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June 22, 2011 at 9:21 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Babies as art critics?


So today's goofy story - about how a group of nine-month-old babies picked Picasso over Monet.  The article (, talks about the five experiments and how the choice was overwhelmingly in favor of the P-man over Mr. M.  Their explanation?  The lead psychologist said, "To an infant, a painting is most likely only a perceptual pattern and their aesthetic preferences are most likely guided by low-level functions of the visual system."

My interpretation?  Those babies were trying hard to figure out why two eyes were on one side of the face along with the ears instead of their expected configuration - eyes on either side, nicely balanced ears, one mouth.  You know, the usual.  Monet landscapes?  Pretty predictable.  Not much visual controversy there, unless you count the typical impressionistic deconstruction of light with impasto pastel color Monet applied on the canvas.  I doubt babies are sensitive enough at nine months to be moved by visual texture. 

I mean, really.  Have you seen Picasso's Harlequin?  What about Guernica or Les Demoiselles d"Avignon?  Those babies were thinking, 'Huh.  Now, I know that what I'm used to seeing is soft, rounded shapes for people but this?  Heck, I don't know what to think about this stuff!"

It's ironic, really, since Picasso spent the last part of his life trying to learn how to see and draw like children.  He made studies in drawing and painting, mentally working from a place where he unlearned all the visual cues and expectations children are taught as 'proper' for figure representation.  To him, being able to create art from that perspective was the goal.  "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up," was his opinion on the subject.

Maybe that's what the babies got from looking at his artwork.  The artist saw things the way the babies saw them and that was the extent of their appreciation. 

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