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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Franz Cizek

As near as Google and I can translate, the words above read:
"Christmas twelve greeting cards from the Youth Art Class of
Franz Cizek of the 1920s. Osterr Kunst-u. Cultural Publishing."
Nearly fifty years ago, when I was an undergraduate in art education at Ohio University, we learned a lot about the history of education. Likewise, we were taught a lot about the history of art. However, we were taught little or nothing about the history of art education. Today I came upon an Austrian painter by the name of Franz Cizek. I'd never heard the name before thus I had no knowledge of the fact that he was an important pioneer as to the manner in which young children are taught art. I quickly came to realize that much of what I'd done as an art instructor for some twenty-six years, had its roots in the teaching philosophy of this man and his work in organizing some of the first children's art classes in the world in Vienna, Austria, around the turn of the century.

Copyright, Jim Lane
The teaching of art has changed a lot down through the centuries.
Erika Giovanna Klien
In researching Dr. Frank Cizek, I was dismayed to find few, if any examples of his paintings. (The cover design at the top is, I think, one of his works.) Each time I thought I'd found something, it turned out to be by one of his young students. That's not altogether surprising in that Cizek spent most of his career promoting the work of his students, not only in teaching them, but in organizing some of the very first art exhibits devoted solely to the artwork of young children (most under the age of fourteen). Moreover, many of the children he taught, one in particular, Erika Giovanna Klien (left), went on to become art teachers themselves, spreading abroad the same teaching techniques and philosophies as their mentor. Miss Klien was responsible for bringing Cizek's brand of art education to the United States during the 1930s. Another former student, Emmy Lichtwitz Krasso, became Cizek's assistant from 1933 to 1935, then later went to India where she started a children's art movement in the Mumbai schools.

Cizek "guided" his students in painting and drawing while
also developing the use of linoleum as a safer relief printing medium in place of woodcuts (and their much-sharper tools). Notice the examples on the bulletin board.
Franz Cizek was born in 1865, and entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1885. While a student, he lived with a family having many children who visited him in his room. He allowed them to use his art supplies and encouraged them to express themselves. Cizek was impressed by their creativity, and showed their work to fellow artists at the university. They encouraged him to start an art school for children. The Juvenile Art Classes (above) were free of charge to children of Vienna, each child who applied was interviewed and selected by Cizek. His teaching method had limited structure, encouraging instead imagination and free expression. This concept would seem unremarkable today, but was exceedingly rare at any level of art training at the time.

The work of former Cizek student, Herta Zuckerman
dating from sometime before 1922.
In essence, Franz Cizek started a ball rolling insofar as recognition and appreciation had to do with the world of children's art. In 1920, the work from Cizek's children's art classes was exhibited at the British Institute for Industrial Art in Kingsbridge, England, and then toured the country. The following year, Francesca Wilson, a Birmingham teacher, exhibited the child art in London. This exhibition, and those for the Save the Children Fund, raised interest in the Child Art Movement. They are also early examples of featuring art in raising funds and awareness for humanitarian causes. Among those Cizek influenced was Johannes Itten, the Swiss painter and Bauhaus leader. Arthur Lismer, a Canadian artist, as well as the American Education writer and researcher, John Dewey. He founded a Children's Art Center at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1933, and at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1946, the same year Franz Cizek died in Vienna at the age of eighty-one.

The work of two other Cizek students. Not surprisingly, Christmas and Santa seem to have been a favorite subject among Cizek's students. These designs were used on
greeting cards which were sold to help pay for art supplies.
Surprises For The Younger Brothers And Sisters,
Steffi Kraus


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