In art history, before the end of the eighteenth century, the child as an independent subject matter hardly existed. The child usually appeared symbolically or allegorically as cupid, putti, or an angel. The child also appeared as a miniature adult as in the depiction of young gods, kings, or, in Christianity, Jesus. This, however, was to change with the advent of the Romantic Movement in Europe. Around 1800, artists, such as William Blake, Louis Leopold Boilly, and Phillip Otto Runge, began to have children appear as individuals in their works, disconnected from their previous symbolic baggage. The image of this now liberated child was one that promised innocence, freedom, and curiosity. However, now made mortal, there was also the necessary introduction of emotions, sexuality, and the prospect of pain, suffering, and death.
Robert Flynn Johnson
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
on the occasion of the exhibition The Child - Works by Gottfried Helnwein, 2004