Picturing Childhood; A New Perspective at ChatsworthChatsworth House Trust's new exhibition for 2024 (16 March - 6 October), celebrates children and their experience of the world as represented in art.

The exhibition, which will be on display in the house and garden, will include rarely-seen pieces from the Devonshire Collections, as well as loans and exciting new interactive works by contemporary artists.

Designed to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds, the exhibition takes inspiration from Chatsworth's most playful histories and includes thought-provoking, multi-sensory experiences as well as the opportunity for quiet moments to rest, read or reminisce. 

Experiential elements, developed in partnership with Sheffield-based studio Eleven, invite visitors to hopscotch their way to the entrance. 'Skystation', an installation in the Inner Court by Peter Newman, encourages everyone to look up and experience Chatsworth’s historic spaces in new ways.  

An example of Skystation by Peter Newman

Artist Abigail Reynolds has produced a series of installations for the house, garden and park inspired by T.H White's 1938 children's book, 'The Sword in the Stone'. The viewfinders will encourage explorers to see Chatsworth from a 'new perspective'; through the eyes of a hawk, a songbird, or through the multi-lens eye of a 'trilobite'. 

Inspired by menus from the 6th Duke of Devonshire’s archive, food historian and scent artist Tasha Marks will evoke the aromas of the meal a 13-year-old Princess Victoria, later Queen Victoria, may have been served on the occasion of her first formal dinner with adults in 1832, held in the Great Dining Room at Chatsworth.
Through a partnership with national charity, The Reading Agency, and local libraries, families will be invited to read and listen together at several stages of the exhibition. An outreach project with a Derbyshire-based primary school will culminate in a week-long ‘takeover’ of Chatsworth by pupils.

The pieces selected for Picturing Childhood include paintings, sketches, literature, costume and sculpture, and span five centuries, from the Tudors to the present day. 

Artworks by artists including Raphael, Anthony van Dyck, Edwin Landseer, and Lucien Freud, will be on display in historic spaces throughout the house, such as the Chapel, the State Apartment and the Oak Room. 

Exploring themes ranging from family relationships to identity and colonialism, collection highlights include Old Master drawings by Carracci and intergenerational representations of the Devonshire family by Joshua Reynolds. These are complemented by institutional loans, such as two Johan Zoffany paintings from Tate, that highlight growing societal interests in children’s education and upbringing in the Georgian period. 

These works will be shown alongside an eighteenth-century baby carriage and a Victorian silver-gilt christening set, as well as a collection of amateur photographs from the Devonshire family archive and a short film inspired by Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (in which Chatsworth is the inspiration for Pemberley), a first edition of which is held in the library.
Gill Hart, Head of Learning and Engagement, at Chatsworth, said:

"With this exhibition, we wanted to shine a light on some of the wonderful masterpieces in the Devonshire Collections, many of which are rarely seen by the public, and to complement them with high-quality loans that help to tell the story of the changing depiction of childhood in art across the centuries.

Through our choices, we aim to focus attention on the children whose presence and personalities shine strongly in the works, as well as those artworks that speak to historic and current debates. While through the exhibition curation and commissions, we hope to provide all our visitors with new perspectives and ways of engaging with and experiencing the art, be it through the eyes of an adult or a child."

Picturing Childhood will be complemented by a season-wide public programme of events to include a Family Festival in the summer, a new phase in the redevelopment of the Chatsworth Playground, and the launch of a new £10 child's ticket to enable even more families to come and enjoy Chatsworth all year round.

The house, collections, garden, woodlands and park are cared for by registered charity, Chatsworth House Trust, for the enjoyment of everyone. 

Jane Marriott, Director of Chatsworth House Trust, said:

"Chatsworth has long been a home of creativity, community and ideas. As a charity, we are here to share the profound histories of this place with everyone and provide new perspectives on our past and present. We are excited to be launching our 2024 programme and engaging with new and existing audiences in an innovative way, to celebrate the incredible richness and diversity of our stories and collections.” 

Main image: Lower section of a portrait of William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham, and family - The Master of the Countess of Warwick (1567-1580). Oil on Canvas

Learn more about the themes of Picturing Childhood

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