The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Drawing in Infant School.
A Study in Practical Psychology.
A famous chemist, when asked if he could account for the secret of his success, replied that he set it down to the fact that in making his experiments he was in the habit of examining the residues, which most students threw away. Now, I suppose that at first sight nothing can seem more profitless than the study of the scribblings of the lisping limners [limners, i.e., portrait artists] of the infant school. I hope, however, to prove to you that these scrawls are really worth the closest attention, because they both throw light on the teaching of drawing in general, and, what is of even more importance, are significant as illustrating the process by which the knowledge of an object grows up in the child's mind. We shall find ourselves as we watch a child drawing, introduced as it were behind the scenes, and able, to some extent, to witness the mind of the child in the act of grasping objects which are in front of its eyes.
In order to indicate to you the line of study, I will begin by describing an experiment which I made. Choosing a little girl from a class of children about six years of age, I placed her in front of the class and asked the others to draw her face. The girl stood fronting the class, and therefore was to be drawn full face. When the drawing had been made, I asked the little model to make a half turn, so that she now stood sideways before the class. I then asked the class to draw the face in the new position, i.e., in profile.
When I came to examine the results of the artists' efforts, I was surprised to find that in some cases an apparently unaccountable mistake had been made. When the model had stood full face the copy presented it in profile, and when the model had stood sideways, the copy presented it full face. If you are at a loss to understand how I judge the intention of the artist from the imperfect drawings, I call your attention to the position of the nose. When the model stands full face the nose is in the middle of the face; when the model stands sideways the nose is at the side. You see, however, that the child, in drawing the full face, has put the nose at the side, and, contrary-wise, in drawing the profile has set it in the middle.
I shall endeavour to explain the cause of this strange discrepancy. As the first step in this explanation, allow me to direct your attention to two drawings of a tin mug. The model was set up as before, in two positions successively. In the first position, the handle was seen in the middle--that is, fore-shortened. You see that in the drawing, the handle appears at the side instead of in the middle. In the second position, the handle again appears at the side, where it should be. There is a slight difference in the two drawings, for the handle is not placed on the same side in both.
All this is curious, perhaps you will say, but what valuable lesson are you going to derive from these juvenile absurdities? When we look at an object, an image appears in our minds as soon as we take our eyes off it. Have we any evidence as to the nature of this image? We think of two things--one thing is the image in the mind, the other is the object which gave rise to the image, and which we picture to ourselves as wholly outside the mind. Can we tell what is the degree of correspondence between that which we call outer and that which we call inner. Again, do we know exactly how the mental picture is formed? Can we, for example, say with certainty whether the mental image is constructed bit by bit, growing up in the mind by degrees; or should we rather say that it is received by the mind as a whole, in the same way that the impression of a seal is received on wax at one pressure? Many people seem to think that the eye instructs the mind by a kind of "look and say" method. "If," it is often said, "a primrose be placed before the eye of the child, an image of that flower will be stamped on the child's mind," and it is thought that, whether the child can give a name to it or not, he sees the whole object correctly. If this be true, it follows that a child has only to look long enough at an object in order to procure an accurate mental image of it. Learning direct from nature thus seems a very simple thing, and words appear to be less of a help than a hindrance to knowledge. We are also led by this hypothesis to contrast knowledge of words with knowledge of things, and to insist that, if the student knows things, the words will take care of themselves.
Now, philosophy since its dawn has forever been pointing out the difficulty of accepting the seeming truism that the mind is to the object as a blank sheet of paper to a printer. Common sense, on the other hand, has continually revolted from the conclusions of philosophers, who appear to it to contend that men do not touch the tangible nor see the visible. The history of teaching, on the other hand, seems rather to support the judgment of philosophy than that of popular opinion and common sense. Practical teachers have usually found that children learn so little through the senses that they have almost entirely abandoned the attempt to fill the mind by aid of those channels. Even now, for example, most people will teach a table of weights before giving the children any practice in weighing. Teachers have shown a profound mistrust of the senses, and seem, in despair, to have abandoned all reliance on them as a basis of learning. It seems, however, that the arguments of philosophers can be submitted to practical tests. We can, to some extent, form an estimate of the accuracy of the information which is derived from what I have called the "look and say" method of studying nature. We can make experiments and ascertain the correctness of the mental image which is formed in the child's mind when he examines an object. We can give some answer to the question, "When a child's mental image of an object is compared with the object itself, how far will it stand the test of the comparison?" We can make a visible and tangible measurement of the mental gain after the eye has been at work receiving impressions from an object.
It is the study of the drawings of children that throws light on this obscure subject. The crude draughtsmanship of a child helps us to estimate the correspondence between his mental image of an object and the original, and to measure his power of improving, enlarging and correcting the picture which he sees within.
It will be observed that we are making a study of the images of objects received through the eye, and therefore we must be careful as to the nature of the drawings which we study. What the child draws in jest, or for amusement, or by any effort of imagination, must be excluded. The method of observation will be to set up some simple object before a child and to bid him draw it just as he sees it. A French philosopher, M. Passy, has made experiments in this direction, and has published them in a recent number of the Revue Philosophique. My aim in this paper is to unfold to you the leading ideas of Mons. Passy, and to show their bearing on the study of practical psychology.
There are two kinds of children who will be experimented on. Some will have already been in the habit of drawing things; others will never have held a pencil in their hands before. There is a considerable difference between the behaviour of the two. M. Passy thus describes the practiced hand:--"This child," he observes, "sets to work without hesitation; he seizes his pencil, secure of his power, and completes his design with a few rapid strokes; his execution is almost automatic, and nothing will induce him to study his model with attention. If you bid him look at what he is drawing, he just casts a cursory and half-contemptuous glance and then goes on quite regardless of what he has seen. His drawing is always the same, and it commences and ends at the same place. As soon as he is done, he hands you his work with an air of triumph; he is possessed of an infallible receipt, and error is out of the question: 'This is the way a horse is done; that is the way you do a man.'"
It is easy to see in the execution a certain dexterity, or at least a confidence of touch which is in amusing contrast with the absurdity of the result.
"Let me give," says M. Passy, "an account of some experiments with my own children, who had already been shown by their nurse or someone else, how to draw a man: Placing myself so as to be seen in profile, I asked Octavius to make a drawing of me. He draws me full face, and though my body is hidden by the table he draws my whole figure. I now place myself full face and ask him to draw me again. He does so, and hands over exactly the same result as before. In a third attempt I get a drawing of my head alone, but the infant (he is seven years old) has been put out by the change and got it wrong in consequence. He has omitted eyes, ears, hair and mouth. I remark to him, 'Have you left nothing out?' 'Nothing,' says he. 'What do we see with?' say I. 'With eyes,' says he; and, pit-pat, two little rounds go down for eyes. 'What do we eat with?' 'Our mouth.' Down go two little lines for the mouth. 'What do we hear with?' 'Our ears.' He draws an ear on the left side, and moves his pencil across to the right in order to add the second ear, but he finds the place occupied already by the nose, so he goes back and sets it beside the first ear. It is a remarkable fact that the child who has got into the habit of mechanically reproducing a conventional figure cannot rid his mind of it so as to be able to return to real observation, and hence the corrections which he makes are more unskillful than the original errors.
"Now, consider a second case. Placing myself in profile as before, I explain to Paul, a seven years child of exceptional intelligence, that, in the position in which I place myself, he can only see one eye and one ear, and, in short, only one side of my figure. He draws me as if seeing me full face--with mouth, two ears, and nose, but so far defers to facts as to leave out one eye. Presently I hear a scratching. Paul was removing an ear, because, said he, 'I see I could not see it.' The only difference which he made between the full face drawing and the profile was that, in the latter, he left out one eye and one ear. The correction was soon forgotten, for in two months, he again drew me in the same position (in profile) with two eyes and two ears.
