Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/January 1896/Studies of Childhood XIV
|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. 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 present study. This being so, we are, I conceive, justified in speaking of art impulses as a common characteristic of childhood.
Although we shall find many interesting points of analogy between crude child-art and primitive race-art, we must not, as pointed out above, expect a perfect parallelism. In some directions, as drawing, concerted dancing, the superior experience, strength, and skill of the adult will reveal themselves, placing child-art at a considerable disadvantage in the comparison. Contrariwise, the intervention of the educator's hand tends seriously to modify the course of development of the child's aesthetic aptitudes. His tastes get acted upon from the first and biased in the direction of adult tastes.
This modifying influence of education shows itself more especially in one particular. There is reason to think that in the development of the race the growth of a feeling for what is beautiful was a concomitant of the growth of the art impulse, the impulse to adorn the person, to collect feathers and other pretty things. Not so in the case of the child. Here we note a certain growth of the liking for pretty things before the spontaneous art impulse has had time to manifest itself. Most children who have a cultivated mother or other guardian acquire a rudimentary appreciation of what their elders think beautiful before they do much in the way of art production. We provide them with toys, pictures, we sing to them, and perhaps we even take them to the theater, and so do our best to inoculate them with our ideas as to what is pretty. Hence the difficulty—probably the chief difficulty—of finding out what the child-mind, left to itself, does prefer. At the same time the early date at which such sesthetic preferences begin to manifest themselves makes it desirable to study them before we go on to consider the active side of childart. We will try as well as we can to extricate the first manifestations of genuine childish taste.
At the very beginning, before the educational influence has had time to work, we can catch some of the characteristics of this childish quasi-aesthetic feeling. The directions of a child's observation, and of the movements of his grasping arms, tell us pretty clearly what sort of things attract and please him.
In the home scene it is bright objects, such as the fire flame, the lamp, the play of the sunlight on a bit of glass or a gilded frame; out of doors, glistening water, a meadow whitened by daisies, the fresh snow mantle, later the moon and the stars, which seem to impart to the dawning consciousness the first hint of the world's beauty. Luminosity, brightness in its higher intensities, whether the bright rays reach the eye directly or are reflected from a lustrous surface, this makes the first gladness of the eye, as it remains a chief source of the gladness of life. The feeling for color as such comes distinctly later. The first delight in colored objects is hardly distinguishable from the primordial delight in brightness. This applies pretty manifestly to the brightly illumined, rose-red curtain which Preyer's boy greeted with signs of satisfaction at the age of twenty-three days, and it applies to later manifestations. Thus Preyer found, on experimenting with his boy toward the end of the second year as to his color discrimination, that a decided preference was shown for the bright or luminous colors, red and yellow. Much the same thing was observed by Miss Shinn in her interesting account of the early development of her niece's color sense. Thus in the twenty-eighth month she showed a special fondness for the daffodils, the bright tints of which allured another and older maiden, and, alas! to the place whence all brightness was banished. About the same time the child conceived a fondness for a yellow gown of her aunt, strongly objecting to the substitution for it of a brown dress. Among the other colored objects which captivated the eye of this little girl were a patch of white cherry blossom and a red sunset sky. Such observations might easily be multiplied. Whiteness, it is to be noted, comes, as we might expect, with bright partial colors, among the first favorites.Cf. Perez, L'Art et la Poésie chez l'Enfant, p. 41 ff.
At what age a child begins to appreciate the value of color as color, to like blue or red, for its own sake and apart from its brightness, it is hard to say. The experiments of Preyer, Binet, Baldwin, and others, as to the discrimination of color, are hardly conclusive as to special likings, though Baldwin's plan of getting the child to reach out for colors throws a certain light on this point. According to Baldwin, blue is one of the first colors to be singled out; but he does not tell us how the colors he used (which did not, unfortunately, include yellow the child's favorite according to other observers) were related in point of luminosity.
