Across Time & Space
Across Time & Space: Multicultural Representations of Girlhood is a survey of girl images from the beginning of recorded civilization to the present. We have put together images from many cultures and eras to see how girls have been represented in different ways. Certainly no singular image is indicative of an entire cultural viewpoint, thus we have utilized specific and general examples where appropriate.
As many societies do not record lasting representations of people, especially children, and others still have yet to really be thoughtfully examined, this exhibition is necessarily considerate of what images are accessible and informative on the themes we would like to illuminate. There are noticeable gaps both in our show and in the art historical record. This is due to a lack of primary research as well as availability of digital images.
What can we learn from these images about the lives of girls in the past?
Human beings are essentially the same animals we were over 10,000 years ago, though we have a great deal more stuff, and anxieties about said stuff. While much is conjecture and assumption, it is entirely valid to imagine how one would feel when placed in girls’ shoes from a thousand years ago.
Emotions are universal. We all experience joy, fear, love, compassion, and anger. We all are subject to the duties and responsibilities of our families and society.
Click on images below of girls from history. What do they say about us?
For fun activities related to this exhibit, for use at home or in the classroom, download our Across Time and Space Education Guide. This guide is aligned to US and UK educational standards.
Curator: Ashley E. Remer
Editor: Sarah Lynch
Pictorial & Copyright Researcher: Samantha Bradbeer
Exhibition Designer: Lara Band
Curriculum Writer: Miriam Musco
All image copyrights are free, diligently sought, or otherwise acknowledged.
The Mohenjo-daro dancing girl is one of the earliest existing representations of a young female in human history.
Although most cultures across North Africa painted their eyes, the black outline around an almond eye has become a trademark image of the Egyptians.
Women and children in Ancient Greece were the property of their fathers or husbands. They had very few rights or means to look after themselves outside of the family structure.
Games are a huge part of childhood. Some teach valuable skills that are put into use in the world of grown ups.
From the Roman occupation of Egypt survives a unique collection of portraits that provide unparalleled insight into individuals of that period.
Young girls are quite often shown as servants in the midst of serving their master, but this one is a Cizhou glazed ceramic stoneware, one of many known reclining child pillows.
The daughters of King Phillip of Spain, the infantas Isabella and Catalina, had their portraits painted many times throughout their girlhoods, almost always in the same type of dress.
Three Young Girls is a portrait of sisters who have a story to tell. They are each linked to the other in some way, holding hands or arm in arm, showing their sisterhood.
The Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is often interpreted as a highly psychological scene depicting a young girl reading a letter from her lover.
The yo-yo is an ancient toy. The earliest known yo-yo was made of terra cotta and dates to around 500BCE.
Many of Pietro Rotari’s portraits show buxom women with suggestive looks on their faces. La Penitente is a young girl who is either ashamed of something she has done or seen.
Countess Varvara Sheremetev was one of the richest women in Russia in the 1760s. She had a Kalmyk serf named Annushka, whom she educated.
Benin was a powerful and West African state for several hundred years, well before contact with Europeans., with distinctive artistic styles in their sculpture.
Girls are often shown performing domestic tasks. Weaving, knitting, sewing, and other textile arts are usually the realm of the female, regardless of class.
Portraits of indigenous people, especially women and girls, are on one hand renderings of distant ‘realities’, but on the other, they are exploitive and imperialistic.
In cultures that do not produce an elaborate visual record with accompanying text, there are a great many assumptions made by the original collectors of the works that can often become fact as they are re-written in successive museum catalogues.
A Connemara Girl is one of the most recognized young, barefoot goat-herders in art history. The daily life of a peasant girl in Ireland is elevated by this simple, yet powerful image.
Degas’ Int√©rieur presents a highly charged emotional scene, yet its ambiguous narrative has perplexed scholars and viewers alike.
Artist Paul Gauguin is a complicated character in the canon. In the context of girl studies, he is immensely less noble than in traditional art history.
Women and landscapes dominate much of 19th century Japanese art. Typically they are shown as docile or passive, but there were other representations of active girls as well.
Formal portraits of sisters, whether they are princesses, aristocrats or the daughters of merchants, are common throughout Western art history.
John Singer Sargent was an American expatriate artist who lived much of his life in Europe. He often painted women and girls from these circles.
Paula Modersohn-Becker was a German Expressionist painter. She painted many scenes and portraits of children, particularly little girls.
The images of girls created by Egon Schiele are entirely problematic. He is most known for images of young girls, many nude and made under questionable circumstances.
Created by the UK’s most famous anonymous street artist Banksy, Girl with Umbrella speaks of the bleak realities of a post- Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.