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by [?]

“Well, boys, what shall we draw today?” the father would ask at breakfast-time.

And then they would all vote on it, and arguments in favor of goat or donkey were eloquently and skilfully set forth.

I said that a very young child could draw pictures: standing by my chair as I write this line is a chubby little girl, just four years old, in a check dress, with two funny little braids down her back. She is begging me for this pencil that she may “make a pussy-cat for Mamma to put in a frame.”

What boots it that the little girl’s “pussy-cat” has five or six legs and three tails–these are all inferior details.

The evolution of the individual mirrors the evolution of the race, and long before races began to write or reason they made pictures.

Art education had better begin young, for then it is a sort of play; and good artistic work, Robert Louis Stevenson once said, is only useful play.

Probably Edwin Landseer’s education began a hundred years before he was born; but his technical instruction in art began when he was three years old, when his father would take him out on the Heath and placing him on the grass, put pencil and paper in his hand and let him make a picture of a goat nibbling the grass.

Then the boy noted for himself that a goat had a short tail, a cow a switch-tail, and horses had no horns, and that a ram’s horns were unlike those of a goat.

He had begun to differentiate and compare–and not yet four years old!

When five years of age he could sketch a sleeping dog as it lay on the floor better than could Thomas, his brother, who was seven years older.

We know the deep personal interest that John Landseer felt in the boy, for he preserved his work, and today in the South Kensington Museum we can see a series of sketches made by Edwin Landseer, running from his fifth year to manhood.

Thus do we trace the unfolding of his genius.

That young Landseer’s drawing was a sort of play there is no doubt. People who set very young children at tasks of grubbing out cold facts from books come plainly within the province of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and should be looked after, but to do things with one’s hands for fun is only a giving direction to the natural energies.

Before Edwin Landseer was eight years of age his father had taught him the process of etching, and we see that even then the lad had a vivid insight into the character of animals. He drew pictures of pointers, mastiffs, spaniels and bulldogs, and gave to each the right expression.

The Landseers owned several dogs, and what they did not own they borrowed; and once we know that Charles and Thomas “borrowed” a mastiff without the owner’s consent.

All children go through the scissors age, when they cut out of magazines, newspapers or books all the pictures they can find, so as to add to the “collection.” Often these youthful collectors have specialties: one will collect pictures of animals, another of machinery, and still another of houses. But usually it is animals that attract.

Scissors were forbidden in the Landseer household, and if the boys wanted pictures they had to make them.

And they made them.

They drew horses, sheep, donkeys, cattle, dogs; and when their father took them to the Zoological Garden it was only that they might bring back trophies in the way of lions and tigers.

Then we find that there was once a curiosity exhibited in Fleet Street in the way of a lion-cub that had been caught in Africa and mothered by a Newfoundland dog. The old mother-dog thought just as much of the orphan that was placed among her brood as of her sure-enough children. The owner had never allowed the two animals to be separated, and when the lion had grown to be twice the size of his foster-mother there still existed between the two a fine affection.