Childhoods Past
Children's art of the twentieth century

A National Gallery of Australia Travelling Exhibition in collaboration with the Queensland University of Technology and Macquarie University


Claude Panka Aeroplane 1938 (detail)
Frances Derham Collection
National Gallery of Australia

View the Frances Derham Collection

Childhoods Past features children's drawings and paintings collected by Frances Derham (1894 -1987), artist and educational pioneer. Her unique and important collection of children's art from Australia and around the world, gathered over more than half a century was donated to the people of Australia in 1975 and is held at the National Gallery of Australia.

Frances Derham was widely known in Melbourne for her work in art education through a 40-year career as a teacher of preschool and primary school children and as an art lecturer in various teacher training courses. Throughout her career her influence on child-centred art education was significant both in Australia and internationally. Her book Art for the Child under Seven (first published in 1961 by the Australian Pre-School Association) continues to be used in tertiary courses.

This exhibition comprises 80 works on paper. The images depicted include personal and cultural identity, family and school life, social and political events by children from:

Support material includes wall text panels with historical photographs, and 6 of Frances Derham's own works of art from the Australian Print collection at the National Gallery of Australia.

As a practising artist herself Frances Derham produced several hundred drawings, paintings, prints and collages. Examples of her prints are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria. Her favourite subjects were children, indigenous people and the Australian bush.

The National Gallery's Frances Derham Collection of Child Art has served as the subject of research for scholars, and parts of the collection have been exhibited. Childhoods Past: Children's art of the twentieth century travelling exhibition ensures that this important collection of children's art continues to be accessible to the wider community and promotes the importance, value and significance of art education across the lifespan.