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>> Conversation: Laura Owens
>> Interview: Markus Schinwald
>> Images of Children from the Deutsche Bank Collection
>> Childlike Strategies

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Heavenly Beings, Little Adults:
Images of Children from the Deutsche Bank Collection

In the Middle Ages, children were painted as little adults; there was no special form of representation for the young. It was only when the Romantic period began that a concept was created to describe the distance between adults and children: childhood. Artists have interpreted this state in very different ways throughout the centuries, as can be seen in the images of children from the Deutsche Bank Collection. An introduction by Christiane Meixner .

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Stehender Mädchenakt, 1902
Deutsche Bank Collection

The rapid drawing by Paula Modersohn-Becker was certainly never meant to be a model picture: the Worpswede artist drew the Standing Girl Nude hastily with red chalk and charcoal on a sheet of paper that is also drawn on from behind; it looks more like a quick note than a clear image of a child’s body. Very little of the girl can be made out. There is no hair, no face, no sex to be seen.

Paula Modersohn-Becker,
Zwei Mädchenköpfe im Profil nach rechts, 1903
Deutsche Bank Collection

What Modersohn-Becker recorded in 1902 looks more like a fragment, an androgynous form in which everything that later characterizes the adult is indicated, yet nothing seems clearly established: the physiognomy, individuality, or social environment. Instead, the painter’s study offers a symbolic statement on her generation’s image of the child, which was heavily influenced by early Romanticism. The avant-garde – including Modersohn-Becker but also the German Expressionists and Pablo Picasso, who painted hundreds of images of children – stylized childhood into a natural state far from civilization’s distorting influence.

Erich Heckel, Stehendes Kind - Fränzi, 1910
Deutsche Bank Collection

At the end of the 18th century, in one of his Pollen Fragments, Novalis wrote: "Wherever children are is a golden age"; in the fine arts, such exaltations corresponded well with the child images of Philipp Otto Runge, who represented the Hülsenbeck Children in 1805/06 as a romping trio outdoors; when he included small nude figures in his allegorical paintings of the times of the day, he was not only referring to an art historical motif that had always portrayed children as sexless cherubs, but, in contrast to the past – during which children were either not painted at all or only as miniature adults, and later, in the works of Rubens, Van Dyck, and Franz Hals, as small adults in stiff garb – was also according them their own living space.

Otto Meyer-Amden, Knabenakt, 1928
Deutsche Bank Collection

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