Frances Wilson

Cradle to Canvas

Imagining Childhood


Yale University Press 263pp £30 order from our bookshop

Art historians tell us what we are looking at. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it, not many among us having much idea how to read the images we crowd into galleries to see. Hence Simon Schama is welcomed into our living rooms on a Friday night to explain patiently that the man on the canvas with his eyes rolling, his body writhing, and his features contorted into the form of a Hallowe’en mask is in fact in pain, while the woman depicted plunging a dagger into the naked body lying on the bed is feeling angry. As though he were taking a child through the pages of a picture book, Schama confirms that the mysteries of the world lie in the visible and not the invisible. We spend so long believing that we need to look beneath the surface of a picture for its ‘meaning’ that we miss seeing the picture altogether. 

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