October 17, 2013 / 6:30 PM
Michael Lasser, music historian and host of National Public Radio's "Fascinatin' Rhythm" will
present a talk on "Angels & Urchins: Childhood in 19th-Century American Song."
Inspired by John Singer Sargent's painting Portraits of Edouard and Marie-Louise Pailleron,
(1881), in the Art Center's permanent collection, Michael Lasser returns to Des Moines to speak
about the deepening commitment to family life and the values of domesticity in the second half
of the 19th century. With it came the discovery of childhood as a time of life with its own identity,
leading to a responsibility to provide nurturing and love, a commitment to universal public
education, and increasing agitation against child labor. Many of these attitudes appear in the
Sentimental Ballads of the day. They portray children as playful or moralistic innocents, but also
as the victims of child labor, alcoholism, disease, and tenement living. They appear as angels
whose innocence makes them unfit for this dark world or street urchins tough and joyful enough
to survive in the city streets.