasso portrays in his painting. She doesn’t want your opinions, good or bad, and she doesn’t care about your criticism, she just wants to be a mother to her child. Onlookers and travellers walk by our mothers and their suckling children without a care in the world.

Perplexing as it is, I wonder why virtual armchair activists behave hypocritically.

That is a conundrum and an article for another day.

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