Drawing on Childhood brought together the work of major illustrators from the eighteenth century to the present day, who have created powerful images of characters in fiction who are orphaned, adopted, fostered or found.

The exhibition considered how illustrators of different generations have chosen key moments in stories from European folklore and fiction, and brought these child heroes to life. Exploring alternative childhoods, the show was inspired by Lemn Sissay’s 2014 Foundling Museum commission, Superman was a Foundling, which focused on the importance of looked-after children in popular culture.

Original drawings, first editions and special illustrated editions were displayed, featuring characters as diverse as James Trotter (James and the Giant Peach) who was orphaned as a young boy, Hetty Feather, who lived at the Foundling Hospital, and Rapunzel, whose parents gave her up as a child. Two original illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert for the 1961 edition of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach were exhibited, alongside Arthur Rackham’s original 1919 drawing of Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother. Major illustrators and artists whose work was displayed included Quentin Blake, George Cruikshank, David Hockney, Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), Arthur Rackham, Thomas Rowlandson, Nick Sharratt and Stref.

★ ★ ★ ★  A small but impactful show
The Times
★ ★ ★ ★  A lovely lunch-hour trip down memory lane for literature lovers
Time Out