“The child is vastly more ancient than the man,” claimed the American childhood researcher Stanley Hall in the early twentieth century. Ever since the teachings of the Enlightenment, childhood and prehistory have been identified with one another, and child psychology and psychoanalysis have considered childhood an inaccessible epoch. According to psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, and artists, since 1900 children have literally lived in a different time than the adults of their own time and culture. The experience of discontinuity between childhood and adult life made the child accessible as a figure of primitivism—and it generated a dynamization of the prehistoric. In the course of growing up, Europeans now form their own historically specific prehistory. In her lecture, Barbara Wittmann investigates the development and establishment of this figure of thought and probes its significance for the visual arts—in particular for the work of Paul Klee.
Barbara Wittmann is professor of Art History at the Berlin University of the Arts. After studying art history in Vienna and Berlin, she worked and taught at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, at the German Art History Institute in Florence, at the Bauhaus University Weimar, at the Humboldt University in Berlin, and the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. She researches the pictorial arts of the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries, the history of scientific and artistic drawing and children’s drawings. Her history of the culture and knowledge of children’s drawings, Bedeutungsvolle Kritzeleien: Eine Kultur- und Wissensgeschichte der Kinderzeichnung, 1500-1950, will be published In autumn 2018.