Friday, October 20, 2017

Story-Pictures in Your Child's Room

"Noah's Ark" by Edward Hicks, 1846. Also see "The Peaceable Kingdom"
       As soon as the child is capable of grasping a composition of more than one object, or to put it more psychologically, of relating the various elements of a composition, he is ready for story-pictures (visual narratives). These may be illustrative of a text, like subjects from the life of Christ; or anecdotes in themselves, like the old-time pictures by Wilkie. or, in our own day, those of Sir John E. Millais. The child's imagination is now keenly alive, and affords him his finest enjoyment. The story subjects he likes best are of course drawn from his own little world. A picture of mother and babe is a familiar nursery scene to him, and the world-old theme of the Madonna never loses its charm. Story-pictures in which children figure are of peculiar interest, just as children's books are largely tales of children's doings. A child with an animal is a delightful combination in a picture - a subject unhappily not easy to find in good art. Velasquez's "Prince Baltasar on his Pony" is perfect. What a pity to give a child "Can't You Talk?" when a masterpiece like that is available. Velasquez also painted his young prince with his dogs; and other portrait painters, notably Van Dyck and Reynolds, have turned out charming compositions of children with their animal pets. Little Miss Bowles hugging her spaniel is one of the most familiar of this happy company. The child John the Baptist and the Lamb was a subject several times repeated by Murillo in some excellent pictures. By the same painter is a lovely picture, in the Madrid gallery, of the Christ-child playing with St. John and the Lamb. Murillo also drew groups of children at play directly from the scenes of the street and market, full of story suggestion. This theme of children playing together, like that of children with animals, has not been nearly so often treated as we could expect or desire. One finds most examples perhaps in the English portrait school of the eighteenth century.

Arthur John Elsley paintings of childhood.

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