The North Carolina Museum of Art

Sacred Motherhood: Mother-and-Child Representations from the Permanent Collection

Primrose McPherson Paschal, Beulah's Baby, 1948, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in., North Carolina Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)

East Building, Level B, Free
May 4–December 7, 2014

Sacred Motherhood is an exhibition focused on 13 representations of mother and child from the Museum’s permanent collection, found in numerous cultures and spanning thousands of years—from ancient Egypt to the 21st century. The works of art in the exhibition are diverse and include artifacts, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, photographs, and lithographs. One of the works is even an abstract painting. 

While the goddess Isis and the Virgin Mary are represented, the exhibition does not focus solely on holy or divine mothers; rather, it uncovers how artists treat motherhood itself as worthy of reverence and honor. Sacred Motherhood explores the symbolism behind the conspicuous representation of woman caring for child by placing each work in its historical and cultural context, and, as with more recent pieces, setting the subject of motherhood within the artist’s framework. Extended labels will provide this context for each of the works in the exhibition.

Many other works in the Museum’s collection fall within the scope of Sacred Motherhood. Visitors will be encouraged to continue their exploration of this theme in the permanent collection galleries of West Building.

Organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions.