HAVING discussed art in its relation to University and school education, and to special work of Schools of Art, I come now to the education of the child. In many ways this is for Indians by far the most important section of the subject, because it relates to those early years of childhood when the teaching and influence of the parents shape the whole temperament and character of the future man or woman. It is in the home, rather than in the school, or University, or Council Chamber, that the whole foundation of India’s artistic and industrial regeneration, as well as the foundation of her political self-government, must be laid. The ideals of each individual householder make the ideals of the nation: the demands of the household construct the whole fabric of national art and industry. National art is formed upon national character; if the Indian household is denationalised, Indian art will become so and the political ( freedom which is the ideal of the educated Indian, will not make it otherwise.
The Report of the International Art Congress, to which I have referred before, gives many suggestions to Indian parents on infant education. Several of the most important papers were on the teaching of drawing in Infant Schools, and one of the most interesting sections of the Congress Exhibition was a collection of drawings sent from the London County Council Infant Schools. This is a part of a child’s education which any intelligent Indian parent can direct in his own home. One of the most instructive Art Exhibitions in London is the annual Exhibition of the Royal Drawing Society, in which drawings by infants beginning at the age o two and a half years are shown. Just as in the earliest ages of humanity, before written language was fully developed, so even now the inchoate scrawlings of childhood represent its first attempts to give ideas visible form, and the best educationists in Europe recognise that this infantile scribbling may be used as a means of developing the child intelligence.
At the Art Congress, Mr. Dow, Professor of Fine Art in the Teachers’ College, Columbia University, declared:
That art teachers had before them the task of convincing the public that art education furnishes the finest kind of training for children. Inadequate teaching is responsible for the misconceptions of the public mind as to the significance of art. If the nature of fine arts were better understood, art training would be recognised as an indispensable part of education. Mr. Ebenezer Cooke, delegate from the Teachers' Guild, London, read an excellent paper on experiments in the teaching of young children, in which he emphasised the importance of drawing.
It not only stimulates observation, deepens impressions, and helps to form clear ideas, but it is also a means of expression and verification. Speech helps the process of thought but drawing helps to form the ideas themselves ... Children draw from their own ideas for play. The teacher should take advantage of this, and play at drawing. Each child might name an object in the room, field, or garden, an animal or bird, and let all draw it from their own knowledge and then look at it. Children draw from memory and imagination. Adopt this. Show them an object for a minute or longer, take it away, and draw it from memory. Repeat the drawing after a day, a week, or later. Illustrate a nursery rhyme, a verse of poetry, a story or fairy tale. The figures children make are their own, but there is a law in their development. To improve them, appeal to facts and to knowledge. The man has no arms. Why not? When the drawings are done put them before the class. The backward children will learn from the more advanced. It is often said: “Give children only the best work.” If we give the head of Apollo or Athene to a child it will be treated in the child’s own archaic manner. We cannot alter development; we must recognise it. Let no conscious weakness prevent any one from attempting the human figure from imagination. Begin with the child’s own figures. Help the child by working with its own knowledge; both what it wants to express and its knowledge of form, the means of expression also. Begin at the known; give colour, and use the brush to draw with or without line. Shape or model the colour into form while it is wet at its edges. Invent patterns with lines, forms, and colours to provide knowledge, and to give facility with the means of expression.
These are practical suggestions which can easily be adapted to Indian conditions, especially if the parent seeks the help of a wood carver, cotton printer or a painter employed in temple decoration, or any other craftsman practising the traditions of Indian art, so that the teaching may have a true Indian character. Miss Katherine Phillips, Superintendent of Method for the London County Council, gave some explanations of the teaching in the Council’s Infant Schools.
The drawing of little children is recognised by our teachers to be a language another means of expression for the developing, struggling, child intelligence. In our good modern infants’ schools the little children are now not only allowed, but required to see for themselves, and required to record their own observations and impressions, or ideas of their observations and impressions, not what an outside adult authority insists to them is there to be seen. ... In this work little children are not now separated from life the real stirring actual life about them. How truly this is everywhere full of beauty, even among the most ungracious social surroundings, is scarcely realised by those who have never been awakened to ‘see’ for themselves. If there is nothing else, in some spot of earth desecrated by all foulness and ugliness, there is the sky above, the fruit and vegetables on the coster’s barrow, perhaps dray-horses with their fine form and action, and the little children themselves. Little children, through their drawing, are now required, not to postpone living, to some future adult period, but to live fully now, and, through ‘seeing,’ to learn to love and enjoy the beauty which lies all about them.
