8 Father-Daughter Artist Duos Who Share a Creative Bond

Karen Chernick
Jun 15, 2018 5:52PM

Renaissance artists generally looked to their sons, not their daughters, to apprentice in their workshops and continue the family business. An established client base could easily be transferred to a male heir, who could retain the branding legacy of the father’s last name and enjoy a career uninterrupted by childbirth and domestic duties. For instance, Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini trained in the workshop of his father, Jacopo Bellini, while Florentine artist Filippino Lippi studied with his dad, Fra Filippo Lippi.

Though it was far less common for daughters to learn their fathers’ trade, it did happen. Indeed, women have trained in their fathers’ studios from the early Renaissance to the present. Some of these early female artists have been relegated to obscurity, their contributions to masterpieces lost in the oeuvre of a father who ultimately put his signature on the work. In a few more contemporary examples, though, daughters have outshined their fathers’ careers.

What follows are the stories of eight fathers and daughters whose artwork fueled a creative bond between them.

Paolo Uccello (1397–1475) and Antonia Doni (1446–1491)

Paolo Uccello, Saint George and the Dragon, ca. 1470. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In 15th-century Italy, there were generally two career options for women: wife or nun. Suor Antonia Doni, daughter of early Italian Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello, opted for the latter path, likely because it allowed her to receive painting commissions from her chosen Carmelite order.  

She learned how to draw from her father, who was a pioneer in his use of naturalistic perspective. Uccello’s biographer, the Italian Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari, noted that his wife “was wont to say that Paolo would stay in his study all night, seeking to solve the problems of perspective.”

Vasari makes a passing reference to Antonia, noting that when Uccello died, “he left a daughter, who had knowledge of drawing.” Yet only one documented painting by the artist-nun survives, Investiture of Sister Cistercense (1490), in which the rectangular floor tiles and ceiling coffers hint at an inherited interest in representing a depth of space.

Jacopo Tintoretto (1518–1594) and Marietta Robusti (c. 1560–1590)

Marietta Robusti (Tintoretta), Portrait of Four Children, 1575-90. Photo by DEA / P. Manusardi / Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana/De Agostini/Getty Images.


Marietta was the eldest of Venetian High Renaissance artist Jacopo Tintoretto’s seven children. She began apprenticing in her father’s studio as a teenager alongside her brothers, Domenico Tintoretto and Marco Tintoretto. Carlo Ridolfi, the elder Tintoretto’s 17th-century biographer, described Marietta as “the dearest delight of [Tintoretto’s] soul,” and gave her the dubious compliment of “[painting] such works that men were amazed by her lively talent.”

Her skill was noted during her lifetime, garnering her local portrait commissions and invitations to the courts of Philip II of Spain and Emperor Maximilian II. Tintoretto did not allow her to leave Venice to accept the latter solicitations, however—a decision that art historians long read as a sign of paternal tenderness. (Contemporary feminist art historians such as Whitney Chadwick have interpreted it differently, suggesting that the senior artist was wary of losing such a capable assistant.)

Marietta’s career was tragically cut short due to her death during childbirth at age 30, and since she often worked with her father, it is difficult to attribute paintings solely to her.

Orazio Gentileschi (1563–1639) and Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–c. 1652)

Before 20th-century art historians revived interest in Artemisia Gentileschi, many of her paintings were either attributed to her father or ignored by scholars. Not so during the artist’s lifetime. While Artemisia began her career as an apprentice to her father, Orazio Gentileschi, she quickly progressed to having a successful independent career painting Biblical stories from a woman’s perspective. (Artemisia later passed the family love of painting onto her own daughter, Prudentia.)  

When a newlywed Artemisia left her childhood home to move to Florence and branch out on her own, Orazio wrote to the grand duchess of Tuscany that his daughter “[has] become so skilled that I can venture to say that today she has no peer. Indeed, she has produced works which demonstrate a level of understanding that perhaps even the principal masters of the profession have not attained.”

Nicolas Moillon (c. 1555–1619) and Louise Moillon (1610–1696)

Louise Moillon, At the Market Stall, first half of 17th century. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

With a brood of seven children to support, French landscape and portrait painter Nicolas Moillon supplemented his income by working as an art dealer in Paris’s Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. The district was an enclave for Protestant artists from the Netherlands, who imported their tradition of tabletop still-life painting into France.

Moillon’s daughter, Louise, probably saw such works at her father’s shop, and drew influence from them for her own compositions. She went on to become a sought-out still-life painter during her lifetime. Indeed, Charles I of England owned five of Louise’s paintings by the time she was just 29 years old.

