International Journal of Art & Design Education

The Three-Card Trick: the reading of images by children

Volume 5.1   1986



This paper is a re-examination and a revision of earlier work, which was based upon children¹s responses to art work, and reproductions of art work [1]. The paper examines not only children¹s readings of images, but adults’ reading of children¹s interpretations as revealed in their drawings. The focuses is on an exercise with 7-8 year olds which entailed them arranging chronologically three portrait reproductions (schematic, linear and modern) and choosing one to copy. It was found that all were rendered schematically, suggesting that stylistic differences in pictorial imagery could not be easily perceived by children of this age (although development could be accelerated through teaching). The paper is informed by the work of E.H. Gombrich, John Baines, John M. Kennedy and Alan Gowans. These four authors acted as catalysts for examining perceptions about children’s development in understanding art, about which several questions arise. In particular, ‘what is the value of avant-garde art as a basis for a child¹s development of the concept of art’? [1] Dyson, A. (1982) Art History in schools: a comprehensive strategy. Journal of Art & Design Education, 1, 1 and Dyson, A. (1984) Originality and originals, copies and reproductions, Journal of Art & Design Education, 3, 2.