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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/413

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STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.

STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.

XIV. THE CHILD AS ARTIST.

By JAMES SULLY, M. A., LL. D.,

GROTE PROFESSOR OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND LOGIC AT THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON.

ONE of the most interesting, perhaps also one of the most instructive, phases of child-life is the beginnings of art activity. This has been recognized by one of the best-known workers in the field of child-psychology, M. Bernard Perez, who has treated the subject in an interesting monograph.[1] This department of our subject will, like that of language, be found to have interesting points of contact with the phenomena of primitive race culture.

The art impulse of children lends itself particularly well to observation. No doubt, as we shall see, there are difficulties for the observer here. It may sometimes be a fine point to determine whether a childish action properly falls under the head of genuine art production, though I do not think that this is a serious difficulty. On the other hand, the art impulse, where it exists, manifests itself directly and for the most part in so characteristic an objective form that we are able to study its features with special facility.

In its narrow sense as a specialized instinct prompting its possessor to follow a definite line of production, as drawing of the artistic sort, or simple musical composition, the art impulse is a particularly variable phenomenon of childhood. Some children who afterward take seriously to a branch of art culture, manifest an innate bent by a precocious devotion to this line of activity. Many others, I have reason to believe, have a passing fondness for a particular form of art activity. On the other hand, there are many children who display almost a complete lack, not only of the productive impulse, but of the æsthetic sense of the artist. So uncertain, so sporadic, are these appearances of a rudimentary art among children, that one might be easily led to think that art activity ought not to be reckoned among their common characteristics.

To judge so, however, would be to judge erroneously, by applying grown-up standards. It is commonly recognized that art and play are closely connected. It is probable that the first crude art of the race, or at least certain directions of it, sprang out of play-like activities, and, however this be, the likenesses of the two are indisputable. I shall hope to bring these out in the pres-


  1. L'Art et la Poésie chez l'Enfant, 1888.