Exhibition: Foundling Portraits Campaign, Foundling Museum, until 30 October 2022

Ruth Amberly © 2021 Wolfgang Tillmans

Ruth Amberly © 2021 Wolfgang Tillmans

In this landmark project renowned artists give 25,000+ looked-after children visibility after 280 years, commemorating the lost faces of children given into care between 1741-1954.

Permanently revolutionising the Foundling Museum’s 280-year-old collection, it commissioned five major artists to create portraits of five exceptional sitters – former pupils of the Foundling Hospital – to hang alongside the grand paintings of the Hospital’s Governors and benefactors, giving care-experienced children visibility and voice within the story of British art and culture.

Established in 1739, the Foundling Hospital cared for babies at risk of abandonment. It was the UK’s first children’s charity and continues today as Coram. The surviving former pupils were admitted to the Hospital in the 1940s and ‘50s. Ensuring these last direct links to the past could be captured forever gave the museum the drive to undertake this project, which received generous support from Art Fund and through a public campaign.

The museum’s remarkable art collection is rooted in the eighteenth century, when under the leadership of the artist William Hogarth, contemporary artists, musicians and craftsmen, donated their work to support the Foundling Hospital. Thanks to the artists’ involvement, the Hospital became the UK’s first public art gallery and led to the founding of the Royal Academy.

Over 200 years, the Hospital admitted approximately 25,000 children but until now, not one was represented in the Museum’s collection, making the children an absent presence and the portraits of the great and the good that line the gallery walls, a very ‘top down’ telling of history.

Reflecting the calibre of the eighteenth-century artists who donated their works to help the children, and the importance of the sitters who embody the historic story of care, the museum commissioned five exceptional photographers to each create a portrait of a former pupil of the Foundling Hospital: Jillian Edelstein, Mahtab Hussain, David Moore, Ingrid Pollard and Wolfgang Tillmans. Further details on the display here >>

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