Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta  (1983), Jean-Michel Basquiat

Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta (1983), Jean-Michel Basquiat

The Modern Masters collected children's art, copied it and used it as inspiration.    

Naif is captivated by how modern artists have been impacted by children’s artwork. By recognizing the depth of their appreciation, we have developed a fresh curiosity about what our own children do and how we understand it.

The following artists reflect a sample of the lasting effect that children’s artwork has left on the artistic canon.  Click on each name to learn more.


“I used to draw like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child.”

-Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s sketches for Guernica were very childlike and led to one of his most important pieces. In The Study of a Horse, one can see that Picasso imitated the approach of a six year old. Picasso explored the creativity of children in an effort to comprehend, and stimulate, his own creativity.

   Composition Study for Guernica  (III) (1937), Pablo Picasso

 Composition Study for Guernica (III) (1937), Pablo Picasso

   Study of a Horse  (1937), Pablo Picasso

 Study of a Horse (1937), Pablo Picasso

Without exception, in each child's drawing the inner sound of the subject is revealed automatically.

-Wassily Kandinsky

Kandinsky began collecting children’s drawings with Gabriele Münter and amassed roughly 250 drawings and paintings on paper. Children’s drawings appeared often in the collective exhibitions in which Kandinsky participated.

 

 Top: Munter's paintings  Bottom: Child's drawings

Top: Munter's paintings

Bottom: Child's drawings

 Some particularly striking examples of the seriousness with which Gabriele Münter studied child’s artwork are the copies she made of paintings of houses.

  House  (1914), Gabriele Munter

House (1914), Gabriele Munter

 Child's drawing, Rudi Schindler

Child's drawing, Rudi Schindler

“…[t]he artist… has to look at life as he did when he was a child and if he loses that faculty, he cannot express himself in an original, that is, personal way.”

- Henri Matisse

With Marguerite, Matisse deliberately emulated a child’s style, titling his retrospective “Looking at Life with the Eyes of a Child”.

   Marguerite  (1907), Henri Matisse

 Marguerite (1907), Henri Matisse

Rothko’s interest in children’s art was recognized by the critics, “The artist has taught children for many years, and one feels that they in turn have helped to make him see and feel with their own simplicity and instinct for truth.”

   Green and Tangerine on Red  (1956), Mark Rothko

 Green and Tangerine on Red (1956), Mark Rothko

“I like kids' work better than real artists' work any day."

-Jean-Michel Basquiat

To Jean-Michel Basquiat it seemed natural to collaborate with children and, at one point, he even hired an eight year old, at twenty dollars a drawing, to sketch motifs such as a fishing pole in The Revised Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta (1983) and the Empire State Building in his painting Empire (1980).

  Untitled  (1984), Basquiat in collaboration with Cora Bischofberger (age 4-5)

Untitled (1984), Basquiat in collaboration with Cora Bischofberger (age 4-5)

  Empire  (1980), Jean-Michel Basquiat

Empire (1980), Jean-Michel Basquiat

One of the most intriguing examples of the ongoing interest among artists today in the art of children is the use Jasper Johns has made of a drawing by a child.

 Child's drawing

Child's drawing

   Untitled , (1991) Jasper Johns

 Untitled, (1991) Jasper Johns