What links Peter Pan, Tom Jones, Superman, Jane Eyre and the Boy Who Lived? They are, as this poignant little exhibition so deftly illustrates, all foundlings and orphans. Which makes them particularly at home in the soothing Bloomsbury building constructed on the site of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital. Coram’s Foundling Hospital was both the UK’s first children’s charity and its first public art gallery: impressively, when the art bit got started, Gin Lane printmaker William Hogarth curated the art and George Frideric Handel handled the entertainment.
This small but perfectly formed exhibition of illustrations from children’s books doesn’t have exactly the same celebrity oomph. But it does boast an original commission from Posy Simmons. And the classic woodcuts and watercolours of the orphaned or otherwise abandoned (‘Rapunzel’; ‘Snow White’; ‘James and the Giant Peach’ – you’ll never pick up a children’s book again without wincing at the horror of it all) are delicate and moving. It’s probably a wee bit niche if you don’t already have a nostalgia-tinted view of ‘Tom Jones’, or Arthur Rackham’s ‘Cinderella’. But it’s a good excuse to pay your dues, £8.25 for museum entry, to one of London’s most special charitable institutions. And a lovely lunch-hour trip down memory lane for literature lovers.