No doubt a child of three or four is apt to conceive a special liking for a particular color, which favorite he is wont to appropriate as "my color." A collection of such perfectly spontaneous preferences is a desideratum in the study of the first manifestations of a feeling for color. Care must be taken in observing these selections to eliminate the effects of association, and the unintentional influence of example and authority, as when a child takes to a particular color because it is "mamma's color" that is, the one she appears to affect in her dress and otherwise. The values of the several colors probably disclose themselves in close connection with that of color contrast. Many of the likings of a child of three in the matter of flowers, birds, dresses, and so on, are clearly traceable to a growing pleasure in color contrast. Here again we must distinguish between a true chromatic and a merely luminous effect. The dark-blue sky showing itself in a break in the white clouds, one of the colored spectacles which delighted Miss Shinn's niece, may have owed much of its attractiveness to the contrast of light and dark. It would be interesting to experiment with children of three with a view to determine whether and how far chromatic contrast pleases when it stands alone, and is not supported by that of chiaroscuro.
I have reason to believe that children, like the less cultivated adults, prefer juxtapositions of colors which lie far from one another in the color circle, as blue and red or blue and yellow. It is sometimes said that the practice and the history of painting show blue and red to be a more pleasing combination than that of the complementary colors, blue and yellow. It would be well to test children's feeling on this matter. It would be necessary in this inquiry to see that the child did not select for combination a particular color as blue or yellow for its own sake, and independently of its relation to its companion—a point not very easy to determine. Care would have to be taken to eliminate further the influence of authority as operating, not only by instructing the child what combinations are best, but by setting models of combination, in the habitual arrangements of dress and so forth. This, too, would probably prove to be a condition not easy to satisfy.
I have dwelt at some length on the first germs of color appreciation, because this is the one feature of the child's aesthetic sense which has so far lent itself to definite experimental investigation. It is very different when we turn to the first appreciation of form. That little children have their likings in the matter of form is, I think, indisputable, but they are not those of the cultivated adult. A quite small child will admire the arch of a rainbow and the roundness of a kitten's form, though in these instances the delight in form is far from pure. More clearly marked is the appreciation of pretty, graceful movements, as a kitten's boundings. Perhaps the first waking up to the graces of form takes place in connection with this delight in the forms of motion, a delight which at first is a mixed feeling, involving the interest in all motion as suggestive of life, to which reference has already been made. Do not all of us, indeed, tend to translate our impressions of still forms back into these first impressions of the forms of motion?
One noticeable feature in the child's first response to the attractions of form is the preference given to "tiny" things. The liking for small natural forms, birds, insects, shells, and so forth, and the prominence of such epithets as "wee," "tiny" or "teeny," "dear little," in the child's vocabulary alike illustrate this early direction of taste. This feeling again is a mixed one; for the child's interest in very small fragile-looking things has in it an element of caressing tenderness which again contains a touch of fellow-feeling. This is but one illustration of the general rule of æsthetic development in the case of the individual and of the race alike that a pure contemplative delight in the aspect of things only gradually detaches itself from a mixed feeling.
If now we turn to the higher aspects of form, regularity of outline, symmetry, proportion, we encounter a difficulty. Many children acquire while quite young and before any formal education commences a certain feeling for regularity and symmetry. But is this the result of a mere observation of natural or other forms? Here the circumstances of the child become important. He lives among those who insist on these features in the daily activities of the home. In laying the cloth of the dinner table, for example, a child sees the regular division of space enforced as a law. Every time he is dressed, or sees his mother dress, he has an object lesson in symmetrical arrangement. And so these features take on a kind of ethical rightness before they are judged as elements of aesthetic value. As to a sense of proportion between the dimensions or parts of a form, the reflection that this involves a degree of intellectuality above the reach of many an adult might suggest that it is not to be expected from a small child; and this conjecture will be borne out when we come to examine children's first essays in drawing.
