Emma Crichton-Miller explores the images of childhood, from photography to works by Picasso and Gainsborough, that will be on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 'Children's Lives'.
A small boy looks in through the window of an idyllic home. There are flowers on the window sill, hot food on the table, and the sunny garden the boy is framed by.
You are invited to imagine the boy’s happiness. This photograph, by influential photojournalist, Bill Brandt, taken circa 1939-1943, but only rediscovered in the 1990s, was part of a series commissioned by the Bournville Village Trust, to show the benefits of life in their garden suburb.
It is one of many documents – from sound recordings, toys and film to paintings by artists such as Reynolds, Gainsborough, Millais and Picasso – to be displayed in 'Children’s Lives', the first exhibition in the UK to explore the changing experience of childhood from the eighteenth century to the present day.
As so often, this little boy’s view is shaped by adults: he would have needed to stand on a box to reach the window. This exhibition seeks to reverse the shot, to recover the child’s perspective and voice from the rich mine of Birmingham’s archives.