Some of the most reliable information on boys fashions in the years before photography (mid-19th Century) was developed were paintings and drawings. Even after the commercial development of photography in the 1840s, it is paintings that provide details on color as well as settings in context that provide valuable insights into fashions and how they were worn. Photography until the turn of the 20th Century was generally limited to a photographer's studio and it was not until the 1950s that color photographs become widely available.
One interesting question about both art and human development is just who invented art and when. Archaeologists have found early artstic creations dating back to 35,000-40,000 BP. So far mo one has dated art earlier than 40,000 BP. Precise dating is not possible, but methods like carbon dting and isotope half lives give us a rough idea of dates. The earliest examples of art is cave art. Some artifcts might be classified as art, but cave art is the earliest indisputable works of art. The best known examples come from French and Spanish caves. This magnificent images of wild horses in the Chauvet Cave of the Ardeche region are amazing, sophiticated art work. They have been roughly dated (abou 30,000-32,000 BP). There are also hand stencils which may have been a kin of signature. Given the sophistication surely there were earlier efforts. Less well known are caves on the island of Sulawesi. Archaelogists have found hand stencils (39,900 BP) and drawings of a pig-like animal (35,700 BP). These findings suggest that art was invented indepedently by atanomically modern Homo sapiens indepedently in Europe and Southeast Asia at about the same time. There is of course another possibility, that human artistic expression began even earlier before humans had begun the migration out of Africa. And this could have been before the evolution of fully modern humans.
Many artists specialized in portrait paintings which was the most lucrative form of painting. Artists like every one else had to be worried about making a living. After the Renaisance when art was no longer dominated by the Church, almost all of the great masters either specialized in portraits or used portrait painting to fimance their other work. The images that emerged provide fascinating details on the fashions of the day. While the paintings are not nearly as numerous as photographs, they offer one great advantage in that they provide historical information on the color of the garments worn. In addition, there is often considerable background information available on the dates and even the individuals involved.
Miniatures as the name implies are small paintings. Most were portraits, mostly busts. They were executed in various media on a variety of grounds though more commonly on ivory. We notice minatures, especially in the 18th and early 19th century, but European society cultivated the art for over three centuries. Many skilled portraitists were in demand. Many artists specialized in minatures. By the early 18th century, the introduction of ivory revolutionized technical development. Miniatures appeared in North America in the 18th century providing less expensive and more personal alternatives to traditional portraiture. An American school soon became established. In Canada, the production of miniatures responded to a colonial elite, but not great enough to support a local school. It is inherent in miniature collections that identities of sitters and artists often remain uncertain. Minatures were small paintings, often busts of family members such as marriage partners and children. Traditionally miniature portraits were commissioned to portray potential brides or grooms to prospective spouses, as gifts exchanged amongst the aristocracy, or as symbols of political allegiance. However, they were also mementos of loved ones.
Another interesting medium is stained glass. This is the common term used to describe glass used to make colorful windows. The actual medium is somewhat more complex as other glasses are employed beyond stained glass. Sometimes the glass is painted using clear ot even opaque paints. A variety of glasses have been used, but the mst common is pot-metal, a glass colored unifomily throughout while in a molten state. Stained glass is best known for its use in church windows, but there were secular usages as well. It is the great medieval cathedrals that have the most spectacular usage of stained glass. The first known usage dates from the 10th century. Art historians believed that the art form evolved from jewelry making, cloisonné and mosaics. Stained glass windows developed as Europe emerged from the Dark Ages and more substantial church building began. The evolution of the Gothic style was central to the use of stained glass. One objective of Gothic architects was to let more light into a cathedral. Medieval churches could be very darl spaces. Stained glass was one way in which that light could be effectively used. Stained glass is still used today to decorate modern churches.
We have noted silhouttes in both the 19th and 20th centuries. We are not sure when this art form first appeared. We have not selected many of these silhouttes because they mostly focus on the child's face and not the clothing. A few do, however, provide interesting clothing details. Some also have details on hair styles.
We have in our art section focused on painting. This is because painters over time have left us a marvelous record of clothing over time, depicting in great detail fashion styles, colors, and materials. The same is not true of sculpture. Not only are there fewer sculptures, but there is much less detail about the clothing. Of course color in modern scupltures does not exist. And often sculptors did nude forms. Some of the most famous boy sculptures, from the Kouros boy at the dawn of Greek sculpture to Michaelanglo's "David" at the height of the Renaissance, are nude works. This means of course that fashion was largely absent, except hair styles. Thus we have given little attention to sculpture. We will, however, load any scuturers that have left us useful images.
We note a work by Robert Jackson (1840-1878) who did a marble sculpture of a kilt-clad Scotish boy. Do let HBC know if you know of any other interesting sculptures.
There are several different ways of accessing the artistic images and information in HBC. HBC visitors are incouraged to comment on the paintings displayed here and on the HBC assessment of those paintings. Your comments can help make the artistic suite a more informative part of HBC. The HBC artistic information is organized in several different ways.
The artists addressed in HBC are arranged here chronolgically from 1500 on. The orginization by centuries is arbitrary, but the developing clothing styles and relationships between artists are most apparent in this arrangement. The images show how boys were dressed in the same styles as their fathers until specialized children's styles began to appear in the late 18th Century. Photography begins to appear in the 1840s, but paintings still provide much critical information on fashions until the turn of the century when the ubiquitous amateur snapshot becomes the major source of fashion images.
