On September 28th 2015, WiTT held an event that was a bit of a departure from our usual format. The Foundling Museum, which contains the collection of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery, very generously hosted us. The Museum had just opened a major new exhibition that focused on the myth and reality of the ‘fallen woman’ in Victorian Britain (please see below for more details on the exhibition).
In addition to offering an excellent opportunity to see the Museum and the new exhibition, our meeting featured a panel discussion on art and technology that explored the impact the digital world is having on the art world.
The panel was chaired by Diane Silverthorne, Lecturer and Stage Leader at Central St Martins, University of the Arts, and Lecturer at Birkbeck College, who also shared her experiences and thoughts on the subject. We were very fortunate that Diane was joined by:
- Andrew Marsh, Curator in Practice, BA Culture, Criticism and Curation, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London; and
- Jane Burton, Christies (formerly Creative Director, Tate Media, Tate London).
The WiTT Board
Annette, Audrey, Helen, Michelle, and Stephanie
The Foundling Museum explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery.
The Foundling Hospital, which continues today as the children’s charity Coram, was established in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for babies at risk of abandonment. Instrumental in helping Coram realize his vision were the artist William Hogarth and the composer George Frideric Handel. Their creative generosity set the template for the ways in which the arts can support philanthropy.
Through a dynamic programme of exhibitions and events the Museum celebrates the ways in which artists of all disciplines have helped improve children’s lives for over 275 years.
This major exhibition focuses on the myth and reality of the ‘fallen woman’ in Victorian Britain.
In an age when sexual innocence was highly valued and sex for a respectable woman was deemed appropriate only within marriage, the loss of chastity for an unwed woman had multiple repercussions. The figure of the ‘fallen’ woman was popularly portrayed in art, literature and the media as Victorian moralists warned against the consequences of losing one’s virtue.
This exhibition draws together the work of artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Richard Redgrave, George Frederic Watts and Thomas Faed, who considered the subject of the fallen woman in their work and helped propel the myth. In addition, newspaper illustrations and stereoscopes demonstrate how depictions of the fallen woman in popular culture also helped define a woman’s role and limitations within society.
The exhibition also explores the written petitions of women applying to the Foundling Hospital at the time. During the early nineteenth century, London’s Foundling Hospital changed its admission process to focus on restoring respectability to the mother. Only the petitions of previously respectable women bearing their first illegitimate child were considered. A specially-commissioned sound installation by musician and composer Steve Lewinson offers a new and engaging interpretation of the Hospital’s archive and brings the women’s voices to life.
The Fallen Woman is curated by Professor Lynda Nead in collaboration with the Foundling Museum’s curatorial team.