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Painting Childhood

Painting Childhood


Published to coincide with two major loan exhibitions at Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, Warwickshire: Painting Childhood: From Holbein to Freud and Childhood Now (both 16 March – 16 June 2019), this publication will address key works and themes from both exhibitions, exploring the subject of children in art through a series of essays written by the exhibition curators and external academics. It will include a complete list of works in both shows.


Children have always fascinated artists and Painting Childhood will explore 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 book will examine both 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. Accompanying the exhibitions Painting Childhood: From Holbein to Freud and Childhood Now, the book will discuss a wealth of masterpieces from British collections by artists including Hans Holbein the Younger, Anthony van Dyck, Jan Steen, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Johan Zoffany and John Everett Millais. These iconic paintings will be considered alongside the preparatory sketches that were made for them and the works that were made after them in an exploration of the creative process and the artistic ‘conversations’ that occurred throughout the centuries. 


Painting Childhood will also explore ‘intimate portraits’ – artist’s portrayals of their own children. Paintings, sketches and sculptures by Stanley Spencer, Louise Bourgeois, Jacob Epstein and Lucian Freud, among others, present highly personal insights into the place of family within an artist’s life, and the ongoing dialogue between biography and creativity. This theme extends to the present day, and the work of three contemporary figurative painters - Chantal Joffe, Mark Fairnington and Matthew Krishanu. Drawn to children as subjects, each of these London-based artists depict childhood in very different ways. Together, they provide fresh perspectives on what constitutes childhood today and reaffirm the place of painting as a diverse and powerful artistic practice.

  • By Emily Knight, Amy Orrock et al.

    By Emily Knight, Amy Orrock, Martin Postle and Jill Seaton


    16 March 2019 

    Paperback, 260 x 216 mm

    96 pages, 70 colour illus.

    ISBN: 978-1-911300-56-4


    Emily Knight is Assistant Curator of Paintings at the Victoria & Albert Museum. She is completing her doctorate at the University of Oxford on posthumous portraiture in Britain from the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries.


    Dr Amy Orrock is a Curator at Compton Verney and a specialist in sixteenth- and seventeenth- century Northern European painting. Her previous publications include Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty (Philip Wilson, 2017).


    Dr Martin Postle is Deputy Director for Grants and Publications at the Paul Mellon Centre and was previously Senior Curator at Tate Gallery. Martin’s research focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British Art and he has published widely on this subject.


    Penelope Sexton is a Curator at Compton Verney. Her previous publications include Seurat to Riley: The Art of Perception (Compton Verney, 2017). 


  • Exhibition

    Painting Childhood: From Holbein to Freud

    Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, Warwickshire
    16 March – 16 June 2019 


    Childhood Now
    Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, Warwickshire
    16 March – 16 June 2019

  • In the press

    "Terrific paintings here by Constable, Gainsborough, Murillo, Stanley Spencer and many more." —Telegraph 


    "Explores the different ways in which children have been depicted by artists over the last 500 years ... thoughtful and varied." —Country Life 


    "Beautiful catalogue." –VIND (Netherlands)


    "Picks out some of the recurrent features of paintings of kids: royal portraits, mourning pictures, the “fancy” pictures (imaginative and/or narrative scenes of everyday life) and paintings by artists of their children." —The Art Newspaper 

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