Press release

Printing a Child’s World

Printing a Child's World

May 27–November 6, 2016

Location:  The Met Fifth Avenue, The American Wing, Mezzanine, Gallery 773,
The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art

Printed works for or about children are the focus of the installation Printing a Child’s World, which opened May 27 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. More than two dozen works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries—primarily children’s books, illustrations, and prints by artists including Randolph Caldecott (for whom the annual award for best children’s illustration is named), George Bellows, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Nast—are being shown. They are rarely displayed because of their sensitivity to light. In addition to works from The Met collection, there are a dozen loans from a private collection and the New-York Historical Society.  

Among the highlights on view are nine original watercolors by Caldecott (1887) for the children’s book The House That Jack Built; the familiar illustration of Santa Claus by Nast from A Visit from Saint Nicholas (1872); and one of Homer’s earliest illustrations, which was made for Eventful History of Three Blind Mice (1858). 

In America at the turn of the 20th century, advertisers understood the enormous appeal of art tailored to a burgeoning commercial marketplace centered on childhood. Illustrators such as Caldecott and Nast, celebrated for their technical skill and visual ingenuity, produced numerous works specifically for this audience. The broad dissemination of illustrations and advertisements secured a legacy for printmakers in both the commercial arena and the fine arts. 

Children’s pastimes were also a popular theme in paintings of the period. Three examples from The Met collection are included in the installation. An intimate bedtime-story scene, children anticipating the arrival of a circus, and a thoughtful young ballplayer are depicted in Seymour Joseph Guy’s Story of Golden Locks (around 1870); Charles Caleb Ward’s Coming Events Cast Their Shadows Before (1871); and George Luks’s Boy with Baseball (around 1925), respectively. 

A recently donated Parian porcelain statuette, Catcher (ca. 1875-76), designed by Isaac Broome and manufactured by Ott and Brewer, anchors the installation while complementing the nearby display of baseball cards from the popular Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, which is  held by the Museum’s Department of Drawings and Prints. 

Organized by Jane Dini, Associate Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture in the American Wing, Printing a Child’s World inaugurates a redesigned display area in the Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art.

The installation will be listed on The Met website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #PrintingaChildsWorld.

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Updated July 25, 2016

Image: Seymour Joseph Guy (1824-1910). Story of Golden Locks, ca. 1870. Oil on canvas, 34 x 28 in. (86.4 x 71.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Daniel Wolf and Mathew Wolf, in memory of their sister, the Honorable Diane R. Wolf, 2013 (2013.604)

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