International Journal of Art & Design Education

Children and the Social Functions of Pictures

Volume 12.2   1993



Duncum rehearses five functions of artistic communication that link the realms of children's art and modern visual communication: `substitution', `narration', `embellishment', `commitment’, ‘persuasion' and `personal expression'. He implies that these must be understood in order to encourage a robustness of the young individual's sensibility that will aid participation in the common discourse while resisting its most insistent deceptions. The classification provided by Duncum is characterised by a synthesis between children's motives in producing pictures and the uses to which pictures are put by society at large. He argues that we can trust young people's intuitive, spontaneous actions because they turn out to correspond to the way adults make and use visual images. He concludes we can safely build curriculum upon their motivations because they lead to an understanding of visual art in society. This is true of our society, past and present, and many others. This proposal goes beyond providing a justification for visual art in education, to demonstrate ways in which the visual arts are both personally and socially relevant. Finally, it provides a theoretical basis, drawn from both developmental psychology and the sociology of culture, for the establishment of curriculum priorities.