Learning to draw - Drawing to learn

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Learning to draw. Drawing to learn

Until 26 may 2019

The musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac is home to over 400 children’s drawings, most of them produced in the classroom between the early 1920s and the late 1960s.

Few French museums are able to boast such a collection, with the exception of the National Museum of Education in Rouen. Are we talking about a few scribbles and scrawls that have somehow ended up at the museum? Certainly not. The drawings we are talking about here, inherited from the Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, are, on the contrary, vital to understanding colonial history, the history of ethnology and even the history of taste.

The importance of children’s drawings first manifested itself in the field of psychology in the early 20th century. Indeed, in his thesis published in 1913, Georges-Henri Luquet distinguished between different phases of representation relating to the child’s psychomotor development. Children’s drawing was then seen as one of the historical manifestations of taste with regard to what the Western world refers to as ‘primitive', moving away from the classic model of artistic production. This primitivism gained new impetus at the start of the 20th century, resulting not only in a hierarchy of aesthetic judgement but also in the expansion of the various fields of art as they had tended to be defined in the West. In this perspective, children’s creations can be compared to those of ‘savages’ as well as those of self-taught artists, in that they embody a certain spontaneity and naivety that civilisation and education have not yet erased. The selection of drawings housed at the museum tell the story of these ‘art of childhood, childhood of art’ examined in 2009 in issue 9 of anthropology and history of art journal Gradhiva, published by the musée du quai Branly.

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