Louise’s production slowed down after she married and had three children, though her chosen genre made it easier to sustain her practice. Art historians have noted that still-life painting was well suited to women artists with domestic duties, since its subjects were easy to procure and could be painted at home.

Rubens Peale (1784–1865) and Mary Jane Peale (1827–1902)

Rubens Peale, From Nature in the Garden, 1856. Photo via the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Mary Jane Peale, Rubens Peale, Aged 71, 1855. Photo via the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A son of the eminent Revolutionary-era portraitist Charles Willson Peale, Rubens Peale was cursed with poor eyesight, which led his father to groom him for museum management rather than painting. Rubens’s brothers, Rembrandt Peale and Raphaelle Peale, were trained as artists early on, but the bespectacled Peale sibling was a late bloomer, receiving painting instruction instead from his daughter, Mary Jane, when he was 71 years old.

Mary Jane was one of the last painters of the Peale artistic dynasty, and produced mostly portraits and still lifes. She became interested in pursuing art as a teenager, and by her 25th birthday, she decided to become an artist in earnest, writing in her diary that “this day I have made up my mind to furnish a room & commence painting professionally [to] begin life for myself.”

When Rubens retired to a country home after a career spent managing branches of the Peale Museum in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York, his daughter helped him explore his lifelong interest in natural history through painting what were mostly botanical still lifes.

Raymond Bonheur (1796–1849) and Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899)

When French artist Raymond Bonheur was expecting the birth of his first child, he was rumored to be hoping for a son whom he could name after himself and train as an heir. Instead, his wife produced a daughter, Rosa Bonheur, who would become a celebrated French animalière painter.

Rosa began showing signs of talent by age two, and Raymond wrote about her early artistry with demonstrable pride in a letter to his sister. “Rosalie is a dear little thing,” he penned, “and I must tell you that already she has begun to show a taste for the arts. She often seizes my crayon and scrawls on the door and then calls to me: ‘Papa, papa, Lalie (Rosalie) makes picture.’”

Rosa studied regularly in her father’s studio from the age of 13, receiving daily exercises from the seasoned art instructor. Before setting up shop on her own, Rosa created early canvases in Raymond’s studio, where there were also easels arranged for her siblings: Auguste, Juliette, and Isidore-Jules Bonheur. Those works would ultimately lead to her first outing at the Paris Salon.

Guillermo Kahlo (1871–1941) and Frida Kahlo (1907–1954)

Guillermo Kahlo, Self-Portrait, 1920. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Mexican artists Guillermo Kahlo and Frida Kahlo did not share a medium—he was a photographer, she a painter. But the pair did share a strong mutual interest in self-portraiture. On his business card, Guillermo noted that his specialty was photographing landscapes, buildings, and interiors, but he nevertheless had a habit of turning the camera on himself.

Since Frida sometimes helped Guillermo in the darkroom as a child, he may have inspired her to paint the intensely self-reflective images for which she is known—and which compose roughly one-third of her paintings. In addition to their time spent developing photographs together, Guillermo cared for Frida after she sustained serious injuries during a streetcar accident at age 18, encouraging her to pursue her art.

Some 10 years after Guillermo’s death in 1941, Frida created a portrait of her father alongside his artistic instrument, the camera. His silver-colored eyes mirror the metallic sheen of the camera lens behind him, and a garland below reads: “I painted my father Wilhelm Kahlo, of Hungarian-German origin, professional artist/photographer, whose nature was generous, intelligent, and polite. He was courageous, having suffered from epilepsy for sixty years, but he never stopped working and he fought against Hitler. Adoringly, his daughter Frida.”

Larry Walker (born 1935) and Kara Walker (born 1969)

Larry Walker, Cliff structure, Spirit Voices and Other Secrets, Metamorphic Series, 2013. © Larry Walker. Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

Kara Walker
Boo-hoo (for Parkett 59), 2000

When contemporary artist Kara Walker was a child, she drew on the sidewalk outside her home with art store pastels rather than simple chalk. The encouragement to take her drawings seriously came from growing up with an artist father who would often invite her into his studio and share his supplies.

“It’s very rare to have an artist parent who also encourages the art of his children,” Kara said in an interview. Larry, who has maintained an active artistic practice since the 1960s, painting human figures and landscapes, often allowed Kara to sit on his lap in his garage studio.

“There was a feeling of safety associated with making stuff,” Kara noted in another interview. “There was also something about materials being available.…I didn’t realize until much later that pursuing art might be a fraught career choice for most people. It didn’t occur to me at all.”

Karen Chernick

Cover image: Nickolas Muray, Frida Kahlo in Blue Blouse, 1939.