Hitchcock was one of a number of young American artists drawn to Europe in the wake of Impressionism. In his twenties, he abandoned his career in law and studied art, first in England, then in Paris and finally in the Hague. By 1881 he had settled in the Netherlands. The representation of peasant life was common in French and Dutch Art at the end of the Nineteenth century. Essentially, Hitchcock was working within the realist tradition of which Bastien-Lepage was then a leading exponent in France. Although on one level ‘Maternité’ is a simple depiction of a young peasant woman with her two children, the winnowing net which frames her head like a halo turns her into a Holy family – the Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist. Casting a gloomy portent of the Crucifixtion, the woman’s shadow is about to fall upon a cross formed by the creepers growing on the path.