Baby's first artwork

Intimate but striking, strong but gentle, modern but timeless – Mother and Child by Norah Neilson Gray (1882-1931) is a touching exploration of the bond between a parent and her child.

A print of the artwork will be included in each of Scotland’s Baby Boxes, helping every child to grow up knowing that the NGS collection is theirs, and every parent to feel empowered and confident in visiting the galleries. With Mother and Child, every child born in Scotland will take their first steps into the National Galleries of Scotland collection – their collection.

The Baby Boxes are a Scottish Government initiative that works to ensure that every baby born and living in Scotland, regardless of their circumstances, gets the best start in life.

Each box contains a large number of essential items for parents and babies, while the box itself comes with a mattress and can be used as a safe sleep space.

Along with practical items such as clothes, medical items and advice for new parents, the boxes contain a few ‘non-essential’ items including a poem by Scotland’s Makar, Jackie Kay, a downloadable app link from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and now an A5 art print from the National Galleries of Scotland – baby’s first artwork.


We chose Norah Neilson Gray’s Mother and Child after shortlisting several works from our collection that we thought would resonate with new parents in Scotland.

Norah Neilson Gray Mother and Child 1920s

We then asked parents who came along to our BYOB (Bring Your Own Baby/Bump) tours for their thoughts and this work was the clear winner.

Gray was born in Helensburgh in 1882.

While still a student at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), she exhibited at the Royal Academy where she continued to show until 1926.

Gray volunteered as a nurse during the First World War, and depicted striking scenes of makeshift hospitals set up to treat casualties of war.

After the war, she returned to portraiture, focusing on depictions of young women and children.

Mother and Child may be the first painting a baby sees, if she or he is born in Scotland – a work by an incredible woman, all about love.

By Eleanor Bally, 1 November 2018