In medieval Roman Catholic Europe, fathers and fatherhood were celebrated on 19th March. Why, you may ask? Well, it's the feast day of Saint Joseph, Jesus' earthly father. Parts of Germany have another tradition of celebrating fathers on Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter.
The UK has celebrated Father's Day (or the perhaps more grammatically correct Fathers' Day) only after the Second World War – the date of the third Sunday in June is largely a modern American invention.
Here's a quick round-up of sculptures that celebrate fatherhood – either as subject, artist or theme.
1. Charles Frank (c.1865–1959), Aged 93
Around 1890, Charles Frank, or Fraker, settled in the Gorbals, Glasgow around 1890. He was a refugee from Vilkomir (Ukmerge) in Lithuania. He worked as a master mechanic and later ran a popular photographic and optical instrument shop in the Saltmarket.
He was the father of artist and sculptor Hannah Frank. This piece was made by his daughter at the very end of his life, when he was 93 years old.
2. John Munnings, Father of Alfred Munnings
Alfred Munnings was the President of the Royal Academy between 1944 and 1949. This bust is one of several sculptures by Edwin Whitney-Smith in The Munnings Art Museum in Colchester (Munnings' former home). While it dates to 1908, the bust of Alfred was made nearly 40 years later. John Munnings was a miller by trade – growing up around working horses perhaps led to Alfred's penchant for the equestrian paintings that made him famous.
Bath-born Whitney-Smith first worked for William Harbutt, headmaster of Bath School of Art (also the inventor of Plasticine!). After moving to London, he received many commissions for portrait busts, and his sitters included politician Ernest Bevin, art critic Adrian Stokes, and the Liverpool shipping magnate Sir William Forwood.
3. The Flight of Aeneas from Troy
Perhaps a less obvious choice here. This piece shows the Trojan hero Aeneas carrying his father, Anchises, away from the city of Troy as it burns. Spoiler alert: Aeneas went on to spurn Dido, the Queen of Carthage, and then supposedly founded Rome – at least according to Virgil's Aeneid. His dear old dad didn't make it that far though, and died in Sicily before the wandering Trojans reached what was to become the Eternal City.
In the poem Aeneas later visits the Underworld and sees his father again in the Elysian Fields, possibly to give him a new pair of socks and a humorous card, although Virgil doesn't elaborate on that.
4. Band Practice
The family that plays together stays together. Here we see a literal representation of that maxim, with a father and son playing brass music together in a copper relief electrotype sculpture. Two people sit in the room listening, and another man listens through an open window. But what are they playing? At a guess, it's probably more likely to be Oh Mein Papa than Papa Don't Preach.
5. Young Girl
To finish up this brief look at dad art, here's a sculpture BY a father of his daughter.
The young girl is kneeling, offering water from a cup (now lost). The sculpture was originally part of a granite drinking fountain built by the Tottenham Branch of the British Women's Temperance Association – a group that encouraged abstinence from alcohol (and rebranded as the White Ribbon in 2004). The fountain was unveiled on 24th June 1893, in Bruce Castle Park.
The girl is said to be modelled on the daughter of the sculptor Leonard Wolf Winters, a local stonemason. His eldest daughter, Elsie, would have been about three years old at the time of its design. And you thought your baby pics were embarrassing...
So whether you celebrate Father's Day in June or not, there's a long tradition of artists depicting the paternal realtionship in art.
Andrew Shore, Head of Content at Art UK