For more than a century, theoretical discussion of child art within psychology, education, and art history has been largely structured by two schemas of innocence and corruption. Each appeals to a conception of a pure mode of vision, yet in two contrasting ways. The visionary schema dismisses linear perspective as a perversion by the adult culture of the child’s imaginative vision. The perceptual schema regards perspectival art as the one natural mode of representation, and the distinctive art of the child as the sign of early corruption. Furthermore, despite their contrasting emphases, their conflicting ideals of art are equally and essentially anti-developmental and anti-historical. This paper traces the careers of these schemas, and their influence upon and paradoxical relation to the recent literature, including the most widely held account of the artistic achievements of autistic children and the claims of experimental researchers that young children are capable of drawing in perspective. The paper closes by drawing attention to Luquet, an early theorist widely associated with the schema of perceptual innocence, yet whose work has been radically misinterpreted. It is argued that Luquet was, in fact, beginning to define a new theoretical space beyond each of these conflicting and highly problematic schemas of innocence.

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