The Foundling Hospital was established by Captain Thomas Coram, (painted here by William Hogarth in 1740). Many other artists have contributed to the museum over years: Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and in more recent times, Grayson Perry.
Coram, a retired mariner, was appalled at the state of street urchins, destitute families and orphans and lobbied the rich and the authorities to establish a care home for them. (Thomas Coram)
(Captain Thomas Coram, Founder of Foundling Hospital by William Hogarth 1740)
Of poignancy is the display of remembrance tokens left by mothers with their child at the hospital. These were for the child to remember their mother by and as an identification for the mother to collect her child back should her circumstances improve. 100s of such tokens can still be seen at the museum. (Foundling Museum)
A painting hanging in the stairway is particularly striking. ‘A Pinch of Poverty’ 1891 by Thomas-Benjamin Kennington (1856 – 1916). A wet winter’s day. A mother of three (Notice her ring finger, where is her husband?). The boy looking quite unwell and tired clutching a daffodil head. His sister dressed in the familiar clothes of the poor, is trying to sell daffodils to the viewer for a few pence.
Kennington was a genre social – realist painter. He must have been touched by what he saw in the streets and the help that the Hospital was giving to children. We have a great story here: who are they? Where are they from? What is the state of their health? Will they live much longer? Where in London is this situated?
The painting is a little idealistic but nevertheless it remains as a valuable contribution to the nation’s conscience and must have pricked the emotions of the rich and influential patrons who viewed it.