Paintings & Drawings – Siblings

Sneak Preview

This multicultural exhibition is a work in progress, but we couldn’t keep it to ourselves! Enjoy this preview; linger as you would in an in-person gallery, and come back after the complete exhibition goes live. Tell us what you think – we welcome your comments below.


Countless paintings and drawings of siblings, young and old, take the form of traditional, forward-looking portraits, often by commission, or in more recent decades, images of the backs of siblings walking down a path or sitting in a park.

In our gallery, works were selected for their artistic merit, but also for illustrating something meaningful about this unique relationship. At times the gestures or glances may seem innocuous, yet they were important enough for the artists to represent and believe in, possibly opening up pathways to greater insight into the human condition. Many of these works of art are cited as personal favorites by reviewers. Which are your favorites?

Sofonisba Anguissola, Three Siblings of the Gaddi Family with Dog, c. 1555-1560. Italy.

Sofonisba Anguissola, Three Siblings of the Gaddi Family with Dog, c. 1555-1560, oil on panel, 74 cm x 95 cm, private collection.

Ralph Earl, Portrait of Two Brothers. ca. 1790. USA.

Ralph Earl, Portrait of Two Brothers. ca. 1790. Oil on canvas. 50 x 39 cm.

Thomas Couture, Two Sisters. 1792. France.

Thomas Couture, Two Sisters (Study for The Promises). 1792. Oil on canvas. 109.2 x 81.6 cm. Private Collection.

Anonymous, Siblings Balarama and Krishna. 1800s. India.

Anonymous, Untitled (painting of siblings Balarama and Krishna, avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu. A Kalighat painting). 1800s. Cleveland Museum of Art.

Katsushika Hokusai, Five Sibling Pictures of China and Japan for the Zakurogaki Group. 1821-2. Japan.

Theodor Hildebrandt, The Murder of the Sons of Edward IV. 1835. Germany.

A painting based on Shakespeare’s play, King Richard III. It depicts a scene of the two sons of Edward IV sleeping, secure in each other’s arms with a Bible and rosary by their side, just before they were murdered at the order of King Richard III. The conflicted scene generated strong emotional reactions by Hildebrandt’s contemporaries, and still. It is regarded as a highlight of the Düsseldorf School of Painting.

Theodor Hildebrandt, The Murder of the Sons of Edward IV, 1835, oil on canvas, 150 x 175.2 cm, Museum Kunstpalast. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

John William Waterhouse, Sleep and his Half-brother Death. 1874. UK.

Echoing the composition of Hildebrandt’s painting above, we find this moving portrait of two brothers, referencing the Greek myth of Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death). The painting is a reflection on Waterhouse’s two younger brothers who had recently died of tuberculosis, the same illness that took his mother’ life in 1852. Devastated, the artist painted to make sense of such tragedy – these brothers enraptured in peace and love. This painting was the first of his paintings to be featured in the Royal Academy exhibition in 1874, with many others exhibited thereafter. Read more.

John William Waterhouse, Sleep and his Half-brother Death, 1874, oil on canvas, 90.8 x 69.8 cm. Unknown whereabouts. Public Domain.

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Brother and Sister (Mary and Gerald Thayer). 1889. USA.

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Brother and Sister (Mary and Gerald Thayer), 1889, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly, 1929.6.114

Edvard Munch, Death in the Sickroom. 1893. Norway.

In the same year he painted The Scream, Munch painted this scene from memory, of his family with his sister Sophie (age 15), suffering from tuberculosis, and sitting in the wicker chair. Much was 14 at the time of her death. His two other sisters are in the foreground, he behind them, and their brother to the left – all besides themselves in silence. Such is the weight of a sibling’s death. This is just one of the paintings he did memorializing Sophie’s passing and that of other family members. Read more.

Edvard Munch, Death in the Sickroom (Døden i sykeværelset), 1893, oil on canvas, 134.5 x 160 cm, Munchmuseet. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Pablo Picasso, Two Sisters (The Meeting). 1902. Spain.

Pablo Picasso, Two Sisters (The Meeting). 1902. Oil on canvas on panel. 152 x 100 cm. The State Hermitage Museum.

Erich Heckel, Siblings (Geschwister). 1913. Germany.

Helene Schjerfbeck, Siblings. 1881 & 1913. Finland.

One of Finland’s most beloved artists, Schjerfbeck illustrates siblings, from a charming scene in an academic realist style, to the intimacy conveyed in her more abstract work some 30 years later, inspired by French Modernism. “I’ve preferred to paint poor sensitive children, I don’t know if anyone’s interested.” (Letter to Einar Reuter, 8 January 1918)

Henri Matisse, Three Sisters with an African Sculpture. 1917. France.

Henri Matisse. Three Sisters with an African Sculpture (Les Trois soeurs à la sculpture africaine), between May and mid-July 1917.
Henri Matisse. Three Sisters with an African Sculpture (Les Trois soeurs à la sculpture africaine). 1917. Oil on canvas. 195.9 x 97.2 cm. © Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS).

Paul Klee, Brother and Sister. 1930. Germany via Switzerland.

Paul Klee, Brother and Sister. 1930. Oil on canvas. Public Domain.

Shirley Charlton, No More Tears Brother. 2009. Malawi.

Look at those faces! The offer of gentle kindness, touched by subtle inquisitiveness, to a brother deep in his feelings. Highlighted by lights and darks, such intimacy is rarely seen in art. From the artist’s Malawi period. View Charlton’s other paintings at shirleycharlton.com.

Shirley Charlton, No More Tears Brother, 2009. Copyright and permission by the artist.

Miabo Enyadike, Sibling Rivalry. 2020. South Africa.

Artist Statement: “Siblings, some of us have some don’t, some siblings bring us great joy, while some bring us much sorrow. My painting is one of rivalry between two siblings, where one overshadows the other and that creates a lot of emotional despair.” Represented with high intensity color. For sale on Saatachi Art.

Miabo Enyadike, Sibling Rivalry. 2020. Ink, marker, stencil, spray paint on paper. 31.5 x 39.4 in. Copyright and permission by the artist.

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