Motherhood by Kuytenbrouwer


Martinus Antonius Kuytenbrouwer (1777-1850) was a Dutch soldier and painter of  animals and landscapes. His first exhibition was held in 1813 in Amsterdam followed by more successful exhibitions. Horses played a major role in his work as a painter, most likely because as an officer he dealt with horses daily. M.A. Kuytenbrouwer was a member of the Utrecht Society of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. He married Johanna Sophia Gijsberta Kolff in 1798. Their son M. A. Kuytenbrouwer Jr. (1821 -1897) became a painter too. A total of 24 works are known by Kuytenbrouwer Senior. Above is shown the undated Motherhood.

As one can expect in a painting by Kuytenbrouwer Sr., the horse, with its foal, takes centre stage. The mother horse is suckling her young. The cows seem to be the only mothers in the painting without babies. The small flock of sheep has two lambs and the shepherd family has a big, healthy looking baby contently drinking too. I see an orange little thing next to the shepherd mother that can either be a robin or a flower.

The manor house in the back is unknown to me and I wonder what the 11 trees mean. The tree most to the left looks the oldest, while the trees to the right seem to be younger and skinnier. This seems a perfect natural representation. If the trees should symbolize something, could it then be that the 11 trees represent members on one family? It wasn’t uncommon at Kuytenbrouwer’s time to have large families. Maybe the age and number of the trees also represent Motherhood: the oldest and thickest tree is the mother of all the young ones that are grouped a bit further away, closer to the light and open field.

I love paintings and art with breastfeeding mothers. When a mother sits down to breastfeed her hungry baby, a peaceful and relaxed moment is guaranteed. The father shepherd snuggles up closely to his wife and baby, and enjoys the scene.

The mother horse keeps an eye on the painter as if to say: ‘You are allowed to watch and paint, but don’t disturb us; a happy baby means a happy family’.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

p.s. Readers have asked whether I’m related to M.A. Kuytenbrouwer. M.A. Kuytenbrouwer is my father’s family but of a distant branch of the Kuytenbrouwer-family tree and -of course- a few generations back. The name Kuytenbrouwer changed through the generations from Coytenbrover to Kuytenbrouwer to Kuitenbrouwer. There are now Kuytenbrouwers and Kuitenbrouwers.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer’s art shop is at Etsy and her portfolio at Instagram.



  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Paula, thanks for an intro to another new-to-me artist and for your analysis. I would not – for example – have even thought to wonder about the trees. I will look up this gentleman online to see more of his work.

    P.S. – Nice new header. I always enjoy your birds.

    Happy days,

  2. Thank you for showing this beautiful painting and your clever explanations! I am wondering if the cow has no veal because it was taken away so that the milk can be used to make cheese.

    1. I had the same thoughts…vegan thoughts. It is most likely the case. Because if all living beings in this painting have babies, the trees, the couple, the horse and sheep, then this must be the reason why the cows do no have calves. I mean, they of course had calves, but they were taken away. Poor mums, poor calves. It is the only anti-motherhood aspect in this peaceful painting. We have come to accept this so easily, only a sharp mind like yours will notice this. A comment like this only comes from a sensitive, vegan-mom’s heart and I’m most appreciative. Thank you, dear vegan-friend.

      1. Thank you so much, Paula ! I had not noticed the trees. They look like parents and children, or couples, or a family tree. It looks like Kuytenbrouwer is speaking to you other the centuries!
        Now what looks strange to me is this cow laid behind the horse. Why is it so close from the horse? What wanted to say the painter? Don’t the cow want to see the foal and its mother because or own young was taken away? It is laid in such a strange position…

        1. My guess is that the horse is the highest positioned mammal in the picture. M.A. Kuytenbrouwer positiones often horses in the centre of his paintings. The cows on both sides are lower and lead the eye of the viewer to the other, even lower positioned mammals: the family of humans on the right-side, and the flock of sheep on the other side. With his he has created a pyramidal-triangular composition of all the mammals. However, I do think you are right in the sense that all the animals seem to be very relaxed and staying close to each other and the shepherd-family. The cow is indeed very close to the horse and might risk a friendly kick.
          The nice thing about the breastfeeding in this painting, I think, is that the horse nervously pulls up its leg, as if the foal suckles too powerfully. The horse also keeps an eye on the painter. By doing that the horse draws the painter in the painting and positions the painter opposite of her. We can ‘see’ Kuytenbrouwer with our inward eye sitting there with his painting-easel observing this peaceful scene.
          I also like the mother looking so tenderly at her big baby. The father enjoys the peace of a calm baby and a content mother too, otherwise he would position himself somewhere else. The baby looks at mom or at his/her milk-supply, and I bet this baby is about to drift off into a lovely milk-coma.

      2. Jamie Dedes says:

        Ditto the vegan insight and I hadn’t thought of it before. Sad. 😦

        Paula, my family has been speculating on your relationship to this artist. Is he one of your’s or your husband’s ancestors? Maybe this is just be a common name there. We are unfamiliar with it in the U.S.

        1. Vegan greetings to you, Jamie!

          Kuytenbrouwer is my father’s family but of a distant branch of the Kuytenbrouwer-family tree and a few generations back. The name Kuytenbrouwer changed through the generations from Coytenbrover to Kuytenbrouwer to Kuitenbrouwer. There are Kuytenbrouwer and Kuitenbrouwers now. The family of Kuitenbrouwer (with y and i) can be traced back to the 15th century in the east of the Netherlands. I will put this in my blogpost because many people ask about this. Last your question: Kuitenbrouwer isn’t a usual name in the Netherlands, and I don’t even try to spell it when I’m abroad. I then use my husbands name Kluck, ‘Luck, plus a K’.

          1. Jamie Dedes says:

            Thank you! This is really interesting and it sounds like you have a fine lineage and know about it. We hardly know the history of our family names … all of which are quite tortured in their spellings: Greek, Turkish, Arabic. We are too far geographically to trace them well. I don’t blame you for using Kluck when you are not in the Netherlands. Smart.

            Have a lovely day, Paula.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s