Now, in both these cases, the children had been shown by their nurse or their mother how to draw certain objects and had been supplied with the idea of a human face which had taken possession of their minds. In regard to methods of teaching drawing, it is worth noticing how soon the eye and hand are accustomed to follow a fixed routine. The little child who has learnt to copy the drawing of an object becomes henceforth incapable of drawing it in any other position, and he cannot be got to make any improvement on his first design.
Children who have never handled a pencil before behave quite differently from those whose work has just been described. "I placed," says M. Passy, "a vase before a little girl of six years, a daughter of a peasant, who had never drawn before. It was difficult to get her to set to work. She took up her pencil, but, instead of using it, put it into her mouth, bent her head over the paper, shifted uneasily on her chair, twisted her feet round the bars, and displayed every sign of embarrassment; then she took a long look at the model and seemed to address herself as to a task of great difficulty. At last, she brings it so far as to put her pencil on the paper, but, even then, she could not make up her mind to begin. In order to make her understand what I want, I hold her hand and guide it so that she makes the outline of the vase. Then she makes an attempt of her own, although not without much hesitation and embarrassment. The result is quite formless, and I am obliged to ask her to explain the different parts which are to me incomprehensible. It was, however, some compensation to find that a second attempt, made some days afterwards, without any remark having been made about the first, displayed a striking advance. There was a most striking contrast in respect of capacity for improvement in the peasant child, who had never drawn before, and the little Paul and Octavius, who were experienced nursery artists."
M. Passy finds that, as compared with the children of wealthier people, the little peasant boys and girls are more conscientious in their drawings, bring to bear more power of attention, and make more sensible progress.
It would appear that the habit of seeing and imitating ready-drawn representations of objects blunts the edge of personal effort even in dealing with fresh objects. A very few experiments are sufficient to convince the observer of the facility with which the hand and eye fall into routine. The tendency to repetition manifests itself sometimes after even a single drawing, and this is specially the case when the drawing is left in the child's hands. In this case, the child almost always copies himself. In making experiments, therefore, of this kind, care must be taken (1) to avoid objects which the child has drawn, (2) to avoid objects which he has seen other children draw, and (3) to attend to those mistakes chiefly which recur with a certain persistency.
It will, I think, be clear that the rude representations of objects which the children make are often not taken by their authors to be true pictures of the objects, but rather conventional ways of representing them, whether designed by themselves or copied from other sources. Nevertheless, in spite of this mental reservation, there is a tendency for these pictures to act injuriously in two ways. In the first place, they soon become deeply engraven on the memory and supplant the more accurate mental images formed by the contemplation of the object; and secondly, they form a kind of mould into which all fresh observations are run, and thus prevent the child from gaining new knowledge, even by a prolonged study of the object. The imperfect mental image hinders the acquisition of knowledge, partly by preventing any attention being paid to special features, or features not previously observed; and partly because, through mental laziness, the familiar mental and conventional image of the object supplants the fresh image before it has had any permanent effect. Rapidly recognizing the object from a superficial glance, the child refers it to the type already existing in his mind, and is at no pains to acquire additional details beyond those which are already contained in that type. The child looks and learns nothing. Eyes he has, but he cannot see. The senses, which are the foundation of knowledge, are here a hindrance to it.
I have now, however, to revert to the drawing of the face and the mug with misplaced nose and handle respectively.
Some little time ago I asked a little girl to write an account of one of the pictures in her school. "In our school," she began, "there is a picture of a horse. It looks you straight in the face. I think the artist must be very clever, for anyone can draw a horse sideways; I can do that. But I cannot draw the horse when he stands so that his head is in front of his tail."
Now, one of the first results which appear from a comparison of several drawings, especially if you arrange them in tables of two columns, one of which shows the actual position of the object and the other the position drawn by the child, is this: things which are correctly drawn in one position are hopelessly incorrect in another. Moreover, different children attempting the same object err in precisely the same way.
What is the law of error?
It seems to be as follows: the drawing is correct or not, according as the visual impression is or is not in accord with the idea of the form of the object which is in the mind of the child before commencing.
The child's prepossessions are the chief source of error.
The great difficulty is the third dimension of space. The child has at his disposal only two dimensions on his paper, and he does not know how to indicate the third, which his previous knowledge acquaints him within the object which he is trying to draw.
