*** artists illustrating boys fashions : chronologies

Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Chronologies

artistic chronology

Figure 1.--This 16th Century portrait of Don Carlos, Phillip II's son by his first wife, Maria of Portugal, shows the tpical dress for Europeans nobels of the day. Boys after breeching wore the same style as their father. Don Carlos was imprisoned by Phillip and died mysteriously. I'm unsure about the painter.

Paintings with information on boy's fashions have been painted in manydifferent styles. We thought a chronological history of art and arrangement of modern painters acrossnational lines might be useful in showing developing fashion trends andpossible relationships between artists. This is of course a mammouth undertaking beyond our capabilities at this time. We can, however, sketch our some key trends. Here until modern times, the influence of religion has been a critical factor. We have will eventually organize modern artists by centuries which requires some difficulties in deciding in which century to place many of the artists.


Early religions wre almost universally polytheistic. Historians have generally view mans' transition from polytheism to montheism as a progressive step in social evolution. This issue we will not address, but we do note that this movement had an adverse impact on art. It is notable that the important artistic centers upon which Western civilization is based were socities based on polytheistic religions. Not only wre tghere many different dieties, but Greeks and even more so Romans were tolerant of other religious traditions. As a result there was no single focus to society allowing considerable latitude for individual artistic expression. As one religion and one god did not dominate society this provided an environment in which secular art could develop. This was especially the case of art in the Roman Empire.

Egyptian Art

he fine arts were well developed in ancient Egypt. Egypt thus made a huge contribution to art history. In part this was the result of the richness of ancient Egypt which could afford the devote the resources needed to create great art. Egypt was not the earliest of the great rivel valley civilizations, but followed closely the development of agriculture and civilization in Mesopotamia. It was the longest living of all the the Mediterranean cultures by milenia and until the classical era by far the richest. Geography provided stability. Egypt was secure from foreign invaders because of its baren desert borders. And the sustaining waters of the Nile provide boutiful harvests that made for domestic tranquility. Egyptian culture and art developed in this stable environment over milenia. The visual arts were dominated by a unique hieratic style of painting and stone carving. Because much of the painting was to decorate tombs, a great deal of it has survived. We are most familiar with the visuals arts and arhitecture because so much of it has survived. Egypt also had a rich tradition of dance and music, but only visual depictions have for the most part survived. Scholars differe as to ghe existence of drama. The arts had two functions in ancient Egypt and they were not dissimilar to he role of art in other eras. First, art was to glorify the many and this included the reining Pharaoh. Here are was used to ease the human passage of the pharoah into the after-life. And the nobels and other well-to-do wanted to also make the passage. Second, art was used to assert, propagandize and preserve the cultural values of the day. The general stability of Egyptian society led inevitably to highly conservative forms with rigid rules which ovr time put little value on creativity and concentrated on order and form. Egyptia art played a major role in the development of art in clasical Greece and Rom

Greek Art

Roman Art and Imagery

Some imagery is available from ancient Rome. There are of course sculptures. Often they do not, however, illustrate clothing. There are also some surviving painting, mostly murals depicting affluent on the walls of surviving villas. Romans living in Egypt also had portraits painted on their mummies. There are also Byzantine mosaics, but the clothing depictions here are often not detaled. We also notice some grave stones with carvings of interest, although the depections are not very detailed. There are also many modern depictions of Ancient Rome. Here me care has to be taken. While they are often detailed, we are not always sure how accurate they are. We believe that many of the modern images are relatively accurate, in part because there are many surviving written records of Rome which provide us a fairly complete record of Roman clothing.


The triumph of Monotheism had profound consequences for art. There was a notable decline in both the quality and focus of art during the 4th-7th centuries. Here a major factor of the quality of Westrn art was the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. The decline of a powerful political and economic entity mean that the creation of wealth required to suport and refine artistic exoression also decline--a major factor in the declining quality of artistic expression. This was, however, not the only factor as the Eastern Empire did not fall. What occured in Byzantium was the creation of a theocracy in which the state bolstered by the state Church controled all artistic expression and demanded that it be focused on religious expression in approved themes and formats. The rise of the Papacy in the West had a similar impact even among the many diverse political entities in Wesrern Europe. The explosion of Islam from the Arabian desert had another major impact on art, again demanding a religious focus. Art in both Muslem and Christian areas was profoundly affected by the Mosasic code forbidding graven images. Both Jews and Muslemns with some exceptions depicted this as prohibiting the depicting of living creatures--especially man. This was an issue in Christian art as well, especially in Byzabtium where the struggle over icons dominated several cebturies. Even without the Mosaic Code, however, the domination of society by one group of religious leaders who can demand conformity in the content and styles of artistic expression almost by definition limits and dulls such expression.

Medieval Art

The Medieval period is a long, comple era in European history between ancient and modern times. Historians vary, but often define it from the fall of Rome in the 5th century AD to the Renaissanc of the 15th-16th century. There are many phases of this amazingly complex period, including pre-Christian antecedents, early Christian, Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic periods. In some areas, especially Spain there was an important Islamic influence. There was a general decline in civilizatioin and this is reflected in the in loss of ability by the medieval artist to depict scenes in classical precision. Some art historians suggest that this is a lessening concern of Christian art with the world. This may well be, but it also reflects a decline in education and training associated with civilization as well as the wealth needed to support sophticated art. There is also a wide range of media, including wooden and stone free-standing and architectural sculpture to stained glass, metalwork, enamels, ivories, manuscript illuminations (typically tempera and gold leaf on parchment or vellum), oil paintings, tapestries, and others. Medieval art presents a problem for HBC in that it is directly primarily at the glorification of God. Thus domestic scenes and everyday life are not commonly depicted, leaving us relatively few depictions of children. In addition, painting as we now know it virtually disappeared with thefall of Rome. For an incrediblr 7-8 centuries there are almost no notable paintings. Western pictorial expression is almost totally focused on the art of manuscript illumination--mostly the illumination of Bibles and other religious texts.

Renaissance Art

The European Renaissance began in Italy. It involved fundamental changes in the way individuals viewed their world. A central element of the Renaissance was the rediscovery of ancient world of Greece and Rome. The ancient classics of philosophy, literature, and science inspired the development of empirical methods to persue studies in these fields. As Europeans became increasingly aware of classical knowledge some like Galileo began to build on that knowldge actual observation and study of the natural world, even conceiving experiments to test his theories. It is art, however, that is the most vissible indication of the changing outlook of Europeans. The focus on the natural world caused many artists to move away from the Medieval focus on God to an increasing concern with the natural world and more precise depictions of that world. The horrors of the plague had caused many to question their faith in the 14th century, another factor in undermining a God-centered world. As a result, the themes of Renaissance artists are less and lss devote to the glory of God and increasingly to secular themes. Many artists now not only paint Biblical scenes but Greek and Roman history and mythology are depicted. Later in the Renaissance, artists will begin painting genre scenes of contemporary life. The increasingly sophisticated artistic techniques permit artists to create amazingly realistic depictions. The role of the artist also changes in the Renaissance. The Medievl artist was a craftsman whose name, especially in the early Medieval era. was rarely applied to his creations. His task was to Glorify God along guidelines clearly established by the Church. The Renaissance artist was a very diufferent indovidual. He was much more than a craftman. He was a creator. And he was viewed very differently than the mere artisan artists were viewed in the Medieval era. The Renaissance artist was greatly respected in a world still dominated by the airistoracy. Both the airistocracy and the Church and later imn the Mefdieval era wealthy merchants began respecting the artist not only for his technical prowess, but also for his creative powers and imagination--in fact a new development in Western art. The artist was seen as an individual whose personal aesthetic expression was of importance.

The 16th Century

Boys in the 16th Century, after breeching, wore the same styles as their fathers. The predominate style in the 16th Century were bloomer like pants worn with long stockings. Interestingly, weomen wore long dresses completely hiding their legs. Men and boys, however, wore this outfit that showed most of the leg, covered by only with stockings. The fashions of the day, at least among the nobility, appear to have been pan-European in nature.

art 16th century

Figure 2.--This portrait Rubens portrait of his sons Albert andNicholus was painted about 1625.

Rubens, Peter Paul (Flanders, 1577-1640)

Rubens is one of the great masters of the Flemish school. He was born in Siegen, Westphalia. In 1599 he was admitted a master of the Brotherhood of St. Luke inAntwerp. He traveled to Italy in 1600 to view the work of the greatmasters. He entered the service of Vicenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, asGentleman of the Chamber and court painter. He was dispatched on amission to Philip of Spain in 1605, beginning a diplomatic career for whichhis keen intellect, polished urbanity, and linguistic achievementqualified him. While in Madrid he painted many Spanish nobels as wellas historical subjects. He settled in Antwerp and was appointed courtpainter to the Archduke Albert and his wife Isabella. His masterpiece,Discent from the Cross was completed in 1614. Marie de Medicis,the French Queen Mother, invited Rubens to France in 1620 to assist inthe decoration of the Luxembourg Palace. He undertook 24 large workscommemoratingher mairrage to Henry IV. In the ensuing years he undertook aseries of diplomatic mission s that brought him to the English, French,and Spanish courts. In return for these services he was knighted byboth Charles I (England) and Philip IV (Spain). His portraits are mostlyof adults, but family portraits do provide some insights into theclothes worn by 17th Century children.

The 17th century

Van Dyck, Antoon (Belgium, 1599-1641)

Antoon Van Dyck was born during 1599 in Antwerp,which was at the time then the main port of the Spanish Netherlands,basically modern Belgium. He was to become one of the most succesfulportrait painters of the day and awarded a kighthood by England'sCharles I. His brilliant portraits of the Cavalier nobility, resplendentin satin and lace stand to day as our major window into the world ofStuart England. These paintings were also to inspire the elaborate Little LordFauntleroy suits of the late 19th Century. Interestingly, Van Dyck'sgrandfather had made the family fortune by selling luxurious fabrics,velvet, satin, and lace.

art 17th century

Figure 3.--This portrait of Don Baltazar Carlos was painted bySpanish master Velazquez about 1635.

Velazquez, Diego Rodriguez de Silva (Spain, 1599-1660)

Velaquez is generally recognized as the chief painters of the Spanish school and one of the great masters of all time. He was born in Seville and a self-taughtpainter. He first visited Madrid, the royal capital, in 1622. He madehis name there with one of his street scenes, theWater seller. King Philip IV commissioned him to paint hisportrait. Velazquez was appointed pintor en camara, with a lucrativestipend. He furthur improved his acclaim at court with a workappealing to Spanish nationalism, Expulsion of the Moriscos andwas appointed usher of the chamber. Many of his paintings are portraits of the royal family and Spanish nobels. Many were painted as children giving an excellent viewof how aristocratic Spanish children were dressed in the 17th Century--esentially in scaled-down versions of how their parents were dressed.

The 18th Century

Ramsay, Allan (Scotland, 1713-84)

Most renowned Scottishportrait painter. Ramsay was brn in Edinburg, the son of a poet whomhe is named after, He was trained in Edinburgh, London, and Rome.He was made the court painter to King George III in 1767, and becameone of the most successful portrait artists in Ebgland. He executedmany portraits of the King and Queen, court intimates, and otherceleberties of the day. His masterpiece is a portrait of his wife whichhangs in the Scottish National Gallery, Ediburgh. Amercans know Ramsay's workas many of the images of George III during the Revolutionay War werepainted by Ramsay. One famous portrait of the king hangs in IndependenceHall, Philadelphia.

Reynolds, Joshua (England, 1723-92)

Joshua Reynolds, the son ofa clergyman, was born near Plymouth in 1723. He was sent to London tostudy art in 1740. He was apprenticed to Thomas Hudson but WilliamHogarth and Allan Ramsay had the most influence of hisstyle. After a period in Rome (1749-52), Reynolds returned to England wherehe established himself as one of country's leading portrait painters. Those painted by Reynolds inclu ded Josiah Wedgwood, Warren Hastings, Sir Joseph Banks and David Garrick. When the Royal Academy was establishedin 1768, Reynolds was elected itsfirst president. The following year he was knighted. In 1784 Reynolds wasappointed as painter to George III. However, 5 years later his sight began todeteriorate and he was forced to give up painting.

art 18th century
Figure 4.--Greuze painted this boy about 1780. Notice the open, ruffledcollar, often worn with a skeleton suit. The early skeleton suits at thistime mostly had knee breeches rather than long trousers.

Greuze, Jean-Baptiste (France,1725-1805)

Jean Baptiste Greuze was a French genre and portrait painter. Greuze was aneminent portraitist. Among his most famous portraits are thoseof the Dauphin, the ilfated son of King Louis XVI, Robespierre, Napoleon,as well as numerous political and artistic figures. Fewportraists painted such a diverse list of subjects. Some of his most strikingportraits are the heads of nonamous children and young women.

Goya y Lucientes, Francisco Jose de (Spain,1746-1828)

Goya is along with El Greco and Velasquez, is one of the threegreat pillers of Spanish art. Goya addressed many different genres and styles.He was the court painter to Charles IV. He is widely known for his portraits ofSpanish nobility, including boys, but he also painted many accomplished scenesof modern life.

