Children Bird Nesting, 1789
George Morland (British, 1763-1804)
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Charter Collectors 2007.7

Child’s Play
George Morland painted Children Bird Nesting as part of a series showing children at play. The image, which was produced as an engraving for commercial distribution, made him one of England’s most popular and well-known artists of his generation. “Bird nesting,” or the gathering of wild birds’ eggs, was a typical child’s game. Look for the boy in the tree reaching for a nest. Another little boy is ready to retrieve it and holds out his hat. Other children gather around a nest of baby birds already on the ground.

The subject reflected changing attitudes towards the education of children. Philosophers and physicians such as John Locke (1632 – 1704) began to advocate for outdoor play as a critical part of a child’s development.