These elementary pleasures of light, color, and certain simple aspects of form may be said to be the basis of a crude perception of beauty in natural objects and in the products of human workmanship. A quite small child is capable of acquiring a real admiration for a beautiful lady, in the appreciation of which brightness, color, grace of movement, the splendor of dress, all have their part, while the charm for the eye is often re-enforced by a sweet and winsome quality of voice. Such an admiration is not perfectly aesthetic: awe, an inkling of the social dignity of dress, perhaps a longing to be embraced by the charmer, may all enter into it; yet a genuine admiration of look for its own sake is the core of the feeling. In other childish admirations, as the girl's enthusiastic worship of the newly arrived baby, we see a true æsthetic sentiment mingled with and struggling, so to speak, to extricate itself from such "interested" feelings as sense of personal enrichment by the new possession and of family pride. In the likings for animals, again, which often take what seem to us capricious and quaint directions, we may see rudiments of æsthetic perceptions half hidden under a lively sense of absolute lordship tempered with affection.
Perhaps the nearest approach to a pure æsthetic enjoyment in these first experiences is the love of flowers. The wee round wonders with their mystery of velvety color are well fitted to take captive the young eye. I believe most children who live among flowers and have access to them acquire something of this sentiment, a sentiment of admiration for beautiful things with which a sort of dumb childish sympathy commonly blends. No doubt there are marked differences among children here. There are some who care only, or mainly, for their scent, and the strong sensibilities of the olfactory organ appear to have a good deal to do with early preferences and prejudices in the matter of flowers. Others again care for them mainly as a means of personal adornment, though I am disposed to think that this partially interested fondness is less common with children than with many adults. It is sometimes said that the love of flowers is, in the main, a characteristic of girls. I think, however, that if one takes children early enough, before a consciousness of sex and of its proprieties has been allowed to develop under education, the difference will be but slight. Little boys of four or thereabouts very often show a very lively sentiment of admiration for these gems of the plant world.
In much of this first crude utterance of the æsthetic sense of the child we have points of contact with the first manifestations of taste in the race. Delight in bright, glistening things, in gay tints, in strong contrasts of color, as well as in certain forms of movement, as that of feathers the favorite personal adornment—this is known to be characteristic of the savage and gives to his taste in the eyes of civilized man the look of childishness. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether the savage attains to the sentiment of the child for the beauty of flowers. Our civilized surroundings, meadows, and gardens, as well as the constant action of the educative forces of example, soon carry the child beyond the savage in this particular.
How far can children be said to have the germ of a feeling for Nature, or, to use the more comprehensive modern term, cosmic emotion? It is a matter of common observation that they have not the power to embrace a multitude of tilings in a single act of contemplation. Hence they have no feeling for landscape as a harmonious complex of picturesquely varied parts. When they are taken to see a "view," their eye, instead of trying to embrace the whole, as a fond parent desires, provokingly pounces on some single feature of interest, and often one of but little æsthetic value. People make a great mistake in taking children to "points of view" under the supposition that they will share in grown people's impressions. Perez relates that some children taken to the Pic du Midi found their chief pleasure in scrambling up the peak and saying that they were on donkeys. Mere magnitude or vastness of spectacle does not appeal to the child, for a sense of the sublime grows out of a complex imaginative process which is beyond his young powers. So far as immensity affects him at all, as in the case of the sea, it seems to excite a measure of dread in face of the unknown; and this feeling, though having a certain kinship with the emotion of sublimity, is distinct from this last. It has nothing of the joyous consciousness of expansion which enters into the later feeling. It is only to certain limited objects and features of Nature that the child is aesthetically responsive. He knows the loveliness of the gilded spring meadow, the fascination of the sunlit stream, the awful mystery of the wood, and something too, perhaps, of the calming beauty of the broad blue sky. That is to say, he has a number of small rootlets which when they grow together will develop into a feeling for Nature.
Here, too, the analogy between the child and the uncultured Nature-man is evident. The savage has no æsthetic sentiment for Nature as a whole, though he may feel the charm of some of her single features, a stream, a mountain, the star-spangled sky, and may even be affected by some of the awful aspects of her changing physiognomy. Are we not told, indeed, that a true æsthetic appreciation of the picturesque variety of Nature's scenes, of the weird charm of wild places, and of the sublime fascinations of the awful and repellent mountain, are quite late attainments in the history of our race?