Gainsborough, Thomas (England, 1727-88)

Thomas Gainsborough is one of the most renowned portrait painter. Hedeveloped the subject-matter of small portrait groups, set in a realisticlandscape. Two his most famous portraits are The Blue Boy (1770) andPink Boy (17??). The boys, one a relative of Gainsbourough, werepainted in elaborate satin and lace costumes of the previous century.His early works showthe influence of French engraving and of Dutch landscape painting; atBath his change ofportrait style owed much to a close study of van Dyck (his admiration ismost clear in The Blue Boy. By the 1780s Gainsborough and his rivals, JoshuaReynolds and Allan Ramsay, were considered to be the best portrait paintersin England. All threepainted George III but it was claimed that the royal family preferredGainsborough's portraits.

West, Benjamin West (American colony/England, 1738-1820)

Benjamin West was the first American painter to rise to international prominence. He lead an astonishing life that led him from theAmerican backwoods to the Ebnglish Royal Academy and acceptance into the glitering halls of English aristocracy. This was an amazing accomplishment for a self-taught, largely uneducated colonial boy.

Boilly, Louis Leopold (France, 1761-1845)

French genre and portrait painter, born at La Russee.He was much influenced by the Dutch genre painters. Notable among theincredible 5,000 paintaings and drawing credited to him is The Arrivalof theDiligence (Louvre, 1803). Some of his paintings and real life scenesprovide interesting glimpses of French boys' fashions of his time.

Lawrence, Sir Thomas (England, 1769-1830): amed portrait painter born in Bristol. He entered the Royal Academy as a student in 1787 andexhibited a number of paintings in his first year. He won recognition forhis portrait of Miss Farren, an actress. He beccame the fashionableprtrait painter of his day, and on the death of Sir. Joshua Reynolds in1792, he was made principal painter to King George III, who knighted himin 1815. Lawrence is especially noted for hischildren's portraits for which he was unsurpassed in his day. Theseportraits are a rich source of information on fashionable children'swear of the day. His portrait of The Calmady Children is generallyregarded as his masterpiece of this genre. Larence, Gainsborough, andReynolds represent the apex of distinctive English portrait painters.

The 19th Century

Children were depicted in paintings before the 18th century only in family portraits where they were usually depicted no differently from the adults. A rare exception is the rather more sympathetic early representations of children can be found in the portrait of the exiled Sir Edward Hales & his Family by Sir Peter Lely painted about 1656. As the eighteenth century progressed and perceptions of childhood changed, children began to be treated more as individuals and were often shown at play or engaged in other childhoodpursuits. Landscape and domestic genre subjects which included children were enormouslypopular during the nineteenth century and especially during the reign of Queen Victoria, but the ways in which they were depicted did not reflect the true conditions of life for the great majority of children throughout the period.

Blake, E.W. (United States, mid-19th Century)

This American primitive artist painted many New England portraits, providingvaluable information on individual fashion in a period in which photigraphywas just beginning to provide images.

art 19th century

Figure 5.--This undated portrait is attributed to J.W. Stock. It was probablypainted in Massachusetts in the 1840s. Note the dress and frilledpantalettes the boy wears.

Stock, J.W. (United States, 1815-55)

This American primitive artist painted many New England portraits, providingvaluable information on individual fashion in a period in which photigraphywas just beginning to provide images.

Millais, Sir John Everett(England, 1829-96)

English portraitand historical painter born in Southhampton. He exhibited at the RoyalAcadeny when he was only 17 years old. His Pizarro Seizing the Incaof Peru is considered on of the best historical works shown. Hebecame associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, including Dante GabrielRossetti and Holman Hunt. His first Pre-Raphaelite painting was ascene from the Isabela of Keats, recalled the manner of the earlyFlemish and Italian masters. He mairred Euphenmia Gray in 1855. Hewas elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1856. Other major worksinclude Chill October (1871), The Northwest Passage (1873),and Effie Deams (1877). His work includes several portraits ofchildren, providing fascinating glimpses of the clothes worn by wealthychildren during the second half of the 19th Century. There's a new exhibition ofMillais portraits in London during 1999. One critic in reviewing the exhibitbemoaned how the painter abandoned the pre-Raphaelites to paint societyportraits including "sickly sweet portraits of children."

Schloesser, Carl (Germany, 1832-1914)

One of his most famous paintings is Forbidden Fruit," which picturesschoolboys smoking.

Tissot, James Jacques Joseph(France/England, 1836-1902)

This French painter fled France after the French Commune in 1871 and lived andworked in England where he was widly popular. Modern critics consider hiswork insipid and sugary. Sugary it is, but it is also technicallyskilled and provides us marvelosly detailed windows into the life of theVictorian family--however idealized. His images provide fascinatingglimes on the children appearing in all the static studio shots of thelate 19th Century.

