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>  News Releases >   2003 >   April

Children's Art in Wartime is Focus of Exhibition

Posted 04/01/03


Maria Dolores Sanz, Age 13
Centro Espanol Cerbere (France)
Verso: 'This Scene Shows a Bombing in My Town, Port-Bou."
Courtesy of the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego

E.G., Age Unknown
Residencias Infantiles, Colonia de el Alba Onteninete (Valencia)
Courtesy of the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego
* images available upon request

They Still Draw Pictures: Children's Art in Wartime from the Spanish Civil War to Kosovo is an exhibition of more than fifty drawings that chronicle children's experiences of war, from the Spanish Civil War to more recent conflicts in Poland, Palestine, the United States, Croatia, and Kosovo. On view at the Hood Museum of Art from April 12 through May 25, these pictures are invaluable historical documents that give a physical presence to children's endurance of air raids, brutality, destruction and homelessness. These pictures also represent daily life in the colonies, preserve the children's memories of life before war, and suggest their future hopes.

An opening lecture and reception at the Hood on Saturday, April 12 at 4:00 PM will feature Anthony L. Geist, Associate Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature, University of Washington, and curator of the exhibition. A reception hosted by the Friends of Hopkins Center and Hood Museum of Art will follow.

"A drawing or a painting is a soul's message," Harvard child psychologist Robert Coles observes. Perhaps children know this best, and their messages about the tragedy of war inform this exhibition. In the context of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and other conflicts, the solace of art for the young becomes painfully clear. Of the 600,000 refugees who sought shelter from Franco's tyranny, more than 200,000 were children. Spain's Republican government responded by establishing colonias infantiles (children's colonies), often in country estates that had been abandoned by fascist sympathizers. In these colonies, young refugees--many of them orphaned or sent by their parents to safety--received schooling and medical care, kept each other company, and drew the thousands of pictures that provide a collective testimony of their experiences.

Children's art from more recent conflicts, drawn from many different sources and spanning the rest of the twentieth century, follows the narrative line traced by the Spanish pictures. Their juxtaposition reveals both the specificity of particular historical circumstances and the universality of a child's response to the conditions of war and displacement.

Among the most moving of the drawings are those of peace as it is recalled during wartime. They depict ordinary people--often featuring the artist as subject--doing ordinary things: strolling in the park, returning from school, washing clothes, feeding chickens. The children evoke and idealize home, preserving on paper a world that they have access to only in memory or imagination.

The most numerous and powerful drawings depict scenes of war. These cityscapes and country settings vary greatly in style and skill of execution, yet almost all of them have one thing in common: airplanes. Aerial combat and bombing were new in the early twentieth century, and the greatest terror came from the skies. The children drew the planes in such accurate detail that aviation historians can identify most of the models in their pictures.

Pictures created in the children's colonies also often depict scenes of their evacuations. Some young artists place themselves prominently at the center of the drawing, their sorrow dwarfing the other figures. Others assume a more distant perspective, making it difficult to identify the particular child. Throughout these different representations of displacement is a sense of a common experience of bleakness, fear, and pain, as the young artists were separated from their homes.

Drawings of children's hopes for after the war include elements of a happy child's world: a house with smoke flowing reassuringly from the chimney; trees receding in orderly rows; birds, not bombers, filling the skies.

The exhibition is curated by Anthony L. Geist and Peter N. Carroll for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego. It is made possible by grants from the Puffin Foundation Ltd., the Estate of Isabel Johnson Hiss, the Sonya Staff Foundation, the Consulate General of Spain (New York), and the Program for Cultural Cooperation between Spain's Ministry of Culture and U.S. Universities. Its presentation at the Hood Museum of Art is generously supported by the William Chase Grant 1919 Memorial Fund.

The Hood Museum of Art is a nonprofit organization recognized by the American Association of Museums as "a national model" for college and university museums. It is one of the oldest and largest college museums in the country, housing a diverse collection of more than 65,000 works of art and art objects with particular strengths in American painting and silver, European master paintings and prints, and African, Oceanic, and contemporary art. Hours of operation are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM, with evening hours on Wednesday until 9 PM; Sunday, 12 PM to 5 PM. Admission is free. The museum galleries and the Arthur M. Loew Auditorium are wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices are available for public programs.

For more information, directions, or to search the collections, please visit the Hood's website or call (603) 646-2808. Media inquiries please contact Sharon Reed, Public Relations Coordinator Hood Museum of Art, (603) 646-2426 sharon.reed@dartmouth.edu

Associated Events

Saturday, April 12, 4:00 PM
Opening Lecture and Reception
Arthur M. Loew Auditorium
"Children of War: Drawings from Spanish Civil War Refugee Camps"
Anthony L. Geist, Associate Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature, University of Washington, Seattle, and curator of the exhibition.

A reception hosted by the Friends of Hopkins Center and Hood Museum of Art will follow in Kim Gallery.

Saturday, April 19, 2:00 PM
Tour
Introductory tour of They Still Draw Pictures
No preregistration is required.

Saturday, April 26, 4:00 PM
Lecture
Arthur M. Loew Auditorium
"Why Give War Stories to Children?"
Jennifer Armstrong, award-winning author of over fifty books for children and young adults. Her recent book Shattered: Stories of Children and War is the first anthology she has compiled and edited.

Saturday, May 10, 2:00 PM
Tour
Introductory tour of They Still Draw Pictures
No preregistration is required.

Saturday, May 24, 2:00 PM
Tour
Introductory tour of They Still Draw Pictures
No preregistration is required.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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