We may now look at the child's attitude toward those objects and processes of human art which from the first form part of his environment and make an educative appeal to his senses; and here we may begin with those simple musical effects which follow up certain impressions derived from the natural world.
It has been pointed out that sounds form a chief source of the little child-heart's first trepidations. Yet this prolific cause of disquietude, when once the first alarming effect of strangeness has passed, becomes a main source of interest and delight. Some of Nature's sounds, as those of running water and of the wind, early catch the ear, and excite wonder and curiosity. Miss Shinn illustrates fully in the case of her niece how the interest in sounds developed itself in the first years. This pleasure in listening to sounds and in tracing them to their origin forms a chief pastime of babyhood.
Æsthetic pleasure in sound begins to be differentiated out of this general interest as soon as there arises a comparison of qualities and a development of preferences. Thus the sound of metal (when struck) is preferred to that of wood or stone. A nascent feeling for musical quality thus emerges which probably has its part in many of the first likings for persons; certain pitches, as those of the female voice, and possibly timbres being preferred to others.
Quite as soon, at least, as this feeling for quality of sound or tone, there manifests itself a crude liking for rhythmic sequence. It is commonly recognized that our pleasure in regularly recurring sounds is instinctive, being the result of our whole nervous organization. We can better adapt successive acts of listening when sounds follow at regular intervals, and the movements which sounds evoke can be much better carried out in a regular sequence. The infant shows us this in his well-known liking for well-marked rhythms in tunes which he accompanies with suitable movements of the arms, head, etc.
The first likings for musical composition are based on this instinctive feeling for rhythm. It is the simple tunes, with well-marked, easily recognizable time divisions, which first take the child's fancy, and he knows the quieting and the exciting qualities of different rhythms and times. Where rhythm is less marked, or grows highly complex, the motor responses being confused, the pleasurable interest declines. It is the same with the rhythmic qualities of verses. The jingling rhythms which their souls love are of simple structure, with short feet well marked off, as in the favorite "Jack and Gill."
Coming now to art as representative, we find that a child's aesthetic appreciation waits on the growth of intelligence, on the understanding of artistic representation as contrasted with a direct presentation of reality.
The development of an understanding of visual representation or the imaging of things has already been touched upon. As Perez points out, the first lesson in this branch of knowledge is supplied by the reflections of the mirror, which, as we have seen, the infant begins to take for realities, though he soon comes to understand that they are not tangible realities. The looking glass is the best means of elucidating the representative function of the image or "Bild" just because it presents this image in close proximity to the reality, and so invites direct comparison with this.
In the case of pictures where this direct comparison is excluded we might expect a less rapid recognition of the representative function. Yet children show very early that picture semblances are understood in the sense that they call forth reactions similar to those called forth by realities. A little boy was observed to talk to pictures at the end of the eighth month. This perhaps hardly amounted to recognition. Pollock says that the significance of pictures "was in a general way understood" by his little girl at the age of thirteen months. Miss Shinn tells us that her niece, at the age of forty-two weeks, showed the same excitement at the sight of a life-size painting of a cat as at that of real cats. Ten months is also given me by a lady as the date at which her little boy recognized pictures of animals by naming them "bow-wow," etc., without being prompted.
This early recognition of pictures is certainly remarkable, even when we remember that animals have the germ of it. The stories of recognition by birds of paintings of birds, and by dogs of portraits of persons, have to do with fairly large and finished paintings. A child, however, will "recognize" a small and roughly executed drawing. He seems in this respect to surpass the powers of savages, some of whom, at least, are said to be slow in recognizing pictorial semblances. This power, which includes a delicate observation of form and an acute sense of likeness, is seen most strikingly in the recognition of individual portraits. Miss Shinn's niece in her fourteenth month picked out her father's face in a group of nine, the face being scarcely more than a quarter of an inch in diameter. I noticed the same fineness of recognition in my own children.
