National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the NGV Women's Association, Alan and Mavourneen Cowen, Paula Fox and donors to the John Longstaff Appeal, 2013
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Brilliant student John Longstaff was awarded the National Gallery School's first travelling scholarship in 1887. Before sailing to Europe, where he joined a small group of Australian expatriate artists living in Paris, he married 17-year-old Rosa Louisa (Topsy) Crocker.
The young mother shows the artist’s wife, Topsy, and their first child, Ralph, who had been born in 1890. Pale and slim after a long winter spent in their one-room apartment that was divided by a curtain into sleeping and eating quarters, Topsy gently waves a palm fan over the outstretched arms of her baby son. The subject of mother and child, which had its origins in the depiction of the Madonna and Child, continued to be a popular subject for nineteenth-century artists, who attempted to record their personal and secular experiences with tenderness and conviction.