This exhibition is an exploration of images of childhood through from the 17th to the 20th century. During the 17th century children in art appeared as miniature adults, but with the Enlightenment in the 18th century, artists started to focus on the child as an individual. By the 19th century the image of the child became ubiquitous and reflected emerging interest in children's rights. 20th century artists have responded in a huge variety of ways to the subject of childhood.
Myles Birket Foster was an English painter, illustrator and collector. His watercolour technique, with its reliance on stippling rather than broad washes, reflects his experience of designing for wood engraving.
In the Regency period an education was crucial to a middle or upper class young lady’s future. Since the aspiration was to marry, education sought to make her noticeable to potential husbands.
Cosway was a leading portrait painter of the Regency period. His success was due to his ability to enhance the elegance and beauty of his sitters. In 1780 he painted his first portrait of the future George IV, whilst he was still Prince of Wales. Cosway was appointed Painter to the Prince of Wales in 1785 and painted over 50 portraits for him and other members of the royal family.
This pastel of two young sisters displays the freshness and brilliance that this medium is capable of achieving. Pastels became one of the defining characteristics of British portraiture in the 17th century. By the 1790s they were thought to be old-fashioned and had fallen from favour.
John Minton was an English painter and illustrator known for his eclectic style which combined elements of French and British Neo-Romanticism. His main theme is the young male figure placed in emotionally charged settings with homoerotic overtones. Minton was a complex character and the growth of abstraction in art compounded personal problems for this figurative painter, leading to his suicide.
One of a pair of portraits depicting Thomas and Samuel Taunton of Axminster. Little is known about their father, except that the family lived at Purzebrook House in Musbury Road, Axminster. The Tauntons were originally from near Bridport and were wealthy merchants.
Thomas Taunton was the heir to Samuel Taunton and was born in 1744. Thomas had five sisters - Dorothy, Frances, Mary, Ann and Elizabeth – and a brother Samuel. Originally from Bridport the family were wealthy merchants.
William Gandy was the son of the English portrait painter James Gandy (1619-1689). His work was considered to show real genius and was much admired by many great artists. Attached to the reverse is an inscription that reads ‘Philip and Matthew Pear of this City’. The youngest boy Matthew kept a druggist shop and was for some years the Sword Bearer for the City of Exeter.
Matthew Peters was a portrait and genre painter who became a clergyman in later life and chaplain to George IV. This later career is all the more surprising as he made his name first painting semi-dressed young women. Their slightly risqué nature was very popular and they were often engraved.
Tennyson Cole was an English society portrait painter in both oils and watercolours. His father was a successful painter under whom he studied. In 1885 he married the actress Alice Mary Sainsbury who supported him financially. In 1889 he went to Tasmania and spent the next few years traveling and painting, as well as making his name in Australasia and South Africa
The Ayles family were descendants of the Spicer family, some of whom were mayors of Exeter between 1273 and 1708. Ayles’s father was a provision merchant in Deptford. Charles and Louise had a large family of seven daughters. Adeline was the sixth eldest of the Ayles children and is pictured aged five in the portrait.
Dame Deborah was born about 1627 and lived in Kingston, Surrey. The painting depicts Dame Deborah as a widow and remained in the family’s possession until 1942 when it was sold as part of the sale of the estate. James Gandy was one of the earliest English painters and is thought to be from Exeter. He is the father of the artist William Gandy (c.1650-1729), the portrait painter.
Considered to be one of the most gifted painters of his generation, Harold Gilman was a painter of interiors, portraits and landscapes. He was a founder member of the Camden Town Group in 1911 and the London Group in 1913. Influenced by the artist Walter Sickert, he adopted brighter colours and gained a taste for working-class subjects.
Robert Fowler was a founding member of the Royal Institute of Painters in watercolour in 1891 and the Royal Society of Painters in watercolours. Fowler’s style was classical and he often drew upon mythological themes with elements of symbolism and Japonism.
Lee was enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy aged just 19. He was a prolific painter whose work was much in demand. He travelled extensively throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. He often collaborated with Thomas Sydney Cooper and Sir Edwin Landseer who added the animals to his paintings whilst he painted the landscape.
Born in Exeter, the son of a tailor, John Angel was apprenticed at age 14 to a wood carver. He trained at the Exeter School of Art and Lambeth School of Art. In 1925 he immigrated to America at the request of the architect Ralph Adams Cram. He was known as an architectural and ecclesiastical sculptor, medallist and lecturer. Upon his death in 1960, he was considered one of America’s foremost sculptors.
John Glendall is a British painter known for his landscapes of Devon, and his love of recording the medieval buildings of Exeter. In the Victorian period, paintings of children were thought to be intellectually undemanding and were often dismissed by critics, due to their sentimentality. Relayed in these images is the new Victorian concept of childhood as a time of innocence: a separate state from adulthood to be protected and prolonged.
William Roberts is a British painter of figure compositions and portraits. He was a pioneer of abstract art before the First World War. In 1914 Roberts joined the short-lived art movement the Vorticists, founded by the artist and writer Wyndam Lewis. The Vorticists believed that British art at this time was in a decayed state. Their aesthetic combined the geometrical fragmentation of Cubism with Futurist machine-like imagery.
In the early 1700s, family paintings often included members of the wider family. Instead, in this early 19th century painting, the nuclear family is the centre of attention. These 19th-century works often show families relaxed, apparently caught unaware by the viewer in an emotionally intimate moment. James Leakey was known mostly for his delicate miniatures painted in oil on ivory and spent most of his life in Exeter.