Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1912 (Heft 39)

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Hindu and Cambodian idols, and of the religious paintings of the earliest
Catholics? Picasso and his followers, the Cubists, do they not endeavor to
be the spiritual and morphological reincarnations of the savages of Africa ?
Each one of these pretended discoverers of artistic truth, moved by
egotism, imposes himself upon us as an apostle of a new art, so new that
they claim to be of the future. They gather pupils among the not incon-
siderable human group, which in all epochs, has its nervous system affected,
predisposed to all fanaticism, easily infected by anything, provided it is
extravagant. Those were the people who, in the Middle Ages, produced and
spread the intellectual epidemics known by the names of “Theomania,”
“ Demonopathia,” and “ Demonolatry,” etc., and who, in modern art, produce
and propagate the epidemics, no less pernicious, of “Naive-Mania,” “Pri-
mitivolatry,,, and “Savageopathy.”
And these latter-day possessed ones, in their psychic dislocation, present
to us Mother Eve, with the proportions and under the aspect of a Congolian
fetish symbolism of the horrible, created to frighten and banish the powers
of Evil; or of a reclining Venus, with the anatomy of the Mayan Chacmol.
Those who suffer from Naive-Mania, or from Primitivology, boast of
taking in art the same attitude as does the child. I believed it to be so until
I had the opportunity of seeing the recent Exhibition of Children’s Work
in the Galleries of the Photo-Secession. The study of these works convinced
me how unjustified are these pretensions.
Modern psychology admits the principle that the less filled the brains
are with knowledge, the more deeply the impression it receives penetrates.
That is why the impressions received in childhood are the deepest, and last
the longest. That is also why the work of children is always impressive.
Form, in the abstract, has for the child, and the savage, a psychical sig-
nificance which disappears with familiarity with things.
The child in producing his works, or in reproducing his sensations, does
not use his reflective faculties. It works in an unconscious way, hence its
extraordinary spontaneity. It keeps the remembrance of the emotion it feels,
but it does not study the manner in which to express it. It is satisfied to
express it and does not aspire to do more. Children’s spontaneity compels them
to express only that which has impressed them most in the form, and that is
what appears in their works in the first place, and, indeed, that only is what
appears.
Can we consider the works produced by children as works of art? If
we demand that a work of art contain the element of imagination and the re-
sult of the operation of the reflective faculties, then the work of children is
not a work of art. The direct rendering of an impression without giving it
a mental significance, cannot, in my opinion, constitute a genuine work of
art. The work of children is the product of only one of the principal elements
of art—intense perception. This intensity of perception blinds them to the
element of beauty, a sentiment generated by education. Form always suffers
deformation in their brains. Children’s works always carry in them the spirit
of ugliness.
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