Ellen Key argues that what others viewed to be proof of the noble thoughts that were still in mankind, her conviction was the opposite and that a greater representation of the child was needed. In the book called the ‘Century of the Child Key presents that the children should be the central theme of society. The reasoning behind why she advocates for the children to be given such importance in discussion is because children were often represented in the art and artistic displays as beings that were coddled and protected. The very sense of the child as depicted in these art was much different from the complex studies of children that are being carried on now. The way the adult world viewed the children was much different from how they view them now. [ Johnson, Dorothy. “Engaging Identity: Portraits of Children in Late Eighteenth-Century European Art.” Fashioning Childhood in the Eighteenth Century: Age and Identity (2006): 101-116.]This caused an increasing distance in understanding the child. Was there a necessity for the century of the child to exist as Ellen Key claims, will be the central theme of discussion in this paper. The paper argues that the representation of children from 19th century European oil painting to early 20th century aimed to create multiple meanings for the adult or a situation surrounding the adult, and in doing so removes the context of the child.
In the context of the nineteenth to early twentieth century pictures and photographs, the focus on children was seen to be significant. However this focus on the child was situated in a family context. The child was not represented as a separate entity itself. The family structure during the industrial revolution and the family structures before were often intense topics of discussion. There was much social change created that brought into context the discussion on family structures and morals. In analyzing the new art of French artists Duncan presents how French artists and writers were often obsessed with the presentation of virtues to the public that will enrapture them. In this the concept of the mother, the father, the familial setting occupied center stage. The child here is often used to represent these virtues.