Early Pictures in Different Production Contexts – Extracts of the Picture Archive of Gilles Porte

Early Human Figure Drawing in Ontogeny
Cross-Contextual Aspects

Dieter Maurer (Ed.)

Gilles Porte, Collection of Drawings – Dieter Maurer, Text
Birute Gujer, Digitisation – Christian d'Heureuse, Software and User Interface


Since 1999, a research team at the Zurich University of the Arts (Switzerland) re-examines the very early qualities, structural formations and development tendencies that can be observed in the drawings and paintings of children in their first years of life. Thereby, one of the main topics addressed is the question whether or not – more precisely: to what extend – early pictures in ontogeny depend directly on the concrete context of picture production. In other words, whether or not early pictures in ontogeny are entirely coded.

When comparing extensive picture archives of contexts of Europe, India and Indonesia, evidence was provided that a substantial – and possibly structural – part of early picture qualities and their development are not directly related to the concrete context of the production of the drawings and paintings. This holds true for both so-called "abstract" as well as "figurative" aspects (Maurer et al., 2013). Such a finding is of importance, since up to now, the question is a matter of debate, as it will be explained in the first part of the present publication.

Since 2005, from all over the world, the artist Gilles Porte is documenting drawings of the human figure, created by children in their first years of life in terms of selfportraits. Having observed a cross-contextual structure of early pictures in ontogeny in our own investigation, when for the first time looking at the drawings Gilles Porte has brought back from his journey, we felt that these drawings carry a scientific value and can substantially contribute to clarify the relation between the early graphic qualities or drawings models and the concrete context of picture production.

Following this valuation, we investigated the thesis of cross-contextual graphic aspects related to the phenomenon of early human figure drawing on the basis of the drawings of Porte's archive. The present publication presents the corresponding results strongly confirming this thesis, and it gives access to the entire sample of pictures analysed.

First steps

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Licence - Terms of Use

Images and texts of the present publication are freely available but only and exclusively for private viewing and reading and exclusively in the form of projections for training and research purposes at publicly recognized teaching and research institutes. – Images and texts must not be taken out of the context of the present publication and introduced into other contexts. Images and texts must not be manipulated in any way prior to projection. – All other kinds of presentation, projection, copying, storage, reproduction or any other types of use or publication of images and texts in full or even only as excerpts or in any form whatsoever are strictly prohibited without the separate permission in writing of the authors, including translations and radio, television and internet adaptations. – Images and texts may only be used for the discussion of the pictorial and esthetic development as such and for the discussion of references to general developmental psychology. Any interpretations beyond this, in particular individual psychological or psychoanalytical interpretations are prohibited. The contextual information required for such interpretations is either not included in the publication or has been anonymized. Individual psychological or psychoanalytical interpretations would thus violate deontological rules.


2014 Gilles Porte for all pictures and drawings presented.
2014 Dieter Maurer for all texts and for the form of presentation of the picture archive.

Portal "Early Pictures"

For a description of our scientific projects concerning early graphic expressions of children, for a list of related publications and for a direct access to other archives of pictures  and films, including related electronic books, please refer to our homepage:

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