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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Part 2: MIR Pays Tribute to Pioneers of Early Art Education

Our society’s attitudes concerning art education for young children determine, in a sense, our future artists and the preservation and fruitful development of our culture at large; indeed, “The Child is the father of the Man” (Wordsworth). Let us pay homage to a few individuals who aided in the development of art education for young children.

The Froebelian Kindergarten

The first kindergartens mirrored 19th century art studios/classrooms, and, in turn, influenced contemporary art instruction. In terms of the evolution of art education, Froebel’s “gifts”—artful educational materials—fixed the educational focus to the life of the senses, symbolization and play/self-activity. Frank Lloyd Wright credits his early play with the “gifts”—foundational inspirations for his future designs: he wrote, "The maple wood blocks . . . are in my fingers to this day.”

"These primary forms and figures were the secret of all effects . . . which were ever got into the architecture of the world." In terms of psycho-spiritual development, interaction with the environment spurs intellectual growth “as the outgrowth of the incessant creativeness of the divine.” The child as doer/creator is the focus of art education.

Maria Montessori’s Children’s House

Art is a practice which permeates all areas of the Montessori classroom; in terms of the social art within the framework of lessons in grace and courtesy, to the art of self-mastery necessary in the “game” of silence. The directress’ artful preparation of the environment leads to the cultivation of aesthetic sensibilities within the child. The beauty of the classroom materials speaks to the active beauty of refinement through work with the Montessori materials.

Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf Education

Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, viewed creative activity as a spiritual endeavor, and felt that knowledge and spirituality dovetail through artistic expression. He held that the cultivation of an artistic mental landscape was an act of devotion—we are “raised to a higher consciousness.” Steiner believed that artistic practice is preparation for writing, and that, “Science itself must become art before it can approach the secrets of a human being.”

Franz Cizek’s School of Applied Arts

Artist Erika Giovanna Klien attended the School of Applied Arts.

Considered to be the “father of creative art teaching,” Cizek’s school of Applied Arts, Kunstgewerbeschule, broke from the dogmatic, authoritarian education typical of the early 20th century. Finding harmony with the intellectual, practical, and spiritual attributes of the Montessori Children’s House, Cizek articulated his approach: “I have extracted children from school in order to make a home for them, where they may really be children. I was the first person to talk about ‘unschooling the school’; School is only good when it… transforms itself into active life.” Cizek addressed the child as one artist to another, and encouraged “sich auszusprechen,” or self-expression. Associated with the Secessionists, Cizek sought the essential in art, and defined his educational approach as “taking off the lid.” Cizek intended his classes to be “training ground for the public”—to help the public gain aesthetic appreciation.

Loris Malaguzzi and Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia program, founded by Loris Malguzzi in 1946, encourages children’s creative and scientific inquiry. Children’s pursuance of explications for various phenomena within the environment (including the activity within a broader social community) fosters an exchange and dialogue between fellow student scientist-artists and teachers. Children’s further self-guided exploration through hypothesis and analysis incorporates “expressive, communicative, and cognitive languages.” So-called “art work” is heralded as a “graphic language.” As the Atelierista Vea Vechi expounds, “Creativity is part of the makeup of every individual…and the reading of reality is a subjective and cooperative production, and this is a creative act.” The transformation from graphic to verbal language heralds new discoveries. The symbols in every language are the “bearers of culture.”

Our Commitment to Art Education

The professionals at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., are thoroughly committed to educating our clients concerning the analysis, conservation, and preservation of their most treasured works of art; this is evident in our work with private clients, and in our work with academic and cultural institutions, such as Dominican University and the Oregon Public Library. To speak with a certified appraiser concerning your collection, or to schedule an appointment to view works from the online gallery, please call (312) 814-8510 or email

Written and researched by Jessica Savitz

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser & Director: Farhad Radfar, ISA, AM

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: (312) 814-8510

Works Cited:

Edwards, Carolyn, ed. The Hundred Languages of Children. Greenwich: Ablex Publishing, 1998.

Macdonald, Stewart. The History and Philosophy of Art Education. New York: American Elsevier Publishing Company, 1970.

Steiner, Rudolf. Modern Art of Education. Great Barrington: Anthroposophic Press, 1961.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Evolving Views Concerning the Artistic Capabilities of the Child

“What the great artist struggles to achieve,

the child creates naturally.”—Picasso

Recently, my colleague, Justin Bergquist, posted a fascinating blog concerning the watercolors of child prodigy Keiron Williamson. I would like to explore our evolving attitudes concerning children’s art practice, education and development. What follows is by no means a comprehensive collection of children’s art theorists; rather, I sought to gather a small group of compelling thinkers from the past hundred years or so, and to showcase their varied ideas and common feelings of reverence towards the child artist—from the seven-year-old Onfim from the 13th century, to children in our current, various school curricula.

