UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Australian Art Education
Name(s) of Author/Editor(s): 
Norman Freeman
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A century ago it was common for art educators to assume that their task was to induct pupils into a correct theory of art, based on the fruits of historical experience. One tool they used was to work upwards from the canonical genres of still life and human figure interwoven with landscape and townscape copying. The promotion of 'self-sought creativity' was in violent backlash. But in the current generation, some educators have sought to retrieve what was progressive from the early wreckage, and to call on art historians and art critics to establish guidelines. The 'Critical Studies' movement in Britain has been most articulate in that respect. This paper considers the role that child psychology can play in such a context. We know that children develop practical intelligence around representational problems in the third year of life, and thence they acquire a number of theories of representation, coming to articulate their beliefs and desires in an uneven process of reflective awareness. The child's theory of art can be held back or fostered. Many educators have both intuitive and reflective knowledge of fostering which psychologists have been slow to recognise. But the central focus here is on the typical nature of the child's theory of art, from the first step in pretending to be an artist to the relativist metaphysics of early adolescence.
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