When, for instance, the cup was set up so that the handle stood out at the side, the child drew it correctly. In the case where the handle projected towards him, and was seen, therefore, in relief, his drawing was erroneous. His action in trying to draw the cup in this position was important to note. He leaned himself sideways, forcing himself into an attitude in which he could see the object as it appeared to him in his mind. In other words, he adjusted the model to the existing mental image instead of acquiring a new mental image. In the end, he drew the handle, not as he saw it, but as he knew it to be.
It is now easier to understand how it is that in drawing a face, the child is apt to put the nose at the side when the face looks full at him. It is in accordance with a sort of law that the child sets fore-shortened parts of objects at the edge of the figure, making them full size. In some cases, the child omits the nose altogether when the face is full. The child's treatment of the eye is very interesting. Seen in profile, the eye is fore-shortened, but the child draws it as if he saw it in full face. The child only sees a part of the eye. He restores the other part as he knows it is. Curiously enough, this error is seen in the work of savages, in the quaint relics of the Mexicans, and even in the much more advanced art of the Egyptians.
In drawing the full face, it will be observed that the child makes the ears as he sees them when the head is in profile. He does not fore-shorten them. Here, again, he is reproducing an old mental image, and not one formed at the time of drawing.
I noticed one curious variation in which the child drew the side face the same as a full face, except that he made the chin point the way the face was directed. Experiments in the child's drawing of perspective produce similar results. Placing a simple box before a child full front, he drew rightly enough a rectangle. On changing the position so that he saw two sides in perspective, I got a curious drawing. He drew two separate and disconnected figures; the one a rectangle as before, and the other a square, drawn a little distance from it, intended to be a representation of the shorter side of the box. In another case, the child drew the two sides of the box in position, but did not make the more distant line smaller than the nearer one, so that perspective was omitted altogether. Of course, here again the child drew, not the object which he saw before him, but some image which he had already in his mind which was called up by a glance at the object. His eye, if he attended to what it told him, would give him the image of receding lines as smaller than nearer ones. He is, however so accustomed to make corrections in the gifts of his senses that he cannot grasp the object as it presents itself to him in nature, but sees only the corrected image of it. The mind falsifies the impression which it receives through the sense of sight.
As might perhaps be expected, it is very hard to convince a child as to what he really does see. The previously acquired mental image overpowers the present impression altogether, and nothing is learnt from the latter.
Mons. Passy tested the matter by showing the children a photograph of a funnel with the neck fore-shortened; they think it is a nosegay. A flat-iron with the handle turned to the front they pronounce to be a bell. Yet drawings of these same objects, however rudely executed by one child, are recognized with ease by another.
The great difficulty in object teaching is to help the child to interpret the gifts of the sense correctly; and so hard is this, as I have said, that many authorities seem inclined to abandon the attempt and resume the medieval devotion to literary studies. If then, perspective is so hardly recognized, what shall we say of drawing copies in which it is deliberately falsified? I give here a drawing of a house in which this is the case, and I can only say that you might as well expect to help children to draw by such copies as these as to aid children to pick out different colours if you put on them a pair of blue spectacles.
Another feature in the drawings of infants is the difficulty which they experience in grasping the relative proportion of parts. A cup, for instance, which is wider than it is high, will be drawn in converse proportion. Perhaps this is again an instance of the error before indicated. Cups are not usually wider than deep, and the child draws, not the cup before him, but the more usual picture which is already established in his mind as a fixed type, and is called up by the hasty view of the particular cup which you show him.
