Art Friday: the Umbrella and parasol

Art theme: Umbrellas and parasols

Umbrella comes from the latin "umbra" meaning shade or shadow.  

Todays Art Friday is all about umbrellas (that keep you dry) and parasols (that keep your delicate skin protected from the harsh sun).  You might be surprised, the the umbrella/parasol is a very used prop in art and there are 100's of paintings containing these items. Interestedly, the the umbrella/parasol is often brightly colour and the one part of the painting that stands out, such as in most of the examples below.

Here are some interesting facts about umbrellas:
  • The Portuguese saw the umbrella as a sign of authority and status. The Portuguese ships  carried umbrellas to offer as gifts to the native royals that they encountered on these islands.
  • John Hanway bought the first umbrella to England from Portugal in the 17th century. He had the coachmen worried that would lose business and they often abused him.
  • The fold-up umbrella has been around since the 1750s and the original model comprised of four steel rods and was designed to fit inside pockets.
  • The Napoleonic Wars took place in the early 1800s. Umbrellas were carried by some soldiers until the British military decided that they were not a fitting image for fighting soldiers. Soldiers from other countries including America also took umbrellas to some wars such as the Indian wars.
Interesting facts about the parasol:

  • The parasol replaced the previously stylish bonnets which were now associated with old ladies and unfashionable spinsters and was certainly a more elegant, alluring item.  Young women usually owned two – one in black silk and one in white.
  • In Greece, as in Victorian England and America, the parasol was used by fashionable ladies.
  • If a lady had fair skin this meant that she didn’t have to work outdoors like the poor so fair skin was considered a sign of privilege. Unfortunately, the parasol began to fall out of fashion in the 1920′s.  This is when young and beautiful people, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald began the trend of sun-bathing on the Riviera.  Soon it became the fashion to have a tan because it was a symbol of wealth.  Lazing luxuriously in the sun showed that one had the money to be idle! Fair skins began to be regarded with distaste. Out went the parasol.

Waiting for a cab by Max Moran
My complex heart by Lorraine Christie
I will be there by Aimee Wilson
Paris, A rainy day by Gustave Caillebotte
Woman with umbrella by Claude Monet
 Long Branch by Winslow Homer 
The kiss

Reading in the garden by Susan Knox
Bicycle Lady IV by Jo Parry
La Parasol Rouge by Henri Devil
Rain Milano by Andrea Laliberte
Knowing when to stop can be very difficult  . . . there was so many wonderful paintings to choose from, I could go on forever. Deciding on my favourites was very hard indeed. There are many I haven't included that I wish I had. 

I do hope you enjoy this small selection of paintings. Perhaps you can draw your own picture of a umbrella or parasol:)   . . .  Stay dry!

painting by Jack Vettiani
Umbrella couple, city skyline by James C Johstone
Umbrellas even add that little extra to this patter cover!!


  1. I was hoping for a Mary Poppins picture... For instance:

  2. I particularly like the colours in the first painting, and I love the beach one. :)

    Interesting info about the umbrella - I had no idea about the origins!!


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