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Art Journal, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Winter, 1957), pp. 132-145 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/772631 Accessed: 29/09/2010 16:39
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The legend of the childishness of my drawing must have originated from those linear compositions of mine in which I tried to combine a concrete image. 53."' The fundamental link between Paul Klee and child art lies in the creative process involved in each. But there is a fundamental difference. And thus I could arrive at a happy association between my vision of life and pure artistic craftsmanship. Faber and Faber. The result would have been vagueness beyond recognition. On Modern Art. And anyway I do not wish to represent the man as he is. London. one urge seems to be gradually gaining ground: The urge to the culture of these creative means. Paul Klee is doing as a matureartist in a life process of overcomingthe visual cliches of past art. to their pure use. This article grew out of a paper written for Professor Lane Faison at Harvard Summer School in 1955. if we are not too near to judge). say that of a man. She has studied painting with Xavier Gonzales in Wellfleet. 1949. But among artists. in a process of unfolding visual activity from simpler stages to increasinglycomplex ones.PAUL KLEE AND THEART OF CHILDREN A Comparison of Their Creative Processes Ellen Marsh Ellen Marsh graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1954 and entered New York University School of Education in 1955 where she is completing her master's degree in Art Education. Mass. p.' then I should have had to use such a bewildering confusion of line that a pure elementary representation would have been out of the question. CAJ XVI 2 132 . with the pure representation of the linear element. "These unsettled times have brought chaos and confusion (or so it seems. but only as he might be. and finding for himself the most direct and cogent handwritingwith which to express himself in relation to nature. What the child is doing for the first time. She is now teaching art at the Spence School in New York City. On the one hand one finds a processthroughwhich the child grows naturally(although he often has to which he wants to do and struggle hard to achieve a visual representation feels he can do next). a processwith much variation-pushing forwardand sliding back-but which essentially progresses forward from simpler to 1 Paul Klee. to their pure cultivation. Had I wished to present the man 'as he is. even among the youngest of them.
I shall compare with the root of the tree. This sense of direction in nature and life. unobtrusively found his way in it. For all of these results were involved in what Paul Klee. But it is just the artist who at times is denied those departures from nature which his art demands. Naturally. From the root the sap flows to the artist. the crown of the tree unfolds and spreads in time and space. in terms of man's own power to visualize pictorially. one finds a procedure chosen by a mature artist self-consciously. It was a synthesisof the forms of art and nature within man. but so differentfrom a growth processin children). and others of his time. On the other hand. this branching and spreading array. at least certainlyto new and original forms. to highly abstract forms (which in an intellectualsense the child ones are not). Klee is exciting and significantamong these artists looking for new ways in that. Between above and below can be no mirrored reflection. beautiful.his selectionmay be at random as he is able to conceive visually to a highly complex point.higher forms of complexity as the child develops. As. were looking for in termsof art: new ways of seeing and expressing a world of objects (nature) which had been expressedby artistsin a "traditional" way for thousands of years. And going back to simple stages of visual complexity in the minds and hands of a mature artist can and does mean that the formal means of these stages will be used and elaboratedon in ways that lead to a greater complexity than was ever imagined before. is beautifully expressedin his essayOn ModernArt: "May I use a simile. instead of turning entirely in on the unconsciousfor forms. He has even been charged with incompetence and deliberate distortion.or entirely outwardto a world of externals-with a new element of speed-time-as did the Futurists-he painstakinglytried to reorganizethe world of nature in terms of the painter'sworld or. Nobody would affirm that the tree grows its crown in the image of its root. Battered and stirred by the strength of the flow. the simile of the tree? The artist has studied this world of variety and has. as the Surrealists were to do. That this process of synthesis was one Klee liked to think of as growing (analogous to. he moulds his vision into his work. and humorousforms. we may suppose. Thus he stands as the trunk of the tree. It is obvious that different functions expanding in different elements must produce vital divergencies. standing at his appointed place. in the case of Paul Klee. in full view of the world. flows to his eye.in which the differentlevels of complexityof visual representation selected by him as are of an adult creativeprocessof finding "significant form" for his pictorial part ideas about the world aroundhim. and. And yet. he does nothing 133 Marsh: Paul Klee and the Art of Children . flows though him. so with his work. the trunk of the tree. to personal. His sense of direction has brought order in to the passing stream of image and experience. for instance.
