Joaquín Callabed reviews the history of art and childhood through the eyes of 25 universal painters

Joaquín Callabed, president of the Spanish Social Paediatrics Club and elected academician of the Royal European Academy of Doctors-Barcelona 1914 (RAED), delivered on May 8 at the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia the conference “Arte y medicina: 25 pintores se acercan a la infancia (de Murillo a Picasso)” (Art and medicine: 25 painters approach childhood (from Murillo to Picasso)), where he reviewed well-known works that approach children’s themes to analyse them from both a medical and artistic point of view.

The academician began by quoting Murillo in his painting “La anciana despulgando a un niño y un perrito” (The old woman discarding a child and a puppy). Callabed defined him as a pioneer in Spanish painting in reflecting children enjoying freedom. From Goya reviewed the work “El garrotillo”(Diphtheria), which describes the drama of a father trying to tear the diphtheritic plates from his son’s throat. He also introduced realist painters like Fildes, Knaus, Cotman, Anker, Bouland, Bouguereau and Verhas in his exquisite painting “The Little Painter”, which he discovered on a visit to the museums of Ghent. All of them, he said, bring love to nature and respect, admiration and beauty to the children’s environment.

He described the important contributions of Nordic painters such as Edelfelt, Ancher, Larsson and the Norwegian expressionist Munch. Among the painters of naturalist theme, he highlighted Millet, who in his painting “The first steps” reflects her love of the countryside and childhood. In the same way that Bastien-Lepage, in his “Little Shepherd”, reflects the drama of child labour. Callabed stopped at the work of Geoffroy “The Drop of Milk in Belleville and Dr. Variot”, which explains the historical origin of this institution of great value in maternal and child health created by Léon Dufour in Fécamp (Normandy) and disseminated worldwide by Gaston Variot in 1906 at an international congress in Paris. In the Impressionist line he highlighted the artist Berthe Morisot with her work “The Cradle”.

He finished his exhibition, which consisted of 100 images, with the painter Sorolla and “La salida del baño” (Leaving the bathroom) in which in full Mediterranean light he describes a delicate and familiar children’s print. Callabed concluded by considering that art is a privileged setting to capture the beauty, the psychology and the family, school, social and health environment of childhood.