Viktor Lowenfeld: Creative and Mental Growth

Viktor Lowefeld held that art is “a language of thought” which compliments the child’s infinitely dynamic character. Children progress through the Scribbling stage, the Preschematic stage, and the Schematic stage in early childhood during artistic expression. Full art education strengthens a child’s inner-resources, developing a sense of tolerance and problem–solving skills.

Herbert Read: Education through Art

Herbert Read believed that “Education for art is education for peace.” The art community’s increasing regard for primitive art within the context of modern art led to the aesthetic appreciation of children’s art—in which the “elementary is always the most vital.” Read asserted a belief in absorbing vital knowledge through artistic practice. Graphic language as a “visual grammar” which builds to constitute a “new language, a language of forms,” is a medium through which we create a meaningful dialogue—a social “organic unity.”

Rhoda Kellogg: Analyzing Children’s Art

Chart drawn by Rhoda Kellogg showing the evolution from earlier abstraction to pictorial drawing. Work by three and four-year-old children.

Rhoda Kellogg scrupulously investigated over one million works of children’s art from many diverse socio-economic groups throughout the world. Her prolific research for the breadth of the artwork discussed in The Psychology of Children’s Art and Analyzing Children’s Art spanned a productive twenty year period. She discussed the anthropological, sociological, psychological, and educational implications inherent in the serious and close analysis of children’s art.

Kellogg classified certain universal modes of children’s artistic expression, beginning with twenty basic scribbles, then the creation of shapes, “combines” of shapes, “aggregates” of these combines—all leading to the creation of mandala forms—circles with radiating lines—which illumine a symmetrical understanding and an orderly harmony.

Kellogg asserted that archetypal child art motifs were a post-pictorial development of the adult mind.

Howard Gardner: Art, Mind and Brain

Howard Gardner’s cognitive approach to children’s creativity aids us in understanding the link between children’s artistry and general developmental progress. Through creative practice, children become cognizant of cultural symbols, and how to manipulate these symbols to combine them in original arrays. In this way, children are “fluent symbol-using creatures.” In terms of graphic creation and metaphor creation, children’s spontaneous, creative practice exhibits “first-draft knowledge” of what it means to be an artist. Gardner and Ellen Winner questioned 121 children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds in terms of artistic origin, production, style, and representation. The youngest children exhibited a charming, rather cosmic understanding of artistic practice (“Songs are made by God,” “A poem come out of a pen,” “The noise of a car going by is music if people like it”), while older children demonstrated an affinity for realism and literalism—a stage for analyzing aesthetics. Art history and art criticism can therefore be tailored in respect to children’s various developmental stages.

Brent Wilson

“Histories of Children’s Styles of Art: Possibilities and Prospects”

Brent Wilson poses the complex question: Can we study children’s art from an art-historical perspective? This is a difficult analytical enterprise, as preservation of children’s art is limited, and conflicting views concerning originality/individuality verses universality ensue. In terms of post-structuralist theory, children’s art across time can be viewed as “interpenetrating.” In terms of child-art “style,” we might historically investigate art in terms of period/era, school/country. Style might be formed in the collective unconscious, forming a subtle coherence between child artists.

One of the earliest child artists whose work we have preserved is that of Onfim (1224-1238), whose images were drawn on the bark of birch trees.

We can see certain qualities of style (bulb-like shaped shoulders, rake-hands, line-nose).

In the latter drawing—Onfim as a warrior, atop a horse. The art of the Dutch Johannes from about 1520 exhibits a style similar to the child’s portrait within Caroto’s Portrait of a Boy with Drawing from 1520. Wilson emphasizes the importance of the preservation of children’s art “upon which a subdiscipline of art history might be developed.”

At MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., we seek to understand art in terms of its historical and social contexts. Additionally, look for my follow-up blog in which MIR will pay tribute to pioneers of early art education.

The certified professionals at MIR will reverently approach the appraisal of your most treasured art. To speak with a certified appraiser concerning your collection, or to schedule an appointment to view works from our online gallery, please call (312) 814-8510 or email

Written and researched by Jessica Savitz

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser & Director: Farhad Radfar, ISA, AM

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: (312) 814-8510

Works Cited:

Gardner, Howard. Art, Mind and Brain. New York: Basic Books, 1982.

Kellogg, Rhoda. Analyzing Children’s Art. Palo Lato: National Press Books, 1970.

Lowenfeld, Viktor. Creative and Mental Growth. New York: Macmillan, 1987.

Read, Herbert. Education through Art. London: Faber and Faber, 1943.

Wilson, Brent, ed. The History of Art Education. New York: Washington Square Press, 1985.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.