Andre-Henri Dargelas - Around The World (ca. 1906)
Ralph Hedley Laing - Barred Out (1896)
It's reassuring to know that kids have always been rambunctious, sometimes even outright unruly, during times when they'd much rather play. It does operate against a young person's nature to easily comply with authority—in this case contently sitting still through their teachers' dry classroom lectures. Today's December Double, 'Around the World' by French painter Andre-Henri Dargelas and 'Barred Out' by English painter Ralph Hedley Laing, both illustrate this rebellious spirit of youth, though the end result is more whimsical than alarming. These works don't ask us to condone their little ones' actions, but they do invite us to see their seemingly drab, institutional surroundings through their eyes. Children in masse are a powerful force, and are perhaps wiser than given credit for.
Of these two paintings, I prefer ‘Around The World’ for its strong narrative and the rich detail throughout the scene; The children situated at different points within the classroom, along with the various books and other items seen on the desks and the floor, create a more intriguing story than the more straight-forward scene depicted in ‘Barred Out’. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare these two works, given their widely different styles, but that’s how I feel. On an added note, the outlay of the classroom in ‘Barred Out’ seems extremely flat compared to that of ‘Around the World’. I also enjoy sense of weight Darfelas supplies to the hanging globe as the youngsters push and pull it across the room. Wonderful painting!