Rachel Emily Taylor
Finding Foundlings is part of a Ph.D. project and artist residency based at the Foundling Museum, which aims to reconstruct the missing ‘voice’ of the historical child through art practice. Children, like the foundlings, are rarely vocal in historical documentation. In the archival records, their voices are covered, masked or ventriloquised by adults.
The paintings exhibited in Testing Testing are the outcome of a series of workshops led by Rachel Emily Taylor working with children aged between five and fourteen years old.1 Alongside the images, the children’s voices chime in time with the hospital clocks as they read through names, as if answering to a classroom register.
During the workshops, although the contemporary children did not appear to empathise with the foundlings on the surface, there appears to be a connection in their paintings. The foundling children appear to stare out from the image with wideeyes and closed mouths as if ‘voice-less’. In these images, each child has captured the face of a foundling from their imagination. These lost and forgotten children reappear, as if they had been photographed.
Each painting is a portrait of two people: the child artist and the foundling child they seek to recreate.
1 This is a poignant age group since it was at this age that the foundlings were residents in the hospital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The children lived in the hospital from the age of five, after leaving their foster families, and remained until the age of fourteen when they entered into an apprenticeship.