The Generous Georgian: Dr Richard Mead

26 September 2014 - 4 January 2015

Exploring Dr Richard Mead (1673-1754) ‘in the round’, as a collector, philanthropist and physician, this exhibition brought to light the Foundling Hospital’s relationship with a truly remarkable individual who, according to his contemporary Samuel Johnson, “lived more in the sunshine of life than almost any man”


6 June - 7 September 2014

To mark the 250th anniversary of Hogarth’s death, Progress brought together for the first time three great contemporary responses to his eternally modern moral tale, A Rake’s Progress.  David Hockney’s A Rake’s Progress, 1961-3, Yinka Shonibare MBE’s Diary of a Victorian Dandy, 1998, and Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences, 2012, are shown alongside Hogarth’s original 1735 prints and joined by a newly-commissioned work by Jessie Brennan.

Foundling Voices

14 April 2011 - 30 October 2011

This exhibition showcased the personal testimony of seventy-four former foundlings through audio interviews, photographs and film. Tales of family separation, the stigma of illegitimacy, a spartan school education, wartime heroism and the search for birth mothers are all part of this rich social history, which can now be heard in the Museum’s Introductory Gallery. Foundling Voices was part of major oral history project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A Foundling Voices microsite with films and archive materials can be viewed here


Threads of Feeling

14 October 2010 - 6 March 2011

“… slivers of everyday Georgian life make a triumphant return to their original home” The Guardian

This was the first exhibition to reveal some of the thousands of fabric tokens left by the mothers at the moment of parting from their babies at the Founding Hospital. These beautiful and poignant objects, which form the largest surviving collection of everyday eighteenth-century British textiles, were provided by the mother or cut from the child’s clothing upon admission. Kept as identifying records, they now reveal individual stories and bring to life a rich social history.


Mat Collishaw, Tracey Emin & Paula Rego: at the Foundling

27 January 2010 - 9 May 2010

“One of the most successful acts of commission I have witnessed from a historic institution.” Waldemar Januszczak, Sunday Times

This exhibition brought together works by contemporary artists Mat Collishaw, Tracey Emin and Paula Rego which resonate with the history of the Foundling Hospital.  Displayed throughout the Museum, outside the building as well inside, the works explored the pain and anguish associated with aspects of childhood, motherhood, abortion and loss.


Terry Smith: The Foundling

10 July 2009 - 3 January 2010

The Foundling was a multi-discipline, video and sound installation by the artist Terry Smith, commissioned for the Foundling Museum. Playing with ideas of the hidden and the lost, The Foundling included images, sounds and deconstructed scores by Handel and Vivaldi, two Baroque composers who supported institutions dedicated to giving vulnerable and destitute young children a second chance at life.  


Handel the Philanthropist

16 January - 28 June 2009

Commemorating the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death, Handel the Philanthropist was a major celebration of a leading composer and dedicated philanthropist of the eighteenth century.  Drawing on the rich holdings of the Gerald Coke Handel Collection and loans from the British Library, Royal Collection and National Portrait Gallery, the exhibition celebrated a major benefactor of the Foundling Hospital, giving regular benefit concerts of Messiah from 1749 until his death.


John Kindness: An English Interior

8 October 2008 - 31 December 2008

This exhibition presented a series of new paintings by English artist John Kindness. For this exhibition Kindness explored the English eighteenth-century domestic interior through wall paper designs inspired by the graphic art of William Hogarth. Celebrating the importance of comedy in Hogarth’s work and his role as a pioneer of the comic strip, Kindness’ work also takes inspiration from Dudley Watkins, the creator of the comic book character Desperate Dan.


Handel and the Crystal Palace

23 November 2007 - 2 March 2008

This exhibition explored the history of Handel Festivals at the Crystal Palace in the nineteenth-century, and the major role they played in the cultural life of Victorian Britain. Handel was the first composer in Britain to be celebrated with major commemorative concerts, and the opening of the Crystal Palace provided an opportunity to honour the adopted composer on a grander scale than ever before.


RSVP: Contemporary artists at the Foundling

28 September - 18 November 2007

Fifteen contemporary artists were invited to respond to the Foundling Museum Collection. Their works ranged from a cascade of kinetic sculpture above the Museum’s main staircase to a ‘lollipop opera’ inspired by Handel’s Foundling Hospital Anthem. RSVP continued the tradition begun by the artist William Hogarth in providing a platform for emerging contemporary artists: Thomas Gainsborough, whose first well-known work The Charterhouse was produced for the Hospital when he was just twenty-one.


Hogarth’s Children

29 March - 1 July 2007

This exhibition examined the importance of children and the role of philanthropy in British painter William Hogarth’s life and work. He was devoted to the Foundling Hospital, from designing its uniforms and charitable seal, acting as foster parent for foundlings and even becoming a volunteer wet nurse inspector. Through paintings and engravings, Hogarth’s Children highlighted how the artist delighted in the characters of the young while also drawing attention to the suffering of London’s poorest children.


Handel’s Giulio Cesare: from Egypt to England

5 May – 30 November 2006

This exhibition traced almost 300 years of performance history of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto, from its first staging in 1724 at the King’s Theatre in London to a Bollywood-inspired Glyndebourne production in 2005. One of Handel’s best known works, Giulio Cesare was pivotal in the rediscovery of Baroque opera in the twentieth century, and has been performed over 200 times.


Invisible Images

10 June - 30 October 2005

The artist Ted Duncan explored feelings of abandonment through the notion of ‘photo-therapy’, creating a series of imagined family photographs telling her version of a remembered childhood growing up in care and living with various foster families during the 1970s and early 1980s.  Through this exhibition, she presents her story of coming to terms with having no mother or family, hoping to reach out to others who have had similar experiences and to inform those who have had a more conventional childhood.