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Painting Childhood: From Holbein to Freud

16 March – 16 June 2019

This celebration of children, childhood and innocence brings together some of the most iconic paintings, sketches and sculptures of children produced in the past 500 years.

Featuring stunning portraits, amusing scenes and touching ‘fancy pictures’, the exhibition will explore the creative process and the specific challenges posed by painting children: from how to capture the fleeting moments of youth, to how to encourage young subjects to sit still. It also delivers deep insight into the place of family within an artist’s life, and the ongoing tension between biography and creativity.

Addressing themes such as Royal portraiture, play and learning, we will present masterpieces by artists including Hans Holbein the Younger, Anthony Van Dyck,  Jan Steen, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Johan Zoffany, John Everett Millais, Stanley Spencer, Louise Bourgeois and Lucian Freud, and feature loans from the Royal Collection and the National Gallery, among others. Iconic paintings will be paired with their preparatory sketches, and subsequent works by other artists made after them in continuation of the artistic “conversations” that occurred throughout the centuries.

Frans Xaver Winterhalter, Kind Edward VII (1841-1910), When Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, 1846, Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018


Call for Papers, Study Day – Friday 29 March 2019

To coincide with these exhibitions we invite proposals for an interdisciplinary study day on the subject of childhood from 1500 to today. The study day will enable us to interrogate the key themes and issues of the exhibitions in more detail, contributing to the field of childhood studies through fruitful cross-disciplinary discussions. Painting Childhood will include select examples of children’s costumes, toys and schoolbooks. As such we welcome contributions from speakers with a range of disciplinary backgrounds and research perspectives (History, Literature, Sociology, Anthropology and History of Art). To facilitate meaningful debate papers will be grouped thematically and may address, but are not limited to, the following topics: Intimacy and family ties; dynasty, duty and privilege; play, fantasy and children’s worlds; the material culture of childhood; the appropriation and commercialisation of childhood; memories and memorials; childhood today and the future of childhood.

Keynote speaker: Dr Martin Postle

How to submit: Please send a 300-word abstract for a 20-minute paper to art@comptonverney.org.uk by Monday 29 October 2018. We welcome applications from emerging and established scholars. Please include a short professional biography. Travel bursaries will be available for speakers covering reasonable expenses incurred within the UK.

Organising committee: Dr Amy Orrock (Compton Verney), Emily Knight (V&A and University of Oxford), Penelope Sexton (Compton Verney).