We are working very hard to complete the installation of the art collection of the Two Red Roses Foundation, set up the galleries, and prepare for our first visitors. Soon, MAACM members will be invited to an exclusive preview tour before the public opening, so if you have not joined yet, I would like to invite you to become a member today.
Located on the fifth floor, the Children’s Gallery showcases works of art that are sure to delight the young and young at heart. This mixed media gallery includes tile murals, woodblock prints, beautiful prints and paintings and whimsical illustrations.
As you walk into the gallery you will be greeted by two monumental tile murals, The Goose Girl and The Babes in the Wood. These two tile murals, illustrating an English nursery rhyme The Babes in the Wood and the Brothers Grimm fairytale The Goose Girl, were meant to be more than just pretty decorations.
Created in 1903 by Royal Doulton of London, England, for that city’s St. Thomas’ Hospital, each nearly six-foot-tall mural is made of 88 clay tiles, hand painted by Royal Doulton’s decorators William Rowe and Margaret Thompson. The murals were commissioned, along with other fairytale and nursery rhyme subjects, to adorn the walls of two children’s wards within the hospital. The stories were meant to engage and amuse young patients, bringing bright and cheerful colors to a place that could often feel scary. Tiles were considered ideal decorations for hygienic hospital environments, because their glossy glazes allowed for easy cleaning.
St. Thomas’ Hospital demolished the children’s wards in 1968. Many of the tile murals were lost, damaged, or sold. In 2008, several were restored and reinstalled at St. Thomas’. The two displayed here are among the few examples of these Royal Doulton murals known to exist outside of the hospital. Acquired by the Two Red Roses Foundation, they were donated the MAACM museum.
The popular children’s tale Cinderella, depicted on a frieze of ceramic tiles, is also on display. A leader of the British Arts and Crafts movement, Edward Burne-Jones designed the Cinderella tiles for William Morris’ company in the late 1860s to early 1870s. Part of a larger series of fairytale-themed tile sets which included Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, the tiles might have been used to decorate a child’s room.
This space is also filled with many other examples of appealing childhood subjects by famous artists of the period. One wall is filled with spirited prints from Let’s Play, a book by Frances, Edna, and May Gearhart, created in 1927 but unpublished until 2009. The Gearhart sisters lived in Pasadena California, sharing a house and studio space, and operating a gallery devoted to prints. Each sister was, in her own way, an artist — Frances a color block printer, Edna worked in watercolor, and May in color etchings. The Let’s Play images and accompanying lyrical poems show children learning about the world around them through explorative and energetic play.
Spectacular paintings by other prominent artists capture the innocence and wonder of childhood. The evocative oil painting Harmony in the Light of the Moon (c. 1903), by Sarah Stilwell Weber, presents a magical wood nymph nestled in the pine trees playing a harp. Jessie Willcox Smith, one of the greatest illustrators of the 20th century, is represented by five masterful works depicting children, including Supper (c. 1900-1902), a tender scene of mother and baby at mealtime. A similarly quiet subject is Thomas Anshutz’s watercolor Two Boys by a Boat – Near Cape May (1894), where the boys enjoy the pleasures of a carefree afternoon on the shoreline. Girls Playing in Surf (c. late 19th century), by Edward Potthast, likewise celebrates the simple joys of childhood.
Adjacent to the Children’s Gallery is the Education Studio, where the Museum’s education team will present innovative learning opportunities for all ages including open studio hours, camps, class, field trip experiences and more.