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Blessed Art Thou Among Women

Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, NH


Contemporary critic Giles Edgerton comments on Käsebier’s ”Blessed Art Thou”:

It is the photograph of a plainly clad, strongly alert little girl standing in a doorway, with a slender woman bending near and suggesting in gesture and pose the utmost reach of tender maternity, the affection that is of renunciation and self-control rather than demonstration.
Giles Edgerton, “Photography As An Emotional Art: A Study of the Work of Gertrude Käsebier,” The Craftsman, vol. 12 (April 1907): 92.

Kathy Pyne explains the significance of Käsebier’s “Blessed Art Thou” in its social context:

The cropping emphasizes the figures pausing in the threshold, so the picture is very much about the moment of passage from one state of being, phase of life, or knowledge to another. The title’s invocation of the Angel Gabriel’s words to the Virgin, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women” registers the burden of woman—here shaped in the form of a nascent woman—to submit to motherhood and bear the next generation. The mother—an angel of the household—passes on this burden to her daughter and the next generation of women. With one hand on the door frame so that her body is aligned with its strength, she directs her daughter forward into the future of her prescribed feminine role; the other arm encircles and stays the young girl’s shoulder with what one contemporary critic describes as “the utmost reach of tender maternity, the affection that is of renunciation and self-control.”

Kathy Pyne, Modernism and the Feminine Voice: O’Keeffe and the Women of The Stieglitz Circle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 24-5.


About the Artist

Born: Des Moines, IO, 18 May 1852
Died: New York, 13 October 1934
Nationality: American