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste (France, 1841-1919)

Renoir's predilection towards gay, light-hearted themes wasalso influenced by the great Rococco masters. These portraitsinclude several family portraits illustrating children's clothes.After a period of experimentation with what he calledhis `mani_re aigre' (harsh or sour manner) in the mid 1880s, he developed asofter and more supple kind ofhandling. Renoir is perhaps the best-lovedof all the Impressionists, for his subjects---pretty children, flowers,beautiful scenes, above all lovely women---have instant appeal, and hecommunicated the joy he took in them with great directness. `Whyshouldn't art be pretty?', he said, `There are enough unpleasantthings in the world.' He delighted in painting his sons. Mostof those paintings were executed when the boys were younger and wearingdresses and smocks or fancy Fauntkeroy suits. They provide a goodidea of French boys clothes in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.One of his sons, who was a particularly favorite subject was the celebrated film directorJean Renoir (1894-1979), who wrote a lively and touching biography (Renoir, My Father) in 1962.

19th century art

Figure 6.--These Chileans boys were painted in Paris by GiovanniBoldini. They wear velvet suits, but with Eton rather than lace collars.

Boldini, Giovanni (Italy, 1845-1931)

Italian genre and portrait painter. He was born in Ferrara andeducated at the Academy of Florence. He achieved success at a young age paintingportraits in London, but he moved to Paris in 1872. He was a good friend of theAmerican painter Whistler.

Gauguin, (Eugene Henri) Paul (France,1848-1903)

Gauguin was one of the foremost painters of the Post-impressionistmovement. He was born in Paris. His father was a journalist from Orleans. Hismother was partly Peruvian. He had a cosmopolitan childhood, growing up in Lima,Orleand, and Paris. He was a seaman, served in the French Navy during the Franco-Prussian War, and worked as a stock broaker and successful back agent. He did notbegin to aint until 1873 after his nairrage. He exibited his first work in 1876and begun to revolutionize modern art. I only know one boy he painted, the son ofa friend, but it is a wonderful piece.

Allingham, Helen (England,1848-1926)

Helen Allingham (neePaterson) was born near Burton on Trent, the family settling in Birminghamafter the death of her father in 1862. She studied at the Birmingham Schoolof Design. She is recognized as an important English watercolor painter in thelate 19th and early 20th Centuries. Most of her work is exteriors, but a few are of her children, often in formal clothes. This provides a rare insight into play clothes in the late 19th Century as most of the availableportraits and photographs show the children in their dress party clothes.

20th century art

Figure 7.--This 1890 painting by John Singer Sargent was one of theartist's many masterful portraits. The boy is Livingston Davis who wears a whitesummer sailor suit and wide-brimmed hat.

The 1900s

Artistcs in the 20th century had to increasingly contend with photography. This was one factor influencing the development of abstract art. After World War I, art was increasingly affected by politics. The Communisus and later the NAZIs in Europe insisted that art should reflect their values and project approved images. Arists who did not conform were not allowed to paint and in many cases even arrested. The NAZIs even held exibitions of "degenerate" art. These structures were not applied to art in democracies such as England, France, and Gernany (before 1933). Artists were also unrestrictedc in America, although the forces of morality were ever vigilent.

Sargent, John Singer (UnitedStates, 1856-1925)

Sargent is known for his dazling and often daring portraits portraits of British and American high society at the turn of the century. Most of his best known works are glamorous portraits of eminent or socially prominent people of the period and helped to shape our view of the era. He is now widely regarded as the leading portrait painter ofhis generation. He showed remarkable technical precocity as a painter. Sargent was often criticized for what some believed to be a superficial brilliance and his portraits were largely dismissed after his death. In more recent years, however, Sergent's workshave been acclaimed for their naturalism and masterly technical skill. Sargent's work, unfortunately, includes few portraits of boys. Thus while there are many portraits illustrating the dress of women, girls, and men, there are only a few of boys to illustrate fashions in the late 19th and early 20 th Century. The two most interesting are LivingstonDavis in a white sailor suit (1890) and ??? Meyer in a grey velvet jacket and ruffled collar (18??). For those of us who beauty in art, Sargents legacy are paintings of daziling technical skill, often showing radiently beautiful images of the Gilded Age.


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Created: June 23, 1999
Last updated: 8:28 PM 2/25/2024