The pictured child in Victorian philanthropy 1869-1908

Paris, Heather (2001) The pictured child in Victorian philanthropy 1869-1908. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study sets out to investigate the nature of the Victorian child's standing in
society using pictorial means. It takes the view that the picture, or visual image,
has something important to tell us about attitudes towards childhood, and how
children were regarded as a group, between 1869 and 1908. As a piece of
scholarship, it is situated between the disciplines of art history and social history.

Little work has been done on the child's visual representation, and its contribution
to the historical record. The rich visual material that forms part of the archive of
Victorian philanthropy in general, and temperance in particular, remains largely
untapped. The study is a response to this scholarly neglect, with the uses made by
charity of the pictured child forming its central site of inquiry. Philanthropic
images of childhood will be set in their pictorial context by reference to their
appearance in other parts of the public domain.

The history of the relationship between adults and children has been called `age
relations' by one historian. This study will apply general and specific practical
approaches, drawn from critical visual techniques, to age relations, leading to an
interpretation of how Victorian childhood was pictured for its audiences. Images
will be approached as pictorial puzzles, and priority will be given to those
solutions which formed part of the historical record. The main analytical tool to
be used is adopted from critical theory's notion of the metapicture. This
acknowledges the capacity of the visual image to tell us about itself when viewed
in relation to other images. It will be combined with established art historical
approaches to the picture.

The study discusses the range of contemporaneous meanings assigned to the
picturing of childhood, and how the relationship between some of these meanings
held significant implications for children's social standing. Its sustained
approach to visual interpretation can be said to uncover the extent to which
conflicting expectations were placed upon children by the sacrifice of the real to
the ideal in adult notions of childhood.

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