Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Lewis Cage - The Young Cricketer

What pictures are worth looking at then? Representations of childhood started changing in the 18th century as new models of family life and idealised childhood came into play. There have been several exhibitions in the UK in recent years showing this (The Age of Innocence in Bath, The Changing Face of Childhood in Dulwich) - with paintings by Reynolds, Hogarth, Zoffany and Vandyck detailing how our conception of childhood has shifted over the years, but can still be traced back to the Georgian era.

Lewis Cage - the Young Cricketer by Sir Francis Cotes featured in both exhibitions mentioned above and I love it. I could look at this for hours. It captures the dynamism of childhood and hints at what is to come. It's intensely physical, vividly androgynous and espouses the philosophy of Rousseau - a philosophy which (as it says in the Age of Innocence catalogue) "rejected conventional academic learning in favour of a simple,outdoor upbringing. The former corrupted children with superficial knowledge and prejudice and left them physically weak: only nature and experience could give a child true understanding and strengthen him for the trials of manhood:

"Instead of keeping him mewed up in a stuffy room, take him out into a meadow every day... the delights of liberty will make up for many bruises. My pupil will hurt himself oftener than yours, but he will always be merry."

Here is a guide to the painting by the director of Dulwich Picure Gallery.

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