One point in this early observation of pictures is curious enough to call for especial remark. A friend of mine, a psychologist, writes to me that his little girl, aged three and a half, "does not mind whether she looks at a picture the right way up or the wrong; she points out what you ask for, eyes, feet, hands, tail, etc., about equally well whichever way up the picture is, and never asks to have it put right that she may see it better." The same thing was noticed in the other children of the family, and the mother tells me that her mother observed it in her children. I have found a further illustration of this indifference to the position of a picture in the two children of another friend of mine. Prof. Petrie tells me that he once watched an Arab boy looking at a picture-book. One, a drawing of horses and chariot, happened to have a different position from the rest, so that the book being held as before, the horses seemed to be going upward; but the boy was not in the least incommoded, and without attempting to turn the book round easily made it out. These facts are curious as illustrating the skill of the young eye in deciphering. They may possibly have a further significance as showing how what we call position—the arrangement of a form in relation to a vertical line is a comparatively artificial view of which a child as yet takes little if any account. He may be able to concentrate his attention so well on form proper that he is indifferent to the point how the form is placed. Yet this matter is one which well deserves further investigation.
A further question arises as to whether this "recognition" of pictures by children toward the end of the first year necessarily implies a grasp of the idea of a picture—that is, of a representation or copy of something. The first reactions of a child, smiling, etc., on seeing mirror images and pictures, do not seem to show this, but merely that he is affected much as he would be by the presence of the real object, or, at most, that he recognizes the picture as a kind of thing. The same is, I think, true of the so-called recognition of pictures by animals.
That children do not, at first, seize the pictorial or representative function is seen in the familiar fact that they will touch pictures us they touch shadows and otherwise treat them as if they were tangible realities. Thus Pollock's little girl attempted to smell at the trees in a picture and "pretended" to feed some pictorial dogs.
When the first clear apprehension of the pictorial function is reached it is difficult to say. Miss Shinn thought that her niece "understood the purport of a picture quite well" at the age of forty-five weeks. She draws this conclusion from the fact that at this date the child, in answer to the question, "Where are the flowers?" leaned over and touched the painted flowers on her aunt's gown, and then looked out to the garden with a cry of desire. But this inference seems to me very risky. All that the child's behavior proves is that she "classed" real and painted flowers together, while she recognized the superiority of the former as the tangible and probably the odorous ones. The strongest evidence of recognition of pictorial function by children is, I think, their ability to recognize the portrait of an individual. But even this is not quite satisfactory. It is conceivable, at least, that a child may look on a photograph of his father as a kind of "double." The boy C—— took his projected photograph very seriously as a kind of doubling of himself. The story of the dog, a Dandy Dinmont terrier, that trembled and barked at a portrait of his dead mistress, seems to me to bear this out. It would surely be rather absurd to say that the demonstrations of this animal, whatever they may have meant, prove that he took the portrait to be a memento likeness of his dead mistress.
We are apt to forget how difficult and abstract a conception is that of pictorial representation, how hard it is to look at a thing as pure semblance having no value in itself, but only as standing for something else. A like slowness on the part of the child to grasp a sign, as such, shows itself here as in the case of verbal symbols. Children will, quite late, especially when feeling is aroused and imagination specially active, show a disposition to transform the semblance into the thing. Miss Shinn herself points out that her niece, who seems to have been decidedly quick, was as late as the twenty-fifth month touched with pity by a picture of a lamb caught in a thicket, and tried to lift the painted branch that lay across the lamb. In her thirty-fifth month, again, when looking at a picture of a chamois defending her little one from an eagle, "she asked anxiously if the mamma would drive the eagle away, and presently quite simply and unconsciously placed her little hand edgewise on the picture so as to make a fence between the eagle and the chamois." Such ready confusion of pictures with realities shows itself in the fourth year and later. A boy nearly five was observed to strike at the figures in a picture and to exclaim, "I can't break them." The Worcester collection of observations illustrates the first confused idea of a picture. "One day F——, a boy of four, called on a friend, Mrs, C——, who had just received a picture, representing a scene in winter, in which people were going to church, some on foot and others in sleighs. F—— was told whither they were going. The next day he came and noticed the picture, and looking at Mrs. C—— and then at the picture, said, 'Why, Mrs. C——, them people haven't got there yet, have they?'"
