Exhibiting children at risk: child art, international exhibitions and Save the Children Fund in Vienna, 1919-1923

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In November 1920 an exhibition of children's art by the pupils of Franz Cizek's Viennese Juvenile Art Class opened to the public in London under the auspices of the Save the Children Fund and went on to tour internationally. Supported by a network of influential educators, artists, architects, political and humanitarian activists, the exhibition represents an early example of a practice that became increasingly common during the twentieth century: the exhibiting of the art of children at risk from the effects of war by activists and non-governmental aid agencies as a mechanism for raising public awareness and financial support for issues of child protection. This article will tell two intertwined stories. The first, and the primary focus of the article, concerns the exhibition as a humanitarian intervention in child relief in post-First World War Vienna. Second, it briefly tells the story of the exhibition as an educational intervention that influenced the teaching of art in Britain and the USA. The article evaluates the success, or otherwise, of the exhibition in meeting its organisers' aims. In so doing it explores the network of activists that supported the exhibition, and some of the methodological issues involved in mapping, researching and understanding the web of connections among a group of individuals which at first sight appears very disparate. Finally, historians are increasingly engaging with different methodologies and underused historical sources to counter the silences surrounding children's testimonies in the archive. By comparing the 1920 exhibition with later examples, which represent explicit attempts to exhibit the work of children in war as a means of disseminating their impressions of conflict and their hopes for future peace and international cooperation, the article hopes to make a contribution to this debate by demonstrating that exhibitions of children's artwork are valuable sites for exploring the emergence of the child's voice through art.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-190
Number of pages20
JournalPaedagogica Historica
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • networks
  • women activists
  • Child art
  • child protection


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