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Basic Instincts

Foundling Museum, London

29 Sep 2017 - 7 Jan 2018

A highly successful artist and governor of London’s Foundling Hospital, Joseph Highmore is best known as a portrait painter of the Georgian middle class. However, during the 1740s his art radically shifted, reflecting his engagement with the work of the new Foundling Hospital and its mission to support desperate and abused women. ‘Basic Instincts’ is the first major Highmore exhibition for 50 years and explores this decade of disruptive social commentary in his art. On public display in the UK for the first time, The Angel of Mercy (c. 1746), depicts a desperate mother in the act of killing her baby, with the distant Foundling Hospital presented as the alternative. Set among Highmore’s tender portraits of mothers and children, family and friends, this show uniquely demonstrates the artist’s depth and variety. Find out more about the ‘Basic Instincts’ exhibition from the Foundling Museum’s website.

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The Angel of Mercy (c. 1746), Joseph Highmore. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The Angel of Mercy (c. 1746), Joseph Highmore. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The Vigor Family (1744), Joseph Highmore. © Victoria and Albert Museum

The Vigor Family (1744), Joseph Highmore. © Victoria and Albert Museum

The Artist’s Family (c. 1730), Joseph Highmore. © Private collection / Bridgeman Images

The Artist’s Family (c. 1730), Joseph Highmore. © Private collection / Bridgeman Images

Pamela in the Bedroom with Mrs Jewkes and Mr B. (from Four Scenes from Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; 1743–44), Joseph Highmore. © Tate, London 2015

Pamela in the Bedroom with Mrs Jewkes and Mr B. (from Four Scenes from Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; 1743–44), Joseph Highmore. © Tate, London 2015

Mr Oldham and his Guests (c. 1735–45), Joseph Highmore. © Tate, London 2015

Mr Oldham and his Guests (c. 1735–45), Joseph Highmore. © Tate, London 2015

Event website