Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood

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Thames and Hudson, 1998 - Art - 256 pages
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INTERPLAY: A series that addresses controversial themes and issues in the arts. The ideal of childhood innocence is perhaps the most cherished concept of modern Western culture, all the more so because it seems to be under siege. Pictures have always been crucial to that ideal, and now they promise to transform it. Pictures of Innocence begins by tracing the visual history of ideal childhood: the pictorial invention of childhood innocence in eighteenth-century portraits, its diffusion in nineteenth-century popular paintings and illustration, and its culmination in today's best-selling and most widely practiced forms of photography. It deals with pictures of many sorts, ranging from eighteenth-century portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds to greeting cards by Anne Geddes, from the controversial photographs of Lewis Carroll to those of Sally Mann. The book then turns to the crisis in the ideal of childhood innocence. Ever since its invention, photography has unsettled the certainties of ideal childhood, not only by revealing its inherent tensions, but also by showing how the uses and interpretations of photography can eroticize children. These increasingly acute difficulties have recently provoked a dramatic reaction in the form of sweeping child pornography laws. At an intersection between the history of ideas, art, popular culture, censorship, and law, Pictures of Innocence shows how we are in the midst of a radical redefinition of childhood itself, a turbulent change in fundamental cultural values inaugurated by images.

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About the author (1998)

Anne Higonnet is Associate Professor of Art History at Wellesley College and the author of "Berthe Morisot's Images of Women" (1992).