Compton Verney celebrates children in art, bringing together some of the most iconic paintings of children produced over the past 500 years.
Featuring stunning portraits, amusing genre scenes and touching ‘fancy pictures’, the exhibition will feature 60 works from collections across the UK, and will explore the specific challenges posed by painting children: from capturing the fleeting moments of youth, to encouraging young subjects to sit still.
Painting Childhood boasts a wealth of masterpieces by artists including Jan Steen, Judith Leyster, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Johan Zoffany, Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. Key loans include Van Dyck’s The Five Eldest Children of Charles I (1637) from the Royal Collection, Hogarth’s The Graham Children (1742) from the National Gallery, and Millais’ Bubbles (1886) from National Museums Liverpool. This is the first time these iconic paintings will be paired with the preparatory sketches that informed them, and with pieces produced after them; exploring the creative process and artistic exchanges that have occurred throughout the centuries.
Two of the oldest portraits in Painting Childhood are of Edward VI and come from Compton Verney’s own collection. The first shows the rather cherubic Prince of Wales before he became King Edward VI, painted after Hans Holbein the Younger, around 1542. The second portrait, in profile, by William Scrots, captures Edward now as a young king, aged about 13.
Painting Childhood will close with a room of intimate portrayals of artists’ own children. This will allow viewers to admire paintings, sketches and sculptures by giants of 20th-century art such as Stanley Spencer, Louise Bourgeois, Jacob Epstein and Lucian Freud.
An accompanying exhibition, Childhood Now, brings together contemporary works by three of Britain’s leading figurative painters – Chantal Joffe, Mark Fairnington and Matthew Krishanu – to continue the exploration of themes initiated in Painting Childhood.