A Pageant of Childhood

Thomas Cooper Gotch1899

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

The children are engaged in a game of make believe; they are pretending to enact an historic pageant with that mixture of deep seriousness and light heartedness which characterises children of different ages at play. On the tapestry behind is the figure of Time who will eventually carry off even the youngest children. The measured rhythm of the arrangement of the figures seems to match the seemingly solemn music and thoughtful expressions of the figures. The procession is presumably intended to symbolise or represent the stages of human life. This painting features in our online exhibition, 'Childhood'. To learn more, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/exhibitions/childhood/

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  • Title: A Pageant of Childhood
  • Creator: Thomas Cooper Gotch
  • Date Created: 1899
  • tag / style: Pageants; 15th-century Florentine art; poetic Pre-Raphaelitism; French Symbolism
  • Physical Dimensions: w2443 x h1427 cm (Without frame)
  • Artwork History: Exhibited at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1899
  • Artist biographical information: The artist, quite a feminist, specialised in depicting wistful adolescent girls of uncertain symbolic purpose, but always very sensitively painted.
  • Additional artwork information: This is one of Gotch's symbolist paintings of the period 1890 - 1920 reflecting his cult of childhood and motherhood - with particular emphasis on adolescent girls. The picture's allegorical purpose is particularly evident from the figure of Time on the fresco (or tapestry) behind the children; the varied expressions and postures of the children demonstrate the effect of Time which, despite their present gaiety, will eventually carry them all away. 'A Pageant of Childhood' is perhaps closely related to Gotch's 'Golden Youth' (1907), showing a similar procession of dancing children, all rather older than in the Walker Art Gallery painting, and with a much larger proportion of girls. The sources behind' A Pageant of Childhood' and similar works have been extensively analysed and include feminism, a philanthropic concern for children, the late 19th-century British interest in pageants, 15th-century Florentine art, poetic Pre-Raphaelitism, French Symbolism of the 1880s and 1890s and the European emphasis on a decorative and formalist approach to art associated with Art Nouveau. Gotch's painting received rather conventional praise at the 1899 Royal Academy, the Art Journal criticizing its lack of animation over elaborate effect and even its composition. The artist's daughter, Phyllis, may have been the model for the girl behind the drummer; she would have been about 16 years old when Goodall painted 'A Pageant of Childhood'.
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Purchased from the artist at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1899


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