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Real Families - Exhibition Catalogue

Real Families - Exhibition Catalogue

The Fitzwilliam Museum

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Real Families: Stories of Change, edited by Susan Golombok

With contributions from Mary Beard, Rebecca Birrell, Dorothy Byrne, Pasco Fearon, Susan Golombok, Alex Graham, Katy Hessel, Claire Hughes, Jackie Kay, Olivia Laing, Rosie Millard and Andrew Solomon

What is a family? And how is family experienced? These questions, explored through artists’ eyes, are at the heart of the exhibition, Real Families: Stories of Change, a collaboration between the Fitzwilliam Museum and the University of Cambridge Centre for Family Research. The book provides a catalogue of the exhibition in four sections, containing twelve illuminating essays that discuss the concept of the family. 

Real Families: Stories of Change focuses on art produced in the past 50 years, a period of significant change in how families are created and structured, with historical works woven into the exhibition to examine what is genuinely new, and what has remained the same, about the family. The catalogue includes reproductions of paintings, photography and sculpture.

Product details: 

  • Softback exhibition catalogue, 160 pages
  • Illustrated in full colour
  • Size: 28 x 24 cm
  • ISBN: 9781913645519
  • Published by Paul Holberton in October 2023

About Real Families: Stories of Change

Bringing together more than 120 artworks within the Fitzwilliam, spanning painting, photography, sculpture and film, Real Families: Stories of Change asks us to consider what makes a family today, and the impact our families have on us, through the eyes of contemporary artists.

Alongside major UK and international loans, the exhibition also features historic works by artists including Joshua Reynolds, Nicolas Poussin and Albrecht Dürer to reveal how family life has been portrayed throughout art history. Works by contemporary artists such as Aliza Nisenbaum and JJ Levine challenge the traditional notion of family as made up of two married heterosexual parents and their biological children, while portraits by Celia Paul and Lucian Freud remind us that every family changes over time.

Artists Jim Goldberg, Tracey Emin and Paula Rego are among those whose work challenges the typical ideas of ‘happy’ and ‘unhappy’ families, instead revealing how families are a product of relationships between family members and the environments they live in. Cathy Wilkes, Hardeep Pandhal and others look at how each family leaves its imprint on the next generation – through biological, social and cultural influences.

A spotlight on artist Chantal Joffe brings together ten of her paintings made over the past two decades, capturing the joys, tensions and complexities of her family experience and inviting us to explore the intricacies of modern family relationships.

Developed in collaboration with the world-leading Centre for Family Research in Cambridge, Real Families shows us that what matters most is not the make-up of the family but the quality of family relationships and the social world in which the family exists.

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