Two other delegates, Messrs. A. G-. Hannah and John Moffatt, insisted upon the importance of allowing children to draw in colour, as a help to the development of the imaginative faculties, quoting Mr. George Clausen, R.A., who said in one of his Academy lectures:
A picture that is well drawn and modelled only will interest, but will be passed by in favour of colour. For colour touches us more deeply; its sense is more instructive. A child will be excited by colours but indifferent to form.
Certainly the colour sense is one of those finer faculties which should not be neglected by the educationist. Colour education is a refining influence which will help much in making the children’s afterlife beautiful, and the delegates were right in insisting on its importance.
How can we make too much of it, when we think of the thousands of children who step from our elementary schools into life, unaffected by the refining influence of colour education to become workers without ideas of beauty to furnish homes for themselves, and to be engaged, perhaps, in the manufacture of articles in which colour plays an important part to possess as citizens, picture galleries containing priceless treasures which they are unable to enjoy? The culture necessary for the enjoyment of colour should not be possessed by the few. It is the birthright of everyone, and it should be on the conscience of those responsible for education to see that every child is afforded opportunities for acquiring it.
The traditions of Indian art bring into Indian national life a glorious colour-music, one of those subtle, refining influences which have moulded Indian character and elevated national culture. One of the bad effects of modern education in India has been the vulgarisation of Indian life by the killing of the colour sense. If that sense were not killed by our educational system there would be much less demand for aniline dyes than there is now, and much less deterioration of those handicrafts for which a refined colour sense is necessary. Indian educationists should always remember that the living traditions of Indian art afford them a valuable help in art teaching which teachers in Europe and America are deprived of. In the West, national art tradition is almost extinct, so that the teachers have only nature study and archaeological study upon which to build up a national system of art teaching. There is therefore much confusion of ideas, owing to the conflict of different authorities, different methods of teaching and different interpretations of nature. This confusion gets still more confounded when the European teacher comes to teach in India. School teachers and students in India need not be left to study nature without any other artistic guide than their own imagination, as they have a sound national tradition to guide and inform them in their study of nature. In Indian schools students should study nature in the light given them by Indian art. Drawing as taught by Indian Schools of art has been, not Indian art, but European, so that what art students have learnt has been art in a European and not an Indian sense. A student or teacher who does not fully understand and appreciate Indian art and culture can do no good to India by his European studies; so the practice of sending Indian students to Europe for art education, when they are totally ignorant of Indian art, is a most pernicious one which all Indians with real artistic understanding will discourage. The contempt which the English-educated Indian generally shows for Indian art is only the measure of his ignorance.
A very excellent method of training for young children, which can be used in conjunction with drawing as a means of developing the creative and imaginative faculties, is now being practised in a few of the more progressive of English schools, and has been highly recommended by some of the best educationists. It is based upon the experience acquired by Mrs. M. E. Boole from the study of child psychology, and has both a scientific and artistic aim. This reconciliation of purposes, which are often regarded as at variance with each other, is to my mind one of its greatest recommendations, for all true art is scientific, just as all true science is artistic. Both belong to the great rhythm of things which controls the working of what we call Nature, and it is only the ignorance or charlatanism of professors of science and art which makes them so often play at cross purposes in education.
Mrs. Boole is the widow of George Boole, the famous mathematician, who was said by Herbert Spencer to have made the greatest advance in logic since Aristotle. Since her husband’s death she has devoted herself to educational work and to the explanation of the psychological bearing of Boole’s mathematical investigations, which seems to have been only vaguely understood in Europe. It will probably be better appreciated in India. An extremely interesting letter written by her to Professor J. C. Bose on this subject is published in The Ceylon National Review for June 1909, in which Mrs. Boole endeavours to show how much western science in the nineteenth century is indebted to Indian thought. Most European scientists seem to be just as unconscious of this as European artists generally are of the immense influence which Indian thought exercised upon one of the greatest epochs of European art, which we call Gothic, as I have pointed out in my book on Indian Sculpture and Painting. When the science of psychology has outgrown its infancy in the West we shall understand these things better, and probably deal with educational questions in India more sanely than we do now. I would commend Mrs. Boole’s letter to the careful study of all my readers.