All this points, I think, to a slow and gradual emergence of the idea of representation or likeness. If a child is capable in moments of intense imagination of confusing his battered doll with a living reality, he may be expected to act similarly with respect to the fuller likeness of a picture. Vividness of imagination tends in the child as in the savage, and indeed in all of us, to invest a semblance with something of reality. We are able to control the illusory tendency and to keep it within the limits of an aesthetic semi-illusion; not so the child. Is it too fanciful to suppose that the belief of the savage in the occasional visits of the real spirit-god to his idol has for its psychological motive the impulse which prompts the child ever and again to identify his toys and even his pictures with the realities which they represent?
As might be expected, this impulse to confuse representation and represented reality shows itself very distinctly in the first reception of dramatic spectacle. If you dress up as Father Christmas, your child, even though he is told that you are his father, will hardly be able to resist the illusion that your disguise so powerfully induces. Cuvier relates that a boy of ten, on watching a stage scene in which troops were drawn up for action, broke out in loud protestations to the actor who was taking the part of the general, telling him that the artillery was wrongly placed, and so forth. This reminds one of the story of the sailors who on a visit to a theater happened to see a representation of a mutiny on board ship, and were so excited that they rushed on the stage and took sides with the authorities in quelling the movement.
I believe that this same tendency to take art representations for realities reappears in children's mental attitude toward stories. A story by its narrative form seems to tell of real events, and children, as we all know, are wont to believe tenaciously that their stories are true. I think I have observed a disposition in imaginative children to go beyond this, and to give present actuality to the scenes and events described. And this is little to be wondered at when one remembers that even grown people, familiar with the devices of art imitation, tend now and again to fall into this confusion. Only a few days ago, as I was reading an account by a friend of mine of a perilous passage in an Alpine ascent, accomplished years ago, I suddenly caught myself in the attitude of proposing to shout out to stop him from venturing farther. A vivid imaginative realization of the situation had made it for the moment a present actuality.
Careful observations of the first attitudes of the child-mind toward representative art are greatly needed. We should probably find considerable diversity of behavior. The presence of a true art feeling would be indicated by a special quickness in the apprehension of art semblance as such.
In these first reactions of the young mind to the stimulus of art presentation we may study other aspects of the æsthetic aptitude. Very quaint and interesting is the exacting realism of these first appreciations. A child is apt to insist on a perfect detailed reproduction of the familiar reality. And here one may often trace the fine observation of these early years. Listen, for example, to the talk of the little critic before a drawing of a horse or a railway train, and you will be surprised to find how closely and minutely he has studied the forms of things. It is the same with other modes of art representation. Perez gives an amusing instance of a boy, aged four, who when taken to a play was shocked at the anomaly of a chambermaid touching glasses with her master on a fête day. "In our home," exclaimed the stickler for regularities, to the great amusement of the neighbors, "we don't let the nurse drink like that." It is the same with story. Children are liable to be morally hurt if anything is described greatly at variance with the daily custom. Æsthetic rightness is as yet confused with moral rightness or social propriety, which, as we have seen, has its instinctive support in the child's mind in respect for custom.
Careful observation will disclose in these first franklyimpressions the special directions of childish taste. The preferences of a boy of four in the matter of picture-books tell us where his special interests lie, what things he finds pretty, and how much of a genuine æsthetic faculty he is likely to develop later on. Here, again, there is ample room for more careful studies directed to the detection of the first manifestations of a pure delight in things as beautiful, as charming at once the senses and the imagination.
The first appearances of that complex interest in life and personality which fills so large a place in our æsthetic pleasures can be best noted in the behavior of the child's mind toward dramatic spectacle and story. The awful ecstatic delight with which a child is apt to greet any moving semblance carrying with it the look of life and action is something which some of us, like Goethe, can recall among our oldest memories. The old-fashioned moving "Schatten-bilder" for which the gaudy but rigid pictures of the magic lantern are but a poor substitute, the puppet-show, with what a delicious wonder have these filled the childish heart! And as to the entrancing, enthralling delight of the story well have Thackeray and others tried to describe this for us.
