Reason to go to the museum; babies are able to appreciate art too


Researchers at the University of Surrey recently discovered that babies have their own preferences when it comes to paintings. — AFP

MUSEUMS and other cultural institutions are increasingly launching initiatives aimed at children, but less so at babies. And yet, even the youngest infants can be extremely receptive. A new British study, published in the Journal of Vision, even claims that they can demonstrate their artistic preferences at a very early age.

To reach this conclusion, researchers at the University of Surrey conducted an experiment with 25 adults and 25 babies aged between four and nine months. The latter sat on their parents' laps while being shown, on a tablet, 40 landscapes painted by Vincent van Gogh.

The scientists recorded their reactions live to determine which paintings caught their attention the most. Adults taking part in the study looked at the same paintings as the infants and had to indicate, on the tablet, which they preferred.

It turns out that the adults and babies had similar artistic tastes. In fact, the Van Gogh landscapes the babies looked at the longest were the ones their parents preferred.

They all featured strong contrasts in colour and brightness, as well as lots of green. The painting that appealed most to study participants of all ages depicted green corn stalks in the middle of a field, while the one they liked least featured an olive grove.

The researchers did, however, note slight differences between the artistic preferences of babies and those of their elders. One such difference concerned the composition of paintings. The infants showed a preference for Van Gogh's landscapes with many curved lines, unlike their parents.

The findings suggest that babies may have far more developed visual abilities and preferences than is generally acknowledged."Although newborn babies’ vision is very blurry, our findings demonstrate that by four months old, babies can see well enough to look longer at some paintings than others, and can pay attention to many of the artistic details," the paper's lead author, professor Anna Franklin, told The Independent.

These findings could encourage more parents to take their children to museums, including the very young. Art establishments are encouraging them to do so, by developing visits, tours and activities dedicated to (very) young art lovers.

Museums specially designed for them are even springing up, like the Young V&A in London, which reopened to the public in July after three years of refurbishment works. – AFP Relaxnews

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