The method of child training to which I referred, called C A Rhythmic approach to Mathematics is explained in a little book (George Philip, 2s. 6d.) written by Mrs. Soraervell, one of Mrs. Boole’s pupils. Its object, as explained in the introduction, is:
To train in young children certain perceptions without the use of any intellectual statements whatever. These perceptions, if awakened, without intellectual effort or explanation, will enable the child: (1) when the actual teaching of mathematics begins, to approach the subject, not as something new, strange and abstract, but as orderly explanations of experiences long familiar to him, and charged with pleasurable association; (2) to become aware that there are laws of intimate relations between number, form, movement and the process of thought; (3) by means of this sense of relation, to grow able to translate readily any of these into terms of any other.
There are also important indirect results beautiful curves are produced by a process so simple and automatic that the most inartistic child can succeed in generating beauty by mere conscientious accuracy and the habit of doing this tends to produce a keen feeling for line. It has been noticed in some cases, where clean and pure colour has been used, that a remarkable sensitiveness to colour relation has grown. The habit which the work has been found to form, even in children of five and six years old, of constantly inventing patterns suggested by geometric form, which frequently grow into familiar natural forms, has the effect of keeping them harmlessly happy and busy in a way which satisfies the creative instinct; the bearing of this on the future health of the child can hardly be exaggerated.
The materials used are needle and threads of different colours and a series of cards on which a few simple geometric forms are printed to initiate the child into the method of work which is called curve-sewing. After a little practice on the given exercises the child is able to evolve beautiful forms in infinite variety by applying the same method to any other geometric basis, which the child can choose for itself. Without imposing any strain upon their nervous systems, this is, Mrs. Boole says in her Preface:
A means of introducing little children to the conception of a connection between organic thought-sequence and the evolution of harmonious form . . . I gave two or three Christmas cards worked with curves to Mr. Grarstang, Mathematical Master at Bedales School, Petersfield, who showed them to Miss Borsche, a Froebel teacher under Mr. Scott, Head Master of a Preparatory School, connected with Bedales, suggesting that she might try to invent some method of combining curves. She and her little class devoted only fifty minutes per week during school hours to sewing curves on cards, but some of the children practised of their own accord at spare moments, and soon began making combinations and suggestions of their own. The experiment was carefully watched to see whether the children were growing excited, fatigued, or unduly conscious of personal inspiration. But as no symptoms of any such danger showed themselves, the two Head Masters (of Bedales and the Preparatory School) showed their wisdom by giving Miss Borsche a free hand. Some of the work produced was shown by Mr. Garstang in January, 1904, at the house of Dr. Arthur Somei’vell; and the connection between harmonograph curves and those produced by Miss Borsche’s pupils was pointed out. Mrs. Somervell then began experimenting, with very interesting results. This summer, I have had the great joy of seeing Mrs. Somervell and her children give lessons in the art of geometric design to a few children attending the Primary School at Overstrand; and I have no hesitation in saying that the method carried out by Miss Borsche and Mrs. Somervell, with which they kindly wish to connect my name, is a working possibility as a means of truly national evocation of creative and organising power.
Mrs. Boole’s method has, as she says, one great advantage over many kinds of educational reform: it can be put into operation without agitation or public discussion, without Acts of Parliament, or the permission of School Inspectors. This should make it particularly useful in India. Any intelligent father or mother can set the children to work at it. A complete outfit of the simple materials required for a family or small class together with three sets of the cards printed with geometric patterns, is supplied by the publishers of the book at the cost of five shillings, but country materials could be substituted at a much less expense. Those who wish to know more of Mrs. Boole’s methods should read her books: Preparation of the Child for Science, Logic taiight by Love, (C. W. Daniel) and The Mathematical Psychology of Gratry and Boole (G. P. Putnam).