Once I drew like Raphael,"" Picasso said, ""but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like children."" And,...

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Once I drew like Raphael,"" Picasso said, ""but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like children."" And, indeed, the drawings of young children are widely prized as vibrant and decorative. But are they art or happy accidents? And why does the energy and exuberance that characterize them give way to a flat, even dreary realism in the early school years? In this engrossing, vividly illustrated work, psychologist Gardner builds from the discoveries of several disciplines--psychology, education, anthropology; uses the drawings of children (including his own) for attractive corroboration; and successfully ventures along the pathways of art history (cave paintings, da Vinci's notebooks, Meyer Schapiro) for additional revelation. Essentially, he connects what is known about child development--the challenges confronted at each stage--to the young artist: for example, the child begins to use materials to create something satisfying at the time he is striving to achieve autonomy apart from his caretaker. Or, again, at the time that pre-schooler exuberance yields to a concern for precision, the child is preoccupied with exactness in other areas, such as language, play (rule-rigid games), and morality (superhero and fairy tale themes). That willingness to explore media can resurface in adolescence, when art may resume as a form of self-expression; the examples here show considerable promise. Throughout, Gardner skillfully handles an abundance of materials, giving each factor appropriate weight and ascendancy; and in analyzing the works of individual children he incorporates individual history as well-brothers that draw, books in the house, etc. It's a subtle, resourceful interplay of evidence and intuition--richly rewarding in itself and, for children's art enthusiasts, a treasury of appealing squiggles and tadpole men.

Pub Date: April 18, 1980

ISBN: 0465004555

Page Count: -

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980