Plenty of big names are featured in this historical exploration of the place of childhood in art.
75 masterpieces explore the status of childhood between the 14th and 20th centuries at the Musée Marmottan-Monet this spring, bringing together a distinguished roster of artists – Manet, Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Dubuffet and more.
Early works feature royal children dressed up like adults, before the Enlightenment began to explore the concept of childhood more fully. The 18th century gave children a central place in society, and therefore in its paintings – aristocratic ladies had no hesitation in having their portrait painted while they were breastfeeding, making a public statement about their thriving bloodlines. The era marked a triumph of familial sentiment, when childhood was considered a separate mode of being – Jean Siméon Chardin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Berthe Morisot made children the focus of their works, painting them playing, studying or simply dreaming. 19th century artists like Georges Millet, Eva Gonzalès and Jules Bastien-Lepage, in contrast, used images of children to create poignant works that denounced social injustices – child labour, prostitution and rural poverty.
In later works the likes of Picasso, Jean Lurçat and Gaston Chaissac incorporated a childlike simplification of forms and focus on primary colours into their oeuvres, demonstrating the role of innocence in genius.