My kid can paint that abstract art


Hans Hofmann, ‘The Gate’, 1959-1960, collection: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


Interesting that the October 17th MadSilence post (The artist as a child, or My kid could paint that!) concerning child artist Marla Olmstead has become our third most popular post in the last 30 days. 


Thanks to Argot we now have these links to NPR that offer further debate on the child as artist.


Check out The Arc of a Prodigy (10/5/07) where you can view the trailer to the documentary, My Kid Could Paint That, as well as watch clips from Marla’s Gallery Opening, Featured on ’60 Minutes’, and Turning Modern Art on its Head.  In Finger Painting on the Big Screen(10/15/07) Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum talks about her column, “Art as Child’s Play,” in which she examines the work of 4-year-old painting prodigy Marla Olmstead.  Youthful Art on NPR’s Blog of the Nation blog provides further audio discussion of the topic.

Upon further consideration I find I agree with the thoughts of abstract artist and teacher Hans Hofmann concerning art produced by children.


The difference between art produced by children and great works of art is that one is approached through the purely subconscious and emotional, and the other retains a consciousness of experience as the work develops and is emotionally enlarged through the greater command of the expression-medium.*

*From Search for the Real and Other Essaysby Hans Hofman, eds. S. T. Weeks and B. H. Hayes, Jr., 1948, as quoted in Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, by Herschel B. Chipp, 1968. 

What Hofmann is saying is that experience, training and skill contribute to and emotionally enlarge the mature artist’s work, enhancing the aesthetic value of the canvas. Only the experienced artist can capture the beauty of life and transform it into an elegant visual language.


Sadly, what young artists such as Marla bring to the contemporary art world is the appeal of the novel, the unusual, the trendy. Fashion art, the trend of the moment, the momentary phenomena, reigns in the marketplace.  A sad commentary upon the viewing public, since this juvenile art may be the only art we are able to grasp, and justly deserve.



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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Idetrorce
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 22:52:37

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you


  2. Kim
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 01:28:18

    Hi. I am an art student. Abstract art is what Picasso has done–he took what he saw and abstracted it. What your child has done is called nonrepresentational art. It is very beautiful–I love the expressive use of color.


  3. Vishinsky
    May 28, 2010 @ 22:41:56

    Yea Kim’s right


  4. Drowdiorseger
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 14:53:33

    What a comment!! Very interesting… Looking for more posts like this!! Keep you the goodwork!
    Anyway thank you for this info.


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