Details, again, are exaggerated. The child delights in caricature and in the grotesque, far more than lovers of pure art could wish. I show you a drawing done by a sharp boy of six after nature. The various parts seem to me good, and the face was really like the boy who stood as model. But the proportions are absurd. Anyone who has noticed the picture of the Battle San Egidio, by Paolo Uccello, in the National Gallery, must have noticed with surprise the contrast between the drawing of the horses and of the men. The men in armour are admirably painted, but the horses are quite ridiculous. It seems that it was an innovation in the fourteenth century to paint horses, and competition had not sharpened the artist's powers of observation and execution. The toy-like horses in this picture remind me of children's drawings. Children seem to paint details, and the object is hardly realized as a whole. The child has not learnt to keep two parts in the mind at the same time. One detail is not subordinated to another in the field of vision as it is in nature. A clear instance of the isolation of details in the child's mind, which are really parts of one whole, is well shown in the drawing of an oblong and a square, some space apart, to stand for the two sides of a box seen in perspective. In drawing a head, nearly all beginners make the upper part much too small compared with the lower; they do not allow for brain. So too, the mouth is almost always set too low.
Besides the difficulty of holding two, and still more, a number of separate points in the mind at once and duly subordinating one to the other, there is the difficulty caused by attention to that which most attracts attention. A point that specially attracts attention tends to be exaggerated. If, as seems to be the case, the perception of the whole object is one mental act, then the part of the object which absorbs most of the mental activity looms proportionately larger than the rest.
But the lessons which we have had in a perception furnish us with another reason why the drawing of beginners is so strangely inexact. In all perception, in every act of perceiving, the law of economy holds. We pay attention, not to all the impressions which we could receive from an object, but only to such a number as may be sufficient to enable us to recognise it. Hence, of the most familiar objects we often have the least detailed images in our minds; and though we should recognise our father sooner than any other man in a crowd, yet we might find it easier to draw a sketch from memory of a striking stranger, once seen, than a memory picture of our father, whom we know so well. Indeed, familiarity, so far from providing us with more exact mental pictures, tends to set up a process of denudation of detail, and to leave in the mind a bare abstraction of the object. Because the child is less self-conscious, he sets down on paper these meagre residues of observations in a way that older persons are ashamed to do, and hence the value of the drawings of children to the student of psychology. The child does not draw the result of his impressions at the moment, but only the abbreviation of them which exists in his mind, and is called up by a glance at the object. What a child draws is really an indication of the contents of his mind in regard to an object, and there is no doubt that the attempt to draw an object, and the subsequent comparison of the drawing with the model, does define and complete the mental image of the object drawn.
I will now endeavour to put together a few lessons which may be derived from my study of Infants' Drawing. In the first place, I wish to defend the Kindergarten drawing on square ruled paper. It is, to begin with, a happy and an absorbing occupation; were it no more, it would be valuable for this alone. But it is much more. Children can early learn from it what is the use and meaning of symmetry, and this without technical language.
Anyone who has seen what clever geometrical patterns children can draw from their own designs, with a little encouragement of the right sort, will see a valuable introduction through Kindergarten drawing, to weaving and flower gardening and many other crafts. A gardener, for instance, visited the Raw Nook Infant School to see after his child, and was so struck with some of the Kindergarten patterns designed by the infants that he copied them for his own use. "Shall I," said a young woman to the teacher who was beginning to instruct her in weaving--"Shall I find it hard to learn?" "Well," said he, "have you ever learnt to do any Kindergarten work? If so, it is easier for you to learn." The point to remember is that Frobel was much interested in crystallography and its connection with geometrical forms. All Kindergarten drawing which is not founded on geometrical forms is debased, and not according to the idea of the founder. Symmetry is not the same thing as proportion, but is of even greater practical value in every-day life, and is as useful to a girl laying a tea-table as to an architect. I may mention, however, two common errors which children should be taught to avoid. They should mark the beginning and end of each line by a slight dot, and then join them by one swift, firm, light stroke. The mistakes which children make are that they draw from square to square, lengthening their line piece-meal and breaking up one line into little pieces, and they press heavily on the pencil. The just balance of masses is, no doubt, of more consequence in painting than mere symmetrical correctness, but an appreciation of symmetry leads on to an appreciation of harmonious disposition of masses of light and shade.
