From the museum press release, 28 May 2013
The exhibition springs forth from a cooperation between the Dordrechts Museum and the National Museum of Education and is part of a multimedia project about upbringing by national television NTR Broadcasting company in Hilversum. The project was initiated by Jack Fila and Yolande Wildschut. The starting point for this exhibition has been the book by Prof. Jeroen Dekker Ph.D., titled: Het verlangen naar opvoeden. Over de groei van de pedagogische ruimte in Nederland sinds de Gouden Eeuw tot omstreeks 1900 [The longing for upbringing. About the growth of educationalist space in the Netherlands from the Golden Age until about 1900.] Amsterdam 2006.
The exhibition The Art of Upbringing sketches the remarkable attention that was paid to children and their upbringing in Dutch art ranging from the late 16th century up to the present. The emphasis will lie on art from the Golden Age, a unique source for educationalists. But in the ages that follow, the images of children and their upbringing, the parents’ authority and domestic merit show a deeply felt affection for children. In a great number of paintings, children play the leading part, ranging from child portraits and family portraits to diverse scenes from everyday life. Proudly, parents would have their offspring portrayed, often as small adults or with allusions to their good upbringing. Besides that, birth, motherhood, school and play have been recurrent themes in Dutch painting through the ages. Nowhere else was the world of children so emphatically immortalized on canvas. The quantity of works of art depicting children and its constant high quality is uniquely a Dutch propensity. Paintings by Jan Steen, Rembrandt, Ferdinand Bol, Frans Hals, Gerard Terborch, Cornelis Troost, David Bles, Jozef Israëls and Jan Toorop, amongst others, show that there has always been a great longing for a proper upbringing. The paintings, drawings and etchings will be supplemented by ego-documents, emblemata, advisory literature, teaching materials, nursery rhymes and toys to paint a complete picture of upbringing in former ages and Dutch culture in general. Of course, well-known educationalists like Jacob Cats and Hieronymus van Alphen will be included.
Before parents could aspire to give their children a proper upbringing, however, a number of requirements would have to be met, such as good health and a degree of prosperity. Circumstances changed but the educationalistic longing persisted. The ideals concerning a child’s upbringing changed too, starting out with devotion, shifting to happiness by way of virtue: to raise a devout child was a central theme of the Golden Age. After that, the focus shifted to responsible citizenship and changed yet again to an upbringing in which the child’s interests were the main precept. Attention is furthermore given to the role of parents, state and church.
Even though light is shed on many aspects of the subject, The Art of Upbringing does not constitute a historical overview. First and foremost, the exhibition shows the enormous diversity of subjects linked to children and upbringing in Dutch art (with a few digressions to the Southern Netherlands, as there has always been an artistic interchange with the Northern Netherlands). The thematic arrangement is derived from the most popular subjects in which upbringing plays a major part.