Parents sometimes believe that their two-year-old is a prodigy because they notice the similarity of their child's painting to that of an abstract expressionist master. Gallery owners, too, have been fooled by such paintings. In 2011, for example, four-year-old Aelita Andre had an exhibit in New York City and was touted as a genius on a par with Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky. These works, however, are age-typical, and we cannot yet call their maker artistically gifted—even if we find the paintings pleasing and superficially similar to works by abstract expressionists. (The film My Kid Could Paint That, directed by Amir Bar-Lev, asks whether parents and gallery owners are fooling the public into thinking these works are signs of genius.)
Other children, however, truly are precocious artists. Parents can nurture such giftedness when it exists. In the early years parents can encourage art-making behavior, provide high-quality art supplies, and take the child to museums and expose him or her to the range of styles in which artists have worked. Given the lack of attention and time devoted to art education in most schools, the opportunity to study art formally outside of school very likely is critical if the child is to go on to become an artist. In 2011 curator Ayala Gordon reported that almost all the 31 Israeli artists whose childhoods she studied had begun taking art lessons outside of school with artist-teachers by age 10. It was in these classes that they began to identify themselves as artists and to discover others like themselves. —J.E.D. and E.W.