The pictured child in Victorian philanthropy 1869-1908
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.