is of a visual nature. SArnheim." as Arnheim has called it."' This circle remains the shape the child uses to represent almost everything in his first drawings. a result of pure motor activity and desire to "make things.He has been most generousin letting me use illustrationsfrom his book. "Any Horses will turn the familiar cornerof the barnyard gate in a perfectcurve . of California Press. 1954). Arnheimfor his help in my use of this material. Chapter on "growth.e. His position is humble. as many analyzers of child art have maintained.'"4 And further in the same paragraph: manual operationarrives after a while at fluent motions of simple shape. 1) Variegated scribbling-line being the first formal element used by .. my reference above to Klee and others of his time as trying to find new ways to represent nature as opposed to traditional ways. 13. As an example he illustrates a delightful drawing (fig. Arnheim calls it the first example of a law of differentiation by which he means that until the child learns to differentiate between shapes.'" "That the tree grows its crown (not) in the image of its root. 'I am especiallyindebtedto Mr. p. CAJ XVI 2 134 2 Ibid. children. 1Ibid. p. as Arnheim and SchaefferSimmern explain it. It is not what the child sees. but rarely related to child art. pp..copy from nature. Univ. While I was a student at SarahLawrenceCollege he introducedme to these theories.. oval arms and legs. nor is it what the child knows. The history of writing shows that curves replace angles and continuityreplaces as of discontinuity the slow production inscriptions gives way to rapid cursive. which made 'crown' as like 'root' as possible).e. The development. 136. abstract intellectual concepts of the object seen. 1) of a man with a round head." (i. for publicationin this article. Univ. The development of form as presented in Schaeffer-Simmern's The Unfolding of Artistic Activity (Berkeley. in which "to see organized form emerge in the scribbles of children is to watch one of the miracles of nature. i. of California Press. He is merely a channel..He neitherserves nor rules-he transmits. 1954) and discussed in Arnheim's Art and Visual Perception (Berkeley. brings me to an examination of the unfolding process of visual developments as it occurs with children in order to seek certain sources that these artists might have turned to in their efforts to change pictorial seeing."3 may be termed a description of the development of visual representations in the art of children from about age three on. involved in both seeing and representing pictorially-a process of form long recognized in adult art." not otherthan gatherand pass on what comesto him fromthe depths. the circle represents everything. 2) The "primordial circle. 136-7.And the beautyat the crown is not his own..
animals.a device used in a sophisticated way by many adult abstractartists today.first in right angles to other objects. 1.As soon as of this is reached.The next step visuallyis of 3) Combinations circles a) "containing"--one inside the other-as seen in the first face a child draws. people inside a house.treesetc. hand with fingers etc. Comparethe drawings of giraffes in figures 2 and 3. a pond surroundedby plants. Art and Visual Perception. the parts of the human body are shown separatelyin the same drawing. 123. makes for more directionaloccurrences 7) A fusion of parts is the next achievement. Child's drawing of a man with a saw. food on a plate etc. 5) From the straight lines bursting out in suns etc. come the use of straight lines and angularity. 4) New direction is added next. (From Arnheim.Often in an earlierstage. or later. and the tree really seems to grow.the first representation space occurs. making sunburstpatterns -straight lines added to circles-making flowers. but used quite naturallyby children.Fig. This helps greatly the desire of the child to put things in motion.with a ground line of which springhouses. 6) Oblique angles occur next. trees with leaves. This is a good example of a formal patternused for many differentpurposes. it can easily be 135 Marsh: Paul Klee and the Art of Children . The second giraffe is walking.) holding a saw with round teeth! Circlesprecedeother shapes. or an ear with a hole in it. fig. with lines. It within the space of the drawing too.but when a whole human body can be contained in one outline.
as Arnheim suggests. fig. It is a product of training. limited to specific cultural conditions. When applied within one and the same object.) seen how this is a much more complex visual idea. but then repreor senting naturalobjects "correctly" accordingto how they exist in nature becomes imposed on him from outside. except by the introductionof it to a child by an outside person-such as a teacher: "Size differentiation according to distance does occur in the drawings of older children to the extent that human figures. (From Arnheim. It is to be inferred from the above that a child spontaneouslydevelops from simplerto more complex forms of representing objects. I mentioned above Klee's importantrole as one of many modern artistswho were trying to breakaway from a "traditional" way of representingobjects.. and the corresponding distortion of rectangles and squares. than a circle-face for instance. visual way to a certain point. 2.Fig. in a purely pictorial. The criteria and the method for the representation the object becomesone of outside logic and not of inner of It is preciselythis inner certaintythat Klee wanted to recapturein certainty. CAJ XVI 2 136 . It leaves shape untouched. because it requires only a transposition of size. houses. and he spent a lifetime in doing it. 131. pp. the principle leads to the convergence of parallels. or trees may be drawn smaller with increasing distance from the spectator. This differentiation is fairly simple. 8) The visual concept of depth or space in two dimensionalwork develops very late. cit. That is why he turned to 6Ibid. however. op. This is so radical a transformation of the object that it does not occur spontaneously in children's work."' This last is of particularimportancein examining the relation of child art to that of Paul Klee.. and is often not developed. 164-5. formal terms. Child's drawing of a giraffe.
eventually a work will come. You can't break in halfway through the process. (To be ignorant of poets.and the resulting "amazement. the concise is easily represented. and consistentlanguagein visual. op. nothing at all. 95 (quotation from Klee diary). and that of other "originals"--primitives." Haftmann speaks of. It was a tiny.that no artistshould rely on ready-made "You will never achieve anything unless you work up towards it. 132. You must start at the beginning. 85. pictorialterms. 3. Child's drawing of a giraffe.) the art of children. wholly without nerve.. p.Fig. totally formal.-to seek a completelyelemental. (From Arnheim. My pencil will be able to put it down. 1954.. schizophrenics.) Then I will do something very modest. New York." and a passive receptivity to materials is very like the way which children approachmaterialsnaturally."' And in his teachingat the Bauhaus. And soon it is done. fig.he told his forms: students. Then you will avoid all trace of artificiality."8 The program for his Bauhaus students which began with "an act of self-negation. knowing nothing about Europe. and the creative process will function without interruption. 8 Werner ' 137 Marsh: Paul Klee and the Art of Children .9 as the discoverieswere made in the materialis quite Arnheim. very small. In 1902. I will be like a newborn child. and least of all can you start with a result. cit.accordingto Haftmann. p. Praeger.clear. All that is needed is an auspicious moment. Haftmann. 83. without any technique. at the age of twenty-three. almost primordial. think of something very. but real act. 9 Ibid. The Mind and Work of Paul Klee. on which I can build. etc. and from the repitition of acts that are small. Klee wrote in his diary: "To have to begin by what is smallest is as precarious as it is necessary. but my own. p.
and will to form significantimages. CAJ XVI 2 138 . p.. An indicationof how Klee conceivedof line is to be found in his Pedagogical Sketchbook: "An active line which moves freely. a walk for a walk's sake.only instead of a purely outwardmovement of the arm. 13 Haftmann. 136.the kind of joy that children feel in "makingthings. Line representsthe first will to form in any living being."" In a sense. it is gamboling on paper that Paul Klee does when he draws. without aim.which Klee made himself as a child by tracingthe veins in a marble topped table.""' When the gesture becomes involved with a pencil on paper. 136. 10 Arnheim. In these first immediatediscoveries. and given titles in terms of words. that they can also be read by others. It is " . they involve the exciting experienceof bringing about something visible that was not there before. p."10 This immediate relationshipof the artist to the material is integral to the discoveriesof both Paul Klee and child art. ratheras presentation-thatis. the most elemental ingredient is motion. Let us examine some of Klee's "handwriting" in comparison to children's drawings. 12Ibid.the "most" naturaltechnique for making an image by hand.as is the case with the child. They can be "read"by him. When we gesture vaguely in the air as we talk it is the outline of the shape of the object as we visualize it that we are representing.. p. We do not always know at once what flows into us from the depths and goes throughus in orderto becomemanifestin images. it arisesfrom a very quiet but conscious listening to an inside voice. dictated solely by motor impulses. 129 (quoted from Klee).and thus drawingstartsas gambolingon in paper.. the most elementaland expressiveform is line. 'like writing somethingwhich strives to becomevisible. 136. they do become writing. "Ibid. As soon as the lines have formed images for Klee.'"13 Here is perhapsthe most complete differencebetween what childrendo and what Paul Klee does with line.. and it is due to his immensecontrol of the medium. "Thereis abundant movement children. p." Arnheim states that the firstscribblesof children but "arenot intendedas representation.
5 Arnheim. New York.""5 14 Paul Klee. 96. somethingas simple and concreteas the drawingsof childrencould have emerged-and occasionally it almost did."The same line with complementary forms. Also published by Nierendorf. Praeger. the main line being imaginary. is also calculablein highly formal terms on the picture plane. "Passive lines which result from activated planes. Paul Klee and the Art of Children . of Klee's search for a new orderin representing nature.and his physical limitations." "The same line circumscribing itself. New York. that mountain?" "The contrast between man's ideological capacity to move at random through materialand metaphysical spaces. this lake. 139 Marsh. The translations differ slightly. 1953.""'4 Here is to be seen a language of line which. p.and not an escapefrom nature: "Fromthe twofold need of the modernpainterfor object and form." S. although it may speak from the inside in the simple formationof images. 1944. This twofold aim-of the extremely simple and at the same time the highly abstract. being terminated. too.is shown by Arnheim in relation to the larger context I have mentioned. which.is the origin of all human tragedy. Pedagogical Sketchbook. moves between given points. "Two secondary lines." "An active line." Lateron aboutthe arrow: "Thoughtis the father of the arrow:how can I increasemy range over this river.
it is not a refuge from the complexitythe artist may find in his world.Fig. 4."' ' In the formal terms there is a contradiction.Mother and Daughter (fig. drawing. Of the formerArnheimwrites: "The organicseparationof the heads is denied by a rectangle. but they are also related-one family. one blood. It is the pictureof a world in which the of natural state of things is set off by an equally convincingaffirmation the opposite. "' Ibid. but a deliberate and outward expression of a complex relationship. as I see this drawing. An interestingcomparisoncan be made between Klee's drawingBrotherand Sister (fig. p. 96.. 5).which fuses them at the same time it halves the face of the brother.However.The right pair of legs carries a body that fits either head equallywell. CAJ XVI 2 140 . The Brother and Sister are two people. 4) and a child's drawing. Paul Klee: Brother and Sister.
the image may be just as humorous (from the adult'spoint of view)..Although a child is often more logical. A comparison betweena drawingof a horse (fig. fig.whose arm shoots out in front of the child. Arnheim describesthe horse as having "the elegance of a businessman's signature. the image calls forth a humorousreactionfrom us.Fig. 6) by a five yearold boy and Klee's drawing Mother Dog with Three Litters (fig. Klee's Brother and Sister is both naturallyand deliberately sophisticated a expression. op. It is not so much an stateof things. One sees two distinct people.a very expressionof an "opposite"to the "natural complex and heightened synthesis of two opposing ideas. one line. Child's drawing: Mother and Daughter. cit. Though perhaps unintentionallyhumorous. In the child's drawing. One immediatelysees two people who are connected. 5) the total image is simpler. in visual terms. a heart in common. (From Arnheim. The arm of the figure on the right makes the visual connectionfor us. or a very similarpair of legs. this synthesis is very graphic. it is delightful to see how she is a little eclipsed by the more delineatedand aggressivemother. For this reason they may very likely share a nose in common. but it is never as compactnor complex." but rather. The key to the differencefrom Klee's drawing lies in the unintentional humor of the child's drawing. and compelling. 7) is an interesting one. Mother and Daughter (fig. In formal terms.) literally. 129. 5. but one also sees that they are related. and if one "reads" the daughterto be on the left."He cites it as an example of a child gaining facility and 141 Marsh: Paul Klee and the Art of Children .
Fig. CAJ XVI 2 142 . drawing. 152. op.) favoring the continuousflow of line. Paul Klee: Mother Dog with Three Litters. (From Arnheim.. Child's drawing of a horse. vv -" -v V -- Fig. however.17 The child's pure delight in motion in visual terms arrivesat a form very like Klee's much more intellectualone which is. New York. p. 133. cit. fig. a form of far "differentiation" beyond that of a child's development. Paul Klee. (From Will Grohmann. p.) 17Ibid. 258.but perhaps not far from a naturaldevelopmentof lines in visual terms. 6. 7.. in formal terms.The lines in Klee's drawing reveal many differentkinds of activity. Abrams. reproduced by permission of the publisher.intendingto portrayanimalsin motion.
oil painting.or gables. The painting seems suddenlyto become a Hot Chase of a differentsort. the eye stops racing aroundthe canvasand we think once more of the title. All the lines create an activity on the surface that is like hunting only not directly representinghunting. 8). The canvas representsthe complex rooms of a house. Fogg Museum of Art. our attention comes to a stop in the center. Hot Chase. at the top. This activity is kept essentially still however. yet not the same. although central part of this activity is the arrow. Such a complex picture-whose deceptivelysimple lines can be readon severallevels-could nevercome from a child. and the bow and arrow are that of Cupid. shot from a bow. With this arrestingidea. 8. Another revelation of adult sophisticationin Klee's art can be seen in the painting Early Chill (fig. The figure. blowing shutters. causing draughts and eddies of air. but stopped by the figure on that side. with ascendingtriangles. In one corneris a person in a room-a woman. primarilya linear painting of figuresmuch as a child might have drawn them.Fig. Paul Klee. suggesting a rapid movement to the right. the but 143 Marsh: Paul Klee and the Art of Children . 9). She has possibly just shut a door that makes a reverberation throughout the house. A seemingly accidental. and subordinateto the frameworkof the house. with its arm jutting out at right angles to its body seems a perfect child-like representation. Klee's use of the arrow can be seen in Hot Chase (fig. for the lines in this painting are dispersedover the canvasin randomway suggesting foxes or dogs-or wolves-joining in the hunt. Harvard University. Much as.
to see with the utter simplicity of the child.from the primitive. It is not only his right but a necessityfor him to do so.''20 It is this eye complete honesty and wonder of seeing with the unobstructed that Paul Klee and childrenhave in common. To do this he realized that ". " Ibid. much favored child. For the most part. from the schizophrenic. to be able to reorganizenaturein an image that is infalliblyhis own.and so they avoid the complexities of spatial relationshipswhich. CAJ XVI 2 144 . although the aesthetic selections he makes may be as difficult for him as are the adult artist's for him. 134 (quoted from Klee). in Klee does not indulge in "childishness" these drawings.He most successfully attainedit in his use of line. and. ".at times."'9And. or from the most trompe l'oeil realist or complex imagist or technician in the world of art history. which he describedby comparingthe artist to the tree that transmits in leaves an image unlike roots but necessarilycome from roots. . the indissoluble unity of the world within and the world without is completedin the eye. But he has said. From where the image comes Klee himself does not know. "Remainopen through life. in the main. child of creation. in and which Klee develops to such a high point of abstraction his paintings with use of color. p. But in his line the matterof artistand materialis found in its essence. Paul Klee endeavored.Rather. they retaina two dimensionalsurface. as Haftmann adds. 161."18 The child forms his image quite naturally.oblique lines which so completelyreveal this room as one with space. For the adult artist can conceiveat any visual stage of developmentthat he wishes. forced out by an inner certaintyor necessityand not by outsidelogic or influence. These strict demands on the artist-self are far from the art of the child. they are. 18Haftmann..it is an activity of honesty. if we are disinterested and receptivea picturewill appearbefore our eyes as if by magic. but real act" born of necessity. It is this inner certaintythat Klee wanted to attain.. reveal of at the same time a juxtapositionof visual representations which the child would not be capable. The choice is his own. 134. . . as we have noted. It is like being a "newbornchild" and making a "tiny. He can borrow from the child. p. His representationof this image in the material is direct. Thus line drawingsoffer the most telling comparisons between the work of Paul Klee and that of children. develops late in children. 0o Ibid. . p. The results are a complex unity of "concreteimage" in deceptively simple form.drawing from both withinthe inner eye or imagination-and without-the outer eye or world of nature.
Paul Klee: Early Chill. Friedman. oil painting. Chicago. Roy J.Fig. 9. Collection of Mr. 145 Marsh: Paul Klee and the Art of Children . and Mrs.
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