The Early Years team went on a guided tour of an exhibition of childhood at Compton Verney. The exhibition addressed a range of themes including royalty, play, learning, dreams, families, animals and nature. This was an opportunity to view and reflect on a selection of portraits and scenes with children as the main subject. It was interesting to consider how different artists in different periods viewed childhood. In some paintings, children were presented as adults in waiting or as future lords and kings. Some scenes were set indoors with a particular furniture, fabrics and symbols, and others outdoors with trees, animals, and objects. A few paintings represented deceased children, as a way of celebrating and remembering their short lives.
There was a further exhibition with a series of contemporary paintings, sketches, and sculptures. These offered very personal insights into the relationship between family and art, the personal and the public. In some of these portraits, the artist was the parent. We wondered what their motivation for painting their children in a particular way was. We also thought about the ethical implications of such an activity. Was the child consulted? How might children feel about these representations in the future? Who was the intended audience?
The team launched and walked together after the exhibition and discussed how paintings could be used in their teaching. Interesting conversations ensued about possible shared writing activities to be developed as a learning community, including students, alumni, tutors, retired tutors, and researchers. Most importantly, the outing provided an opportunity to gain a sense of belonging to the learning community at the University, learn together and feel valued within the academy.
About the blogger
Sarah Cousins is a Director of Academic Studies and Early Years Programmes at the Centre for Lifelong Learning. She is a former early years teacher, leader, consultant and inspector. She worked in a range of settings and schools in London over a period of ten years. She then worked as an early years consultant for local authority before moving to London Metropolitan University to lead the new early years teaching degree.