Of very special interest in these early manifestations of a feeling for art is the appearance of a crude form of the two emotions to which all representations of life and character make appeal the feeling for the comic and for the tragic side of things. What we may call the adult's fallacy, the tendency to judge children by grown-up standards, frequently shows itself in an expectation that their laughter will follow the directions of our own. I remember having made the mistake of putting those delightful books, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, into the hands of a small boy with a considerable sense of fun, and having been humiliated at discovering that there was no response. Children's fun is of a very elemental character. They are mostly tickled, I suspect, by the spectacle of some upsetting of the proprieties, some confusion of the established distinctions of rank. Dress, as we have seen, has ah enormous symbolic value for the child's mind, and any confusion here is apt to be specially laughter-provoking. One child between three and four was convulsed at the sight of his baby bib fastened round the neck of his bearded sire. There is, too, a considerable element of rowdiness in children's sense of the comical, as may be seen by the enduring popularity of the spectacle of Punch's successful misdemeanors and bravings of the legal authority.
Since children are apt to take spectacles with an exacting seriousness, it becomes interesting to note how the two moods, realistic stickling for correctness, and rollicking hilarity at the sight of the disorderly, behave in relation one to another. More facts are needed on this point. It is probable that we have here to do in part with a permanent difference of temperament. There are serious, matter-of-fact little minds which are shocked by a kind of spectacle or narrative that would give boundless delight to a more elastic, fun-loving spirit. But discarding these permanent differences of disposition, I think that in general the sense of fun, the delight in the topsy-turviness of things, is apt to develop later than the serious realistic attitude already referred to. Here, too, it is probable that the evolution of the individual follows that of the race: the solemnities of custom and ritual weigh so heavily at first on the savage mind that there is no chance for sprightly Laughter to show himself. However this be, most young children appear to be unable to appreciate true comedy where the incongruous coexists with and takes on one half of its charm from serious surroundings. Their laughter is best called forth by a broadly farcical show in which all serious rules are set at naught.
Of no less interest in this attitude of the child-mind toward the representations by art of human character and action are the first rude manifestations of the feeling for the tragic side of life. A child of four or six is far from realizing the divine necessity which controls our mortal lives. Yet he will display a certain crude feeling for thrilling situation, exciting adventure, and something, too, of a sympathetic interest in the woes of mortals, quadrupeds as well as bipeds. The action, the situation, may easily grow too painful for an imaginative child disposed to take all representative spectacle as reality; yet the absorbing interest of the action where the sadness is bearable attests the early development of that universal feeling for the sorrowful fatefulness of things which runs through all imaginative writings from the "penny dreadful" upward.
- L'Art et la Poésie chez l'Enfant, 1888.
- Op. cit., p. 7 and p. 11 f.
- Notes on the Development of a Child, p. 91 ff.
- See Baldwin's two articles on A New Method of Child Study, in Science, April, 1893, and his volume, Mental Development in the Child and the Race.
- The influence of such authority is especially evident in the selection of harmonious shades of color for dress, etc. Cf. Miss Shinn, op. cit., p. 95.
- On the nature of the early feeling for dress, see Perez, L'Art et la Poésie chez l'Enfant
- See Perez, L'Art et la Poésie chez l'Enfant, p. 90 f.
- Op. cit., p. 103.
- An excellent sketch of the growth of our feeling for the romantic and sublime beauty of mountains is given by Mr. Leslie Stephen in one of the most delightful of his works, The Playground of Europe.
- Op. cit, p. 115 ff.
- Mind, iii, p. 393.
- Notes on the Development of a Child, i, p. 71 f.
- See Romanes, Animal Intelligence, pp.311 and 453 ff. The only exception is a photograph which is said to have been "large," p. 453.
- Op. cit., i, p. 74.
- Prof. Petrie reminds me that a like absence of the perception of position shows itself in the way in which letters are drawn in early Greek and Phœnician writings.
- Op. cit., i, p. 72.
- Romanes, op. cit., p. 453.
- Op. cit, ii, p. 104.
- Quoted by Perez, op. cit., p. 216.
- Op. cit., pp. 215, 216.