Dickens & the Foundling11. May - 31. Dec 12 / ended The Foundling Museum
£7.50, £5 concessions, children, Foundling Friends & Art Fund members free
Dickens & the Foundling a fascinating new display at the Foundling Museum that explores the relationship between Charles Dickens and the Foundling Hospital. Six contributors, including actress Gillian Anderson, writer Armando Iannucci and journalist Jon Snow, have selected objects from the Charles Dickens Museum for display in the Foundling Museum. These very personal selections highlight Dickens’ philanthropy, his relationship to the Foundling Hospital and his continuing social relevance. Each display is accompanied by a text written by the selector, outlining the reasons behind their choice.
The Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram, was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Captain Thomas Coram, as a home for abandoned babies. From the beginning artists gave their support to the Hospital, most notably the painter and satirist William Hogarth and the composer George Frideric Handel. In doing so, they created London’s first public art gallery and set the template for the ways in which the arts could support philanthropy.
Between 1837 and 1839, Dickens lived next to the Foundling Hospital estate, in 48 Doughty Street, now the Charles Dickens Museum. Dickens supported the Hospital both financially and through his writing, renting a pew in its Chapel and referring to the Hospital in several stories and novels; notably in ‘Received a Blank Child’, an article for the weekly magazine Household Words, and Little Dorrit, where the character of Tatty Coram is a former Foundling.
Dickens & the Foundling selectors are: actress Gillian Anderson, Dickens family member Mark Dickens, comedian and writer Armando Iannucci, Camden Councilor Tulip Siddiq, poet Lemn Sissay and journalist and presenter Jon Snow. A new selection will be added each month and placed in dialogue with an object or setting in the Foundling Museum.
The first items to be displayed are chosen by Gillian Anderson; a letter from Charles Dickens to the Editor of the Times, objecting to public hangings and an engraving by Nathaniel Parr (1723-1760) after Samuel Wale (1721-1786) titled An Exact Representation of the Form and Manner In Which Exposed and Deserted Young Children Are Admitted Into the Foundling Hospital, 1749. This print depicts wealthy Londoner’s looking on, while desperate mothers draw lots to determine whether or not their baby got a place at the Hospital. Anderson comments on ‘the human fascination with morbidity and witnessing of another’s pain’ and how ‘we have not changed so much.’
Dickens & the Foundling is a collaboration between the Foundling Museum and Charles Dickens Museum. The Charles Dickens Museum is now closed for refurbishment until December 2012 to undertake a £3m redevelopment project.
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