Viktor Lowenfeld's Cognitive/Artistry Research

Viktor Lowenfeld, in Creative and Mental Growth (Macmillan Co., New York, 1947), suggests that there are at least five stages of early childhood to adolescent visual representation (drawing/painting). His stages align in principle with Piaget's early stages for cognition.

(2 to 4 years)

The Scribble stage is made up of four sub-stages. (a) Disordered - uncontrolled markings that could be bold or light depending upon the personality of the child. At this age the child has little or no control over motor activity. (b)Longitudinal - controlled repetitions of motions. Demonstrates visually an awareness and enjoyment of kinesthetic movements. Circular - further exploring of controlled motions demonstrating the ability to do more complex forms. Naming - the child tells stories about the scribble. There is a change from a kinesthetic thinking in terms of motion to imaginative thinking in terms of pictures. This is one of the great occasions in the life of a human. It is the development of the ability to visualize in pictures.

(4 to 6 years)

The preschematic stage is announced by the appearance of circular images with lines which seem to suggest a human or animal figure. During this stage the schema (the visual idea) is developed. The drawings show what the child perceives as most important about the subject. There is little understanding of space - objects are placed in a haphazard way throughout the picture. The use of color is more emotional than logical.

(7 to 9 years)

This stage is easily recognized by the demonstrated awareness of the concept of space. Objects in the drawing have a relationship to what is up and what is down. A definite base and sky line is apparent. Items in the drawing are all spatially related. Colors are reflected as they appear in nature. Shapes and objects are easily definable. Exaggeration between figures (humans taller than a house, flowers bigger than humans, family members large and small) is often used to express strong feelings about a subject. Another technique sometimes used is called "folding over" this is demonstrated when objects are drawn perpendicular to the base line. Sometimes the objects appear to be drawn upside down. Another Phenomenon is called "X-ray". In an x-ray picture the subject is depicted as being seen form the inside as well as the outside.

(9 to 11 years)

Dawining realism is also known as the gang age. Group friendships of the same sex are most common. This is a period of self awareness to the point of being extremely self critical. The attempts at realism need to be looked at from the child's point of view. Realism is not meant to be real in the photographic sense rather than an experience with a particular object. In this regard this stage is the first time that the child becomes aware of a lack of ability to show objects the way they appear in the surrounding environment. The human is shown as girl, boy, woman, man clearly defined with a feeling for details often resulting in a "stiffness" of representation. Perspective is another characteristic of this stage. There is an awareness of the space between the base line and sky line. Overlapping of objects, types of point perspective and use of small to large objects are evident in this stage. Objects no longer stand on a base line. Three dimensional effects are achieved along with shading and use of subtle color combinations. Because of an awareness of lack of ability drawings often appear less spontaneous than in previous stages.

(ll to 13 years)

In the previous stages the process in making the visual art was of great importance. In this stage the product becomes most important to the child. This stage is marked by two psychological differences. In the first, called Visual, the individual's art work has the appearance of looking at a stage presentation. The work is inspired by visual stimuli. The second is based on subjective experiences. This type of Nonvisual individual's art work is based on subjective interpretations emphasizing emotional relationships to the external world as it relates to them. Visual types feel as spectators looking at their work form the outside. Nonvisually minded individuals feel involved in their work as it relates to them in a personal way. The visually minded child has a visual concept of how color changes under different external conditions. The nonvisually minded child sees color as a tool to be used to reflect emotional reaction to the subject at hand.
It is worth pointing out that Lowenfield's research takes us to artistic development up to age 13, with the pseudorealistic stage. Beyond this stage, Lowenfeld's work tails off. To be fair, his work has been used by art educators, school systems, and teachers around the world. It appears effective and important as far as it goes. In a similar manner, the manner in which Abigail Housen's likewise important work has been most used is for children's education. If we can engage a child's imagination and help their attitudes and practices of art along the path in ways that he or she can relate with, then as children enter adulthood, the native capacity of creativity can bloom as it should, even the the adult is no longer an artist.

It is also worth mention that the traits Lowenfeld assigns to the specific ages (Scribble is ages 2-4, preschematic is ages 4-6) are not a cut and dried rigid account of exactly when these capacities unfold in children. Much as a bell curve represents averages, these age-specific capacities are suggested through a wide perspective that examines this developmental unfolding through a large group of children from various backgrounds.

Where is this going for capacities that might emerge after age 13, or after the pseudorealistic stage? We might make informed speculation of this (if research along these lines does not already exist, which it indeed may) through examination of the conclusions drawn by developmentalists, like Lowenfeld, who examine the waves of consciousness, cognition, and other intelligences. By aligning Lowenfeld's work with similar-minded researchers with similarly-gauged work, at least two things happen. One is that we have a fuller picture of not only 'artisthood' but the human person as a whole. Two is that capacities others have documented, which tend to emerge after age 13, might suggest what the subsequent stages of visual representation might look like.

The work of Charles Alexander and Jean Piaget, as two of many possible examples, documents the unfolding of development after age 13. Piaget's work on cogition suggests that 'formal operational', at ages 13-19, gives way to a transitionary stage (age 19-21) from form-op to what he calls 'polyvalent logic' or systems of systems (age 21 onward). Alexander's work, on levels of or stages of cognition or mind, suggests that age 13 is the end of what he calls 'representational mind' (which sounds similar to Lowenfeld's pseudorealistic stage). Subsequent stages are 'abstract mind' (age 15-19), 'transcendental intuition' (age 30-41), 'root mind' (early 40s), 'pure Self' (late 40s), and 'Brahman-Atman' (50 onward).

Each of these corrolations are provided in Ken Wilber's Integral Psychology. Wilber's own work suggests several stages after age 13. 'Formal' (age 13) gives way to 'Vision-logic' (age 21), 'Psychic' (age 28), 'Subtle' (age 35), 'Causal' (age 42), and 'Nondual' (age 49 onward). All in all, if visual representational development bears any similarily to the development of cognition, then there would be stages beyond what Lowenfeld's work names. Indeed, there is a wealth of evidence that suggests visual representation might have further stages. It is left to the case studies of the future to possibly bear this out, or suggest what indeed may lie for visual artists, in terms of verifiable developmental stages, after Lowenfeld's stage of pseudorealism.

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