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

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WHAT is the purpose of exhibiting drawings by children, many loyal
frequenters of the Little Galleries may have asked themselves. Is
there really any deeper meaning attached to them and do they bear
any relation to the works of art that have during the last few years been
shown in the gray little chamber at Fifth Avenue?
Most visitors had to admit that these infantile excursions into the realm
of form and color were of peculiar interest. The selection was carefully made
from a raft of material; but it was not this discrimination which made the
exhibition worthy of special consideration. Children’s drawings, even the
crudest, generally contain some note of interest. The exhibition at this
particular place and time was like a commentary on modern art ideas, it
recalled some elemental qualities that art has lost and which might do much,
if attainable at all, to imbue it with a fresh and exquisite virility. How does
a child manage in a few lines, rapidly and easily scrawled down, to represent a
man on horseback or indicate a landscape! They may be caricatures, traves-
ties, ludicrous nonsense, if you like, but they are neither shallow nor insincere.
And despite being contortions and misstatements of facts they contain any
amount of allusions, happy touches, notes of keen and sympathetic observa-
tion which even prodigious memory and vast learning could not render more
With the majority of grown up folks the pursuit of art is an engrossing
occupation. It leaves but few opportunities for real pleasure. Children draw
without a special purpose. There is no responsibility prompting the per-
formance, and no concession to make. It is purely an amusement, the pleasure
of a moment. They reveal themselves without hesitancy. They do not
attempt to flatter or idealize. Fond of startling contrast and glaring colors
they see things vividly and express them strongly, genuinely, without subter-
fuge. And the honest humble toil of these little draughtsmen to put the
plainness of appearances into calligraphic epigrams is due to the purity and
alertness of their vision. Every new object they encounter, every incident of
life they witness is an event full of curiosity and wonder. Every new record
on their retina amounts to a conquest. Wherever they look, life is a book of
revelations, and their faces turn with unwonted expression and eager expect-
ancy. They are romanticists by force of this fervency to receive impressions;
adventures in reach of some golden fleece, even if it is only a stick of candy,
the thin sheet poster of the coming circus, or an apple purloined from a neigh-
bor’s yard.
Not that they are absolutely free. Routine and conventions are also
darkening child life, and honesty of selection in regard to their pictorial efforts
is not possible even at this early stage. Parental influence, pedantic advice
of the drawing teacher, or reminiscences and reflections from illustrations seen
in picture books and magazine creep unconsciously into their compositions.
Nor are their efforts devoid of the influences of tradition. They represent art
in an embryonic state; a Japanese child draws entirely different than an

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