The sacred aspect of the image of the child in the early 20th century Polish and Western Ukrainian painting: socio-historical context and local specifics
Keywords:representation of children in art, the early 20th-century Polish painting, the early 20th-century Ukrainian painting
The late 19th and early 20th centuries marked significant changes in the social perception of children and childhood in Europe and the US. The phenomenon was vividly reflected in works of art, including painting. Images of children and childhood acquired new positive connotations. A rather ambiguous notion of “innocence” became one of the most important characteristics of childhood. The category was associated with children’s ability to receive more profound and intense religious experiences in comparison to those of adults. Poetry, philosophy, and art of that time emphasized this aspect of idealised childhood.
In this research, we examine and compare works of easel and monumental painting on religious subjects by American and Western European as well as Polish and Ukrainian artists which depict children and childhood. We address both works intended for sacred spaces and secular paintings containing symbols and allusions borrowed from Christian imagery. The article looks into the genesis of the sacralised image of children and childhood in Western cultures, its specific features and ways of its representation in painting, including local traditions.
The study focuses on the portrayal of peasant children in paintings by Polish and Ukrainian artists (Jacek Malczewski, Kazimierz Sichulski, Wlastimil Hofman, Oleksa Novakivskyi, Yulian Butsmaniuk) on religious subjects. The sacralisation of village children in Central and Eastern European art constitutes a peculiar artistic phenomenon closely associated with the social structure as well as political situation in the region. In the course of the research we employed a range of methods—formal, iconographical, iconological analysis, content analysis and semiological analysis.