Franz Cižek


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Austrian painter and teacher, a key figure in the history of children's art education. He was born in Leitmeritz (now Litoměřice in the Czech Republic) and studied at the Academy in Vienna, the city where he spent most of his career (he was a member of the Vienna Sezession and of the Wiener Werkstätte). Initially he worked as a painter of portraits and genre scenes, but from 1897 he was primarily a teacher. In that year he founded a school called the Jugendkunstklasse (‘Children's art class’) for children from the age of three upwards, and in 1904 it was incorporated into the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), where he taught until 1934 (Kokoschka was among his adult pupils). Cižek was the originator of the idea that children's art is a special branch of art (extending up to the age of about fourteen, after which he thought the freshness and spontaneity were lost): ‘People make a great mistake in thinking of child art merely as a step to adult art. It is a thing in itself, quite shut off and following its own laws, and not the laws of grown-ups.’ He regarded education as ‘growth and self-fulfilment’ and urged teachers to ‘Make your schools into gardens where flowers may grow as they grow in the garden of God’. His ideas became well known through lectures (he spoke at educational conferences in London in 1908 and Dresden in 1912) and through exhibitions of the work of his pupils, which he toured in England and the USA (these helped to popularize linocut as a technique specially suited to children). His work also helped to bring child art to the attention of avant-garde artists, among whom it had something of a vogue in the years immediately before the First World War. The first occasion on which children's art was shown alongside professional adult art was the Mostra d'Arte Libera in Milan in 1911 (the exhibition in which Futurist painting made its public debut); in 1912 Stieglitz held an exhibition of children's work in New York, and in the same year Kandinsky and Marc reproduced children's drawings in their Blaue Reiter Almanac.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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