Meet the de Young Family

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season when we reflect on what we value most in life: family. Family is also the focus of Artist Fellow Kevin Epps’s documentary Fam Bam, which critically examines the structure of the black family in America and premieres this Friday Night at the de Young.

In keeping with this theme, the final Friday Night of the season will host a San Francisco family reunion, de Young style. Share the de Young with your loved ones by taking this self-guided tour through the permanent collection to see how artists from around the world and throughout history have depicted the age-old subject of family.

Start your tour in Gallery 12 just off of Wilsey Court, where you will enter the mysterious world of Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Masks and Dolls. Meatyard's family, although often masked, served as the primary model for the photographer. Focusing on childhood and familial relationships, Meatyard sought to reveal the emotional reality of universal experiences.

Ambrose Bierce, 1964. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery.

Now head back toward Wilsey Court and into the Art of the Americas, Gallery 1.

Family plays an important role in the art of many Native American cultures. Contemporary Siberian Yupik artist Susie Silook uses traditional carving techniques passed down through the generations of her own family.

Susie Silook (American, Siberian Yupik, b. 1960). Family, 2004. Bone. Bequest of Thomas G. Fowler. 2007.21.340

This figure portrays an Inuit parent from Greenland carrying his or her child nestled inside the protective hood of a parka. You can see the child’s small hands reaching out from either side of the adult figure’s face.

Figure (mother and child), ca. 1910. Greenland, Kalalliit. Wood, elk skin, sea mammal fur, and commercial cotton fiber. Bequest of Thomas G. Fowler. 2007.21.245

Walk through to Gallery 1A. This gallery houses Pueblo pottery, an art form based on ancestral patterns and handed down through generations and that identify artists as members of a particular family. You’ll soon notice that the majority of the artists represented in this gallery are related to each other!

Fannie Nampeyo (American, Hopi, 1900–1987). Jar, ca. 1950. Earthenware and pigment. Gift of Paul E. and Barbara H. Weiss. 2007.75.9

As you exit this gallery, you will see a stairway on your right. Take the stairs up to the second floor, and then take your first right into American Art, Gallery 28.

In this charming painting, a young mother holds her new baby while gazing intently at the young child. The baby, on the other hand, stares past its own reflection in the mirror and directly engages the viewer.

John Henry Twachtman (American, 1853–1902). Mother and Child, ca. 1893. Oil on canvas. Gift of Alice Russell-Shapiro and Christine H. Russell. 2007.45

As you leave Gallery 28, turn left into Gallery 27C where you’ll find this sweet painting of two brothers sitting side by side, each holding a special toy.

William Matthew Prior (American, 1806–1873). Isaac Josiah and William Mulford Hand, ca. 1845. Oil on canvas mounted on board. Gift of Roger Sturtevant. 54116

Now turn around and turn left into Gallery 23.

This painting depicts the children of Reverend William Anderson Scott (1813–1885) and their caretaker, Mila, who was enslaved by the family. The portrayal of Mila is realistic and individuated, but her status in the household is emphasized by her placement at the margins of the composition, and by the inclusion of what appears to be a slave cabin behind her.

Unidentified artist (American). Robert, Calvin, Martha, and William Scott and Mila, ca. 1843–1845. Oil on canvas. Gift of Margaret Clifton Boyd and Cynthia Hollister Nagel. 2008.14

Prominent banker James Brown and his wife Eliza are depicted in their New York City mansion with their grandson, William. The Brown family’s parlor exemplifies the luxurious and perhaps materialistic lifestyle of many Gilded Age capitalists, but is balanced by the touching scene of two grandparents indulging an interruption from their grandson.

Eastman Johnson (American, 1824–1906). Portraits (The Brown Family), 1869. Oil on canvas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. 1979.7.67

Turn left into Gallery 21 where you will find the earliest American painting in the Museums’ collection. This complex and captivating portrait depicts three of the five children of Arthur and Joanna Mason of Boston. The artist characterized the children as fashionable adults, accessorizing them with attributes of wealth and status, such as lace, coral beads, kid gloves, and a sliver-handled walking stick.

Attributed to the Freake-Gibbs Painter (American, active 1670). David, Joanna, and Abigail Mason, 1670. Oil on canvas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. 1979.7.3

John Singleton Copley is widely regarded as one of America’s foremost artists whose technical virtuosity matched the best of 18th-century European portraitists. In this work, Copley’s artistic acumen reveals a formal but friendly relationship between this father and son pairing.

John Singleton Copley (American, 1738–1815). William Vassall and His Son Leonard, ca. 1771. Oil on canvas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. 1979.7.30

As you exit Gallery 21 through Gallery 20, turn left and cross the landing overlooking Wilsey Court into the Arts of Africa, Gallery 40.

Carved from ivory, this object depicts a mother and child made by the Kongo or Yombe people.

Mother and child, 19th century. Democratic Republic of Congo, Kongo people. Ivory (elephant). Gift of Peter and Elizabeth Neumann. 2002.192.2

Now that you have met the de Young family, we hope you enjoy tonight’s family reunion and the premiere of Artist Fellow Kevin Epps’s new documentary film Fam Bam.

For a printer friendly version of this self-guided tour, please click here.