The Changing Face
of Childhood

British Children’s Portraits and their Influence in Europe

20 April to 15 July 2007

Childish laughter, rosy cheeks, eyes sparkling with the joy of life – the thought of children triggers many associations. A happy, fulfilled childhood is one of our most treasured memories and we always want it for our own children, as well. But when did people begin to regard children as distinctive personalities in a separate phase of life?

A painting recently acquired for the Städel, the portrait of “Lord George Cavendish’s Children” by Thomas Lawrence provided the stimulus for this exhibition. It represents the new attitude towards children in an exemplary fashion, for these inquisitive children are exploring the countryside, unaccompanied by adults and thus left to their own devices. Their natural appearance is in perfect harmony with the unbridled natural growth around them. Lawrence observed children’s behaviour very carefully: the oldest boy William faces the viewer, looking serious and responsible, while his younger brother George cheerfully flourishes his hat. Both boys flank their little sister Anne, whose confident, impudent look betrays her role as a spoilt centre of the family. Using unrestrained, rapid brush-strokes, Lawrence captures not only the childlike features, but also the pathless landscape. Flowing contours, bright, fresh colours and the shimmering highlights heighten the impression of a momentary snapshot.

CURATOR: Dr. Mirjam Neumeister, Städel Museum
FURTHER VENUE: Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 8/1–11/4/2007
SPONSORED BY: American Express Stiftung
SUPPORTED BY: Stanley Thomas Johnson Stiftung