The artists are organized here alphabetically and it this arrangement is the easiest way of looking up individual artists. More than 75 artists are currently covered by HBC, in widely different detail. We hope to eventually cover many more. We are covering the great masters as well as many lesser-known artists, including naive artists who sometimes provided more clothing detail than the more illustrious masters. Be sure to suggest any artists not covered that you believe should be assessed. This section is our central data base on artists. We normally list then here first and then latter cross index them by nationality, chronolgical period, and style.
Some HBC contributors have sent several fascinating art works, but have not provided any background information on these works or even who the artist was. Without knowing the artist, it is difficult to use the image in our assesmment of historical or national trends so we can better undestand fashion trends in the years bdefore the development of photography. We would be very interested in any help HBC readers could offer in identifying and dating these artistic works.
In our modern era, inumeral illustrators have drawn lovely sketches for books and periodicals. These illustrations, while often idealized, add valuable information to our knowledge of boys clothing. Some of the illustrators actually are infact artists and it is difficult to infact easily draw destinctions. Perhaps the best case in point is American illustrator Norman Rockwell. Perhaps because illustrators are generally held in lower esteem than recognized artists, we have often had difficulty finding much information on many illustrators.
Most of the paintings assessed by HBC are European works done after the firt millinium AD. We note some paintings done by ancient civilizations, but thy are much less numerous than the more modern European art work we have accesed. The painted art of many ancient civilizations has not survived. There is a great deal of Eguptian paintings, mostly paintings on tomb walls. Some of this art inludes children providing valuable information on clothing and fashion. We also note some wonderful Roman paintings, often done on the walls of homes. Most are portraits of venerated ancestors, but there are a few family portraits as well. We also notice some lovely portraits from Roman-occupied Egypt done on wood with colored beeswax. These were bound to mummy caskets. The ones we are familiar with are all of adults. These Roman paintings were to avery high standard, not equalled in skilled until the Renaissance.
The artists here are organized by country to better assess developing fashion trends in individual countries. We have just begun the process of cross indexing the individual artists by country which is somewhat complicated by many boundary changes over the years. Some former principalities are now regions of a larger country. These images are all dated after the fall of Rome and most date from the second millenium AD.
I am attempting to organize the artists here by painting style. However I am not sure how to classify many of the artists covered. HBC's art experise isvery limited. If you have any knowlege in this area, please let us know.
Most arists who have painted images of people, inclufing both portratists and genre artists have painted images of children. This includes some of the greatest artists og all time from Michelangelo down to Picaso. Relatively few artists have focused on childhood or at least done numerous images of children for at least a portion of their careers. A this time we can only think of a few: Cassatt (American, 1844-1926), Chardin (France, 1699-1779), Larsson (Sweden, 1853-1919), Murillo (Spain, 1618-82), Renoir (France, 1841-1919), and Rockwell (American, 1894-1978). These artists have left us engagin images of childhood from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Hopefully our readers can think of a few more such artists.
Religion has been a major force in art. Chritian churches have made an enormous cultural contribution to civilization, including painting, sculpture, architecture and music. Allexamples of religion-inspired creativity, especially in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The beautiful Gothic cathedrals in France and Germany, the works of a Michelangelo, the passions and cantatas by Bach, all created to the glory of God. Hinduism in India also is credited with beautiful works of art. This also goes for Buddhist, Aztec, Inca and Egyptian civilizations. Not to forget Islam. The Alhambra in Spain and the Taj Mahal in India are examples of a glorious Muslim past.
A web site with many paintings of children provides additional information about historical fashions. There are wonderful galleries of paintings organized by family, mothers, fathers, siblings, nature, animals, portraits, and groups. The site does not deal with clothing, but the images collected provide a great deal of fashion information. There is also an interesting similar section on literature.
Children love all aspects of art. Young children can spend hours drawing and coloring. They love the colors and the act of creation. Virtually any discipline, including painting, drawing, potting, printing, clay sculpting as well as fun activities like finger painting and paper machet fascinates them. Too often, however, however, little attention is given to developing an appreciation of fine arts. Some art museums this issue. Others give little attention to it.
Greek mythology has played a major role in Greek culture and through it the development of both Roman and Christian culture. Some art historians believe that a basic understanding of mythology, especially Greek mythology, is esential to understand Western art, nusic and literature. These images of gods are an important reflection of a society's concept of the universe and life. [Leeming]
We notice some paintings that depict historic costuming, but look to us like modern copies. The quality and accuracies of these copies varies widely. In addition the artust and painting being copied are not always available, reducing the utility of these paintings. There are also modern paintings of historic scences that are original art work and not copies. These paintings are not very useful. The real value of artwork in assessing historic costume is that the depictions are of contemprary peopke and clothes. Modern paintings for historical accuracy woukld require a detailed knowledge of the clothing of the era, which few painters have.
There are many interesting internet sites dealing with art. We will link some of them here. Do let us know if know of a useful site to link here. One interesting site for those who want to purchase art works is Gallery-Worldwide.com. Their site is divivided into useful categories of art, including a category for both portraits and history.
Anderson, Janice. Children in Art. This lovely large format hardcover book has many wonderful colour plates of art by renowed and lesser artists. Quite a few are paintings HBC has never seen before. Anderson provides a very helpful assessment of the fashions shown.
Leaming, David. From Olympus to Camelot: The World of Europeam Mythology (Oxford University Press, 2003), 210p.
Mcfall, C.H. Beautiful Children. Immortalized by the Masters. With 50 reproductions in colour of famous paintings. Edited by T.L. Hare. 209pp., illus. (London: T.C.& E. Jack, no date). Painters include: Rubens, Van Dyck, De Vos Rembrandt, Reynolds etc.
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