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'Portraits of Childhood' exhibit features art and artifacts of childhood from past to present

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 28 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

"Skating Pond" by Danquart Anthon Weggeland is oil on canvas and done in 1897. It's one of the paintings in the "Portraits of Childhood" exhibit at the LDS Church History Museum.

Scott Davis, Scott Davis Photography

According to Psalms 127:3, "Children are an heritage of the Lord." This scripture, among others, will be highlighted in the "Portraits of Childhood: Behold Your Little Ones" exhibit opening at the Church History Museum on Dec. 3.

The theme of the exhibit is to help appreciate the children in a person's life, whether it's in homes, church congregations, schools or neighborhoods. On display will be numerous historic oil paintings and period artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries which explore the history of childhood in America. Artists include Arnold Friberg, Danquart Anthon Weggeland and John Leo Fairbanks.

Rita R. Wright, curator of the exhibit and historian of religious art, has selected masterworks from the LDS Church's history collection, which depict children in various stages of life.

“Most of these original paintings were created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They tell us much about that period of time — the livestyles, attitudes, clothes, toys and settings — but they can also help us better understand and love the children in our lives today,” Wright said in an email.

Scriptural and prophetic quotes from the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as selected by Wright accompany the paintings, exhibits manager Maryanne Andrus noted in an interview.

“This counsel teaches us the importance of understanding children, of teaching with love and patience, of recognizing the joy that children bring to everyday life,” Andrus said.

The exhibit will feature four sections. The first, "Portraits of Childhood: Behold Your Little Ones," presents original art works showing children’s likes and dislikes, lifestyles and attitudes.

Following the Victorian habit of dressing children in white, a section titled "Angels in White" portrays the common practice in 19th century of children and women dressing in white to symbolize the purity and innocence of youth.

Another section, "At Home, At School, At Play," is another collection of paintings that focus on activities that children would have engaged in during the past.

"You can see a growing sensibility in the artwork we have displayed. Artists have been able to capture the special moments of childhood we look back on and cherish," said Wright.

The final section, "Child-Sized," contains objects that Andrus said "makes a wonderful montage of things that shows us a window from past times."

Items include a child's tricycle, games, books and toys with which children used play.

Andrus said that in addition to being reflective, the exhibit helps put a focus on one of life's simple pleasures: the family.

"This exhibit will allow parents and siblings to take a step back and ponder on the importance of families," Andrus said.

The "Portraits of Childhood" exhibit will be open until Jan. 21, 2014.

If you go...

What: Family Night at the Church History Museum and Opening Reception

When: Monday, Dec. 3, 6-8:30 p.m.

Notes: Includes making Victorian dolls, tin punch stars and Danish Christmas cards, demonstrations of wooden toys and parlor games, string-stories, a visit with Father Christmas, Victorian carols and instrumental music.

Also...

What: Christmas on the Plaza

When: Monday, Dec. 3, 6-8:30 p.m.

Notes: Enjoy the Woods Cross High School Band Quintet and Music Ensemble. Hot chocolate and mulled cider will be served.

Email: klewis@deseretnews.com

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