"But," it will be said, "do you recommend curved lines on the square ruled paper? A geometrical curve is wholly different from the artistic line of beauty, or the curve of natural forms, such as the outline of leaves and the curve of their veining." My answer is that the curve of a leaf is indeed different from a geometrical curve, but there is much reason to think that the natural form is, after all, based on the geometrical. The lovely frost forms, for example, which we see in winter on the window-panes, resemble, though with an important difference, the natural forms of leaves. As a rule, the frost foliage is stiff and formal, but when the crystals are formed under certain conditions, the shapes are almost as free flowing as natural forms.
I refer the reader to an example of this, which will be found in Nature for December 8th, 1902. Mr. Ruskin, in his "Elements of Drawing," has well pointed out the difference between graceful and ungraceful curvature. He says that a graceful curve approaches in some part of its course to straightness, and that it varies, never remaining equal in degree at different parts of its course. Thus there is a steady change from less to more curvature, or from more to less, but no part of the line is the segment of a circle, and therefore cannot be drawn by compasses. Now, the curves that can be most readily drawn on square ruled paper are doubtless false from an artistic point of view, because they approach to segments of circles; but, on the other hand, by the aid of these squares it is not hard to get quite young children to draw very creditable circles and half-circles, in itself a useful accomplishment, although not for artistic purposes. I have with me some circles about five inches across, which have been drawn by children without mechanical aid. I think, however, that these regular curves may be used as an introduction to the artistic curves of growing and living forms, such as the branches of trees, the veins of leaves or the shape of fruit, like a pear. My reason is as follows:--a number of crystals adhering together, as in frost flowers, present a very regular appearance, no doubt, but if they are separated a little by moisture and acted upon by wind or other force while they are being built together, the resulting form has much of the charm of irregularity and arbitrariness within limits which so please us in living and growing forms. The best way, however, to understand the living form is to study the geometrical form of which it is a more beautiful variation. Leaves and flowers of geometrical curve are false to nature, but if, when such forms have been drawn, they are contrasted with the living and growing forms, which I believe to be modifications of them, the young students may be taught to seize the difference and draw the freer curves after having mastered the more easily drawn geometrical curves. I show you an example of the way in which some teachers make use of geometrical shapes--in this case, a cylinder--to enable children to draw cylindrical objects like trunks of trees, a lighthouse, and a sea anemone. The system is thoroughly carried out in the so-called Prang system, which has been adopted in some American schools.
It is my belief that it is of great consequence to establish early in the mind of a child conceptions of symmetry, such as, I think, drawing on square ruled paper leads to. Mr. Symonds affirms that even in Michael Angelo, a want of symmetrical design in his compositions remained with him throughout his life. We have seen how large a share the mind has in combining the impressions which it receives from the outside, and we can understand how important are the early images which a child learns to construct for itself in interpreting impressions. Geometrical patterns, both in curved and straight lines, seem to me the best foundation for this all-important sense of symmetry which helps us in so many duties in daily life.
On the other hand, to draw on square ruled paper objects in false perspective is a huge mistake. You are furnishing the young child with false impressions, which he will have the greatest difficulty in unlearning, and which, meanwhile, vitiates his observation of nature in a hundred ways. You make it ten times harder for him to interpret the gift of his senses, and even lead him to mistrust them unfairly, because you have made him misinterpret them by the false form of vision which you have supplied him with.
On square ruled paper only geometrical shapes should be attempted by young children when they commence, and all those modifications of artistic shapes of vases and other graceful objects which have to be reshaped to fit the squares, thereby losing all their grace, should be avoided most scrupulously. There is no connection between the artistic shape and the modified form. As I have said, however, geometrical forms which almost by accident resemble leaves, flowers, or fruit, seem to be more legitimate, because, if they are compared with the living forms, the difference between the two may be readily explained, and the relation of the growing and varying form to the lifeless crystalline shape maybe made easy and interesting.
