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When you're inspired by being a mum

Posted by Rachel Stock on

Self-portrait of Mabel with her daughter, Peggy, 1909
A self-portrait of Mabel with her daughter, Peggy, 1909


Mabel Lucie Attwell said her greatest achievement in life was being a mum,

‘…motherhood was the most wonderful thing in my life. My career is me and my pictures are me, but no artist, or writer – or scientist – could make anything as perfect as a baby, and yet through me it had been done.’

Her work drew upon her own day-to-day experience of seeing her sons and daughter grow up. She took note of their mannerisms to give her art personality. As Mabel puts it, ‘All my paintings are the outcome of quaint and beautiful things I have seen at tucking up time, or moments almost as eventful in baby life. It is then that I see deep into their little minds, and I am grateful for having the receptiveness of brain to retain the dainty secrets I have seen.’

Mabel’s unique appeal was her ability to communicate with adults – whoever they were. Her messages came from the mouths of babes and toddlers, with misspellings knowingly included, but were directed at making adults smile. Mabel explained her approach in an interview with Charles Hamblett of the Daily Sketch:

‘I see the child in the adult. Then I draw the adult as a child. The situation, the stance and the vocabulary are taken from children, but the message is between adults – me and any other.’

Her cheeky humour charmed grown-ups around the world and from all walks of life. Gently saucy, it hit on the things people wished they were brave enough to say in person. In 1962 Peter Laurie, a feature writer for Vogue, summed this up: ‘Her cards solve a million problems of communication for the repressed English.’

'I'm no angel – either' postcard 'Not a word to the wife' postcard'Didn't expect a kick in the pants from you!' postcard'Where's Adam?' postcard

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