(N-P Publications, Palo Alto, California)

THIS book is a major contribution to the subject of Child Art and should be read by everyone working in the field. It is very easy to understand. It does not ramble. It does not theorize. It eschews psychology. It is ascetic, even astringent, in the way it refuses all but the straightest and narrowest of paths.

Mrs. Kellogg’s point is simple. She has collected together 300,000 scribbles and finger paintings by small children, scrutinized them and discerned the same sequence of chronological changes in all of them. Most important, she has discovered that this sequence, which ends in the schema for a human figure, is controlled ab initio by an aesthetic principle that is clear to see: the principle of the mandala, of the centrally planned, centripetally balanced figure.

Such findings stem from the fact that “scribbler artists draw first and label afterwards — if at all.” They seem to be exercising a sort of will to form which is not allied to any other impulse and which limits awareness to matters of balance and simplification. Blind children, disturbed children and even chimpanzees produce the same structures. The author therefore holds that the activity derives from a biological, as distinct from a psychological, need.

Indeed, the whole book puts pressure on the claims of people like Lowenfeld and Alschuler. These look for distinctions where Mrs. Kellogg looks for similarities; they make subjective interpretations whereas she claims complete objectivity. The child is “trying to integrate familiar forms produced by rhythmic scribbling with similar images received from the appearance of reality objects.” This scorns an old chestnut: the child is not only not drawing what he sees, he is not even drawing what he knows!

It may be said, however, that the use of the word “trying,” above, is rather injudicious. It would surely be more accurate to say that the scribbling child is like Aladdin rubbing his lamp: the genie appears suddenly, magically; suddenly, out of the aggregate of specific marks, a face stares at him! The author herself even comments, “he seems as surprised to see it as is the by-standing adult,” and she goes on to claim that the schema continues to develop in the same way: by magic, so to say, rather than by any effort to reproduce the perceptual or the conceptual world.

And, so far, we are with her but, very inconveniently, there she stops. She bars the door not only to psychoanalysis but sociology as well. Yet, admitting that our skills are acquired as if by magic (one moment we can’t whistle, next moment we can), do we not get a clue to the possibilities they open to us from those around us, even at the age of three?

Mrs. Kellogg seems to imply that the completely isolated child, even a feral child, would discover the possibilities in his activity by himself, but this would be very difficult to prove. Indeed, such proof as does exist is to be found in the very disciplines that the author rejects — in the psychoanalytic and haptic theories of projection. On this score one recalls, too, that Rorschach theory is built on an even more massive bulk of evidence than Mrs. Kellogg’s and that its observation of the “global” tendency of child responses could actually be used to support her thesis (whereas adults vary a great deal in regard to where in the ink-blot they discover significant shapes, many finding them in edge details and so on, the child sees them consistently in the total, “global,” shape).

The new ground broken by this book will prove fertile not only in the nursery and infant school. The twenty basic marks that, according to Kellogg, the infant makes need never lose their appeal. Modern painting from Kandinsky to the action painters may be seen in this light as a search for that lost paradise created by our first scribbles, that realm of “thing-free” and even “gestalt-free” forms from which, as Ehrensweig has pointed out, our graphic consciousness emerges. But to those readers for whom that terrifying book The Psychoanalysis of Artistic Vision and Hearing will remain ever closed, here is one that need not, for, in spite of herself, Mrs. Kellogg’s achievement is a sort of animated version of it.