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Foundling Museum reopens with Hogarth, Gainsborough


Thomas Coram, painted by Hogarth
? Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum

The Foundling Museum has reopened, and displays fully restored interiors hung with paintings by Hogarth, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Wilson, Roubiliac and Rysbrack as they would have been seen by visitors to the original Foundling Hospital in the 1700s.

It's a unique story, how the childless Captain Thomas Coram, returned from voyages to America, found abandoned children in London streets and opened his home to them. When he went on to build a large refuge for them in 1739, his work caught the imagination of his friend Hogarth, also childless, who donated his paintings to the cause. Handel donated concerts and a copy of the Messiah.

Other artists followed suit. Patrons who visited the premises to see the paintings ended up helping to support the children, hundreds of children by then. The synergy between children, patrons, and artists led to the very first British art gallery and, in 1768, to the Royal Academy. Only a scriptwriter could dream up such a tale.

The Foundling Museum, at 40 Brunswick Square, is next door to Coram Family which continues Thomas Coram’s pioneering work with vulnerable children.