Barbara Swan

American, 1922–2003

Baby (Aaron at Four Months)

1955 Oil on canvas

Barbara Swan studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts from 1943-1948, and went to Europe on a fellowship the following year. As she began her career in Boston, her work and family became one. In the 1950s, she created a series of works of her infant children, Aaron and Joanna. Her paintings and drawings of her children provide the viewer with a uniquely female perspective on the body and motherhood. The facial expressions on the babies, and the implied gaze of the parents, are loving, yet realistic. Swan did not overtly sentimentalize, and her portrayals are frank portraits of her merger of studio, home, and family. Her ties to expressionism are evident in the broad blocks of color in the backgrounds of these early works. Swan’s style changed significantly over the course of her career, but her subject matter remained universal.

Gift of the Estate of Mary Haggerty-Snyder, 2011.38