Not a single one of the dozens of paintings which line the walls of the Foundling Museum are of a named pupil from the Foundling Hospital. With your help, we can change that. We can give a face to the 25,000 faceless Founding children, given into the care of the Foundling Hospital between 1741 and 1954.
The last generation of Foundling pupils were admitted to the care of the Hospital in the 1930s and 40s. They are the last living connection to our 300-year history.
The Hospital established not only the first children’s charity but also the country’s first public art gallery – supported by artists including Hogarth, Reynolds & Gainsborough.
We will be commissioning five leading photographers, including Wolfgang Tillmans and Mahtab Hussain, to create portraits of some of these remarkable men and women, to add them permanently to our collection, to hang alongside the great 18th century portraits.
This project gives looked-after children visibility and a voice within British art and culture, to safeguard their stories for future generations.
We needed to raise £15,000 before 31 July to make this happen this summer. We’ve hit our target but welcome any further donations, as we still have project costs to cover. Thank you!
Campaign update - 3 August
Thanks to the generous support of 70+ donors, we raised an amazing £21,500, for five leading photographers to photograph some of the last generation of children who grew up at the Foundling Hospital. Art Fund have also given a grant, enabling us to commission a documentary film about the project.
The last generation of Foundling pupils were admitted to the care of the Hospital in the 1930s and 40s. These exceptional men and women have triumphed over challenging childhoods to lead rich and fulfilled lives. Until the pandemic, the former pupils were an active part of the Museum’s life, leading tours, volunteering as room stewards and most importantly, providing inspirational role models for today’s looked after children, by taking part in our creative programmes for care-experienced young people.
Now, before this last direct link to our past is gone forever, we want to commission a series of photographic portraits, to commemorate these remarkable men and women, to represent the thousands of Foundling Hospital children whose faces we will never know, and to give care-experienced children visibility and voice within the story of British art and culture.
They are the last living connection to our 300-year history!
Why this project?
Our remarkable art collection is rooted in the 18th century, when under the leadership of the artist, William Hogarth, contemporary artists, musicians, writers and performers, donated their work to support the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity. Thanks to the artists’ involvement, the Hospital was also the UK’s first public art gallery and led to the founding of the Royal Academy.
The Hospital cared for babies at risk of abandonment and between 1741 – 1954, it admitted over 25,000 children. However, not one is represented in the Museum’s collection. By contrast, portraits of the Hospital’s governors and benefactors, painted by artists including William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Allan Ramsey, Thomas Hudson, Johann Zoffany and John Everett Millais, line the gallery walls.
Our commissions would create five portraits of former Foundling Hospital pupils, to commemorate the 25,000 faceless children who grew up at the Hospital between 1741 and 1954. The portraits would proudly hang on our walls, side-by-side with former Governors, sharing stories that are currently absent from our collection and narrative.
About the photographers
Reflecting the calibre of our 18th-century artists and the importance of the sitters, we would like to ask five exceptional artists to undertake the photography commission: Wolfgang Tillmans, Eileen Perrier, David Moore, Jillian Edelstein and Mahtab Hussain.
Wolfgang Tillmans is a German photographer. His diverse body of work is distinguished by observation of his surroundings and an ongoing investigation of the photographic medium’s foundations. Tillmans was the first photographer – and also the first non-British person – to be awarded the Tate annual Turner Prize.
Eileen Perrier’s work has been widely exhibited since 1999, including The Photographers' Gallery, (London, UK); Tate Britain (London, UK); The Whitechapel Gallery (London, UK), the touring exhibition Africa Remix, which included the Hayward Gallery (London) and The Centre Pompidou (Paris, France). Perrier is currently a Senior Lecturer in Photography at The University of Westminster.
David Moore is a London based photographic artist using and interrogating documentary modes. He has exhibited and published internationally and has work held in public and private collections. He is the Course Leader of MA Documentary Photography and Photojournalism at the University of Westminster
Award-winning, London based Jillian Edelstein began working as a press photographer in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her portraits have appeared internationally in publications including The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ and Esquire. She is currently working on several photographic projects including a film documentary about the screenwriter Norman Wexler.
British social commentary artist, Mahtab Hussain, uses photography to explore the important relationship between identity, heritage and displacement.