A Portrait of the Artist as a (Very) Young Man

By Menachem Wecker

Published December 24, 2007, issue of December 28, 2007.
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According to the London-based Saatchi Gallery’s Web site, painter Freddie Linsky, who has recently shown in Boston and in West Palm Beach, Fla., has dedicated his “whole life” to his art and is a “familiar face” at press viewings held at London’s major galleries. But though Saatchi’s mission is to present work by “largely unseen young artists,” Linsky is surprisingly young — 2 years old, in fact.

EARLY START: Freddie Linsky (pictured at age 1) has dedicated his whole life to his art.
EARLY START: Freddie Linsky (pictured at age 1) has dedicated his whole life to his art.
MAKING HIS MARK: The Saatchi Gallery describes Freddie Linsky\'s \'The Best Loved Elephant\' (2006) as one of the artist\'s most experimental works.
MAKING HIS MARK: The Saatchi Gallery describes Freddie Linsky\'s \'The Best Loved Elephant\' (2006) as one of the artist\'s most experimental works.

Freddie’s mother, Estelle Lovatt, an art critic and part-time teacher, explained that her son’s age was irrelevant to the Saatchi biography. “Anyone can see Freddie’s art… and judge for themselves,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Forward, adding that viewers can send Freddie e-mails through the site, “which would be wonderful — so he can read them when he is old enough to be able to.”

So how does a 2-year-old artist, who has not yet learned to read or write, know about the “plein air habit of painting” employed by Impressionist painter Claude Monet? When Freddie observes, “If Titian used blood for his reds, then surely sunshine was used for this yellow,” how well could he know the 16th-century painter?

Lovatt readily admits she writes all the texts explaining her son’s works. “Of course I don’t know what he is saying in his art,” she said, “but as an art critic I wrote the inspirational reflections about his work based on what I saw.” She said curators and critics hypothesize about past and present work by “grown-up” artists all the time.

Lovatt differs from other critics insofar as she helps her artist clean up by bathing him. And if part of good curating is recognizing artists early, Lovatt has aesthetic vision that is almost prophