Gertrud Zuelzer's painting "Mother and Child in Traditional Volendam Costume," circa 1913, is a poignant representation of maternal affection and cultural heritage.

Today I have cleaned Gertrud Zuelzer’s painting “Mother and Child in Traditional Volendam Costume”, which is not in a good state. But there is a story behind it to make a worth a little restoration! I will tell you more about this at my lecture “Volendam, a picturesque harbour for artists all over the world”, Sunday 3rd March 2024. You can find already more information about Gertrud Zuelzer and her sister at the Jewish Museum of Berlin right here.

The composition is intimate, with the subjects occupying the majority of the canvas, which draws the viewer’s attention directly to the interaction between the two figures. The mother’s posture, leaning over the child, creates a protective arc, while the child’s focused engagement with an object in hand suggests learning or play. This interaction is central to the painting’s narrative, emphasizing the themes of nurturing and the passing of traditions.

Zuelzer’s brushwork is indicative of the era’s inclination towards Impressionism, with visible, expressive strokes that impart texture and vivacity. The color palette is subdued yet rich, composed of earthy tones that resonate with the traditional Volendam attire, known for its earthy colors and intricate patterns. The costumes are rendered with care, reflecting Zuelzer’s attention to detail and commitment to cultural authenticity.

Lighting in the painting is subtle, yet it plays a crucial role in highlighting the figures and their clothing, adding depth and volume. The soft illumination on the child’s blonde hair and the mother’s face suggests a source of light that is warm and inviting, contributing to the painting’s serene atmosphere.

The facial expressions are rendered with sensitivity; the mother’s gaze is downward, suggesting attentiveness and contemplation, while the child appears engrossed. This emotional resonance is a testament to Zuelzer’s skill in capturing human emotion and the bonds that tie us.

As a work of the early 20th century, this painting stands as a testament to the era’s artistic movements, blending the personal with the traditional. It can also be viewed as a document of the time, preserving the cultural identity of the Volendam people in the face of modernity’s encroachment.