Our studies in infants' drawing again seem to indicate that it is a mistake to set young children to copy outline drawings of objects before they have tried to draw the objects themselves or carefully examined them in nature. In the first place, flat copies of objects have this inherent defect, that they shirk the third dimension difficulty. To suppress the difficulty of fore-shortening seems a bad way of helping the child to master it. Secondly, these drawings are sure to prevent the children from forming an independent idea of the object drawn. They will not henceforth see the object with their own eyes, but only with the limited, and often imperfect, vision of another. They will not eye nature, but only a copy of nature. In order to master the use of the pencil, let the children practice geometrical patterns first of all, and not copy drawings of natural forms. As soon as children can use the pencil, it is possible to get them to draw from nature. I think a teacher might place before the child a large water jar, or some piece of pottery, large, bold, and of good shape. She might ask the children to draw the model, and then, by way of correction, instead of correcting the mistakes with a pencil, rather endeavour to point out to the child where he has failed in making a true image in his mind of the real shape of the object. The aim of the teacher should be to help the scholar to use his eyes to a better purpose. If she corrects the child's lines herself, she makes him more lazy in using her eyes, and less attentive to detail and characteristic features. The teacher may build up the shape herself on the blackboard before the children, showing step by step how the eye may be aided to measure the object and the hand to set down the symmetry of the parts truly by use of dots and guiding lines.
The habit of drawing on square ruled slates acquired by working out geometrical patterns will greatly assist the child when he afterwards begins to set out points and guiding lines for drawing objects. But in thus drawing an object before the class the object should itself be exhibited and studied in detail. Many children who after all, fail to draw correctly, may, nevertheless, improve their mental image of the object by aid of the drawing lesson instead of deteriorating it; and art masters who take in hand young persons of sixteen will not find that they have to commence work by teaching their pupils to unlearn. Unsuccessful attempts may, when they fail to produce a work of art, nevertheless increase the blunderer's science by increasing his knowledge of the object.
As a variation, I think it is very useful to teach young children to draw by aid of rule and compass. Let them make large circles and then draw diameters crossing at right angles, thus making a frame for a square. They can also draw pentagons and hexagons in the same way--that is, inside circles. They can learn to rule their lines of given length (two, three, four inches, and so forth), and get preliminary notions of measurement.
Lastly, I would recommend to the attention of all teachers the valuable letter of Mr. Herkommer's [in an online book of Rooper's collected works, this letter is attributed to Sir L. Alma Tadema] in the February number of Hand and Eye, 1893, in which he calls attention to the value of brush drawing. Those who wish children to learn to take in and love the grace of growing forms will realize how much more readily the reproduction of them may be made by the sweep of the brush than by the stroke of the pencil.
In all civilized nations, every child is taught to draw. If we ask with what object are they taught drawing, it is important to notice that two answers are possible. A parent who gets instruction in drawing for his child may desire either of two things, or both of them. He may desire his son to become an artist, or he may desire him to be able to draw what he sees--that is, in other words, to become a draughtsman. The two callings may be combined, but are really quite distinct. We have great draughtsmen, like Sowerby--who painted objects for works on natural history--whose pictures would be excluded from Burlington House; and we have a great artist like Lady Waterford, whose draughtsmanship was often imperfect.
The main use of teaching drawing to ordinary children is to make them draughtsmen rather than artists, and the teaching of drawing should be like all other studies, an aid to the training of the mind. By drawing objects, children should learn to improve, enlarge and define their mental impressions of them, and this they can only do if they are taught by people who are accustomed to observe objects. It is not the aim of parents to make their children into bad artists. Are there as many as ten artists of high rank in a million of the population? An artist satisfies who can give us an harmonious and pleasing arrangement of colour, in a picture which suggests something to our mind. We do not ask for photographic work from an artist, although, indeed, it is true that some pictures at Burlington House do remind us of bits of second-hand photographs enlarged and coloured, but they are not art. The teaching of drawing which we want in schools is largely and education of the eye, and this means a sharpening of the observing powers. The teacher of drawing is a teacher of seeing. An artist's picture may be very pleasing in spite of the fact that a scientific knowledge of the objects painted is conspicuously absent, but we do not wish to teach children to draw pleasing pictures so much as to render, as exactly as their faculties permit them, objects that are really worth prolonged study, and objects of which the accurate knowledge that is obtained by drawing them, strengthens and enlarges the understanding.
Proofread by Stephanie H. September, 2008
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