The Development of Artistically Gifted Children: Selected Case Studies

The Development of Artistically Gifted Children: Selected Case Studies

The Development of Artistically Gifted Children: Selected Case Studies

The Development of Artistically Gifted Children: Selected Case Studies


The literature on the development of gifted child artists is sparse and very little is known of the developmental antecedents of giftedness in the visual arts. Although children's drawings have received a great deal of attention, the development of artistically gifted children has been a neglected topic due to the paucity of available data, which has led some investigators to argue that there are no child prodigies in this domain.

Researchers are faced with many unanswered questions regarding the course of artistic development including:

• Is it similar to that seen in ordinary children or does it follow a different developmental trajectory?

• What, if any, continuities can we discern over development, and how can we account for discontinuities?

• What motivates young children to pursue their art making, and what characterizes the gifted child who pursues an artistic career in adulthood?

• What are the socio-cultural conditions that foster artistic development, and how do we define artistic talent or giftedness?

Consisting of six case studies, the present collection is a first in that it traces the development of each artist from a very early age on through adulthood. The longitudinally based studies provide an insight into the evolution of a universal graphic language that is also highly subjective and reflects the individuality of the young artist. The material is unique in that the authors had access to comprehensive collections of gifted childrens' drawings, which enabled them to begin to fill the gap in understanding their development.

The development of artistically gifted children is examined from a variety of perspectives by authors who are artists, art educators and historians, and developmental and clinical psychologists. The children's collections studied afford detailed analyses of the drawings which shed light on the developmental origins and antecedents of giftedness in the visual arts. These studies elucidate the meaning of the early graphic forms, their evolution into a graphic language, and the child's early sense of aesthetics. In addition, they provide insight into continuities and discontinuities of style and subject matter, and the motivation to pursue art in childhood and adulthood. They also offer clues to the importance of socio-cultural factors that affect the choice of an artistic career. The diverse perspectives of the authors highlight the importance of theory for deepening the understanding of artistic development and its significance for human concerns.


To be gifted means to have been given something. But given by whom or by what? It is good that this question is put forward so clearly right at the beginning of this book. It seems to me equally appropriate, however, that the bulk of the contributors do not concentrate on worrying about this problem. It is known by now what conditions are favorable to the development of artistic ability; but it seems to be equally evident that most of the great achievers reached the glories of their work without the help of those favorable circumstances and in fact by overcoming forbidding obstacles. We do not know what brought about the miracle of a Raphael or Picasso in settings that otherwise might have generated mediocrity; and perhaps we never will know.

It is natural for researchers to dig toward the roots of the phenomena they study, and there is a temptation to believe that what they know is all that is needed to know. But it is equally fitting to pause in awe and wonder in the face of happenings that are also creations of nature but beyond our present grasp. I suggest that the psychologists and art educators who present their findings in this book are happily concerned with the best of both worlds, the feasible and the admirable. For although it is wonderful to explore the deeds of the rare geniuses, it is equally rewarding and exhilarating to become acquainted with the ways other human beings strive to observe and to know what they see, their ways of making their feelings and aspirations reverberate in the shapes and stories they invent, and their sense of order and harmony in all these inventions.

All children are gifted with these human distinctions, but there are good reasons for singling out the best among them for description and analysis. Not only that it is encouraging and enjoyable to be in the company of excellence, but also because researchers do well to be satisfied with nothing less than the finest specimens to . . .

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