The classes of Franz Cizek.
By the time I reached Vienna in 1929, the paintings by children in the art classes of Franz Cizek were known the world over. I had seen exhibitions of them in England, the United States, and Australia. Reproductions were sold by thousands in aid of the Red Cross, and they appeared everywhere on the walls of nursery schools, kindergartens, and private homes. Because of their colors and the fun and joy of life they depicted, they were universally loved by children and adults.
Franz Cizek (1865-1947) of Vienna ushered in a new era of art education for children. The age he enjoyed most, he was wont to say, was from three to seven years, "the age of purest art ... Children have their own laws. What right have grown-up people to interfere? They should draw as they feel, and all children have feelings and something to express!"
Cizek began his children's classes as early as 1903. From the beginning all was free and experimental, the children choosing their own materials, with nothing in the way of a copy or a model. And free and experimental they continued and remained, as I was to observe in 1929, twenty-six years offer the classes began.
On a wet Saturday morning I set out to find the Kunstgewerbeschule, the Municipal Arts and Crafts School of Vienna. As directed, I entered the tall, drab building, climbed the stairs, and fallowed a bleak passage to a door standing ajar. The impression that seemed to spring out of the gloom as I looked in is nearly indescribable. The double room with doors folded back was a lively place at busy children, the youngest about three years of age, though there were some of all ages and a few adults. All worked away at paper or board. There was a busy hum throughout the room, but there was no organization or appearance of a class, and there seemed to be no teacher, although later I saw children go to a young man to ask questions. This in itself was remarkable; but most striking was the riot of color springing from every wall, desk, and easel, and even from the floor. Against the drabness of the walls, the wet and smeary windows and murky November light, there seemed to be living color and form in paintings and art objects.
Some children, who had evidently come early, were well started an their paintings. Others were getting out colors and brushes. One child had a puppy curled up at her feet. A happy, informal atmosphere prevailed. All had apparently come because they wished to come, and they could leave when they liked. I marveled at the ingenuity and imagination shown by these children, as they covered large sheets of paper--then unusual--with pictures of prancing steeds and joyous children and quaint animals. "I like long bodies and all these disproportions," Cizek had said. No restrictions, no orders, and, it appeared, no instruction was given. The children, painting as they felt and as they wished, looked as if they had entered heaven. Meanwhile, on invitation of the young man who seemed to be in charge, I had taken a seat. Professor Cizek, I was told, had been ill, but would be there later.
When Cizek entered the room he moved so quietly that no one looked up at first. One by one they saw him and smiled and were given his answering smile. He was tall and gentle looking, with a distinguished, aristocratic bearing. A quietly humorous smile shone in his eyes. Nothing changed in the roam as he entered. He nodded to some of the older pupils, and then with his assistant looked over the paintings which were finished and ready to discuss. A child came to ask about her painting, holding it up for Cizek to see. Several others joined them and began to talk, the children talking mare than he. One said that she could not draw a hoop, and he suggested that she watch her brother or the children in the street when they were bowling hoops.
Several children had been drawing "the city." The diversity of their paintings on this subject, when lined up on the blackboard ledge, was most striking. Every aspect of city life was presented, though all seemed to picture towering buildings and streets beneath. The painting of a boy of eight, who had painted beneath his houses the water pipes that lay underground, attracted special attention. Cizek commended the bay for his attempt to depict the hidden city beneath the visible one. Here, one felt, was the master art teacher of children. Inspiring and encouraging, he had a quaint, humorous word for each one, and showed a real delight in these paintings. His enjoyment and that of the children were plain. A continual ripple of laughter filled the room, so full of color and beauty in the midst of the dismal building and the grim outdoor weather.
I left when the children went, and watched them disappear into the gloom and mist, clutching their treasures, wrapped in newspaper to keep them dry. One was sure that they would all be back the following Saturday to keep their tryst with Professor Cizek.
Dr. Mary V. Gutteridge, formerly head, Early Childhood Education, The Merrill-Palmer School, in Detroit, Michigan.
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|Title Annotation:||Focus: SA Classic; 1958|
|Author:||Gutteridge, Mary V.|
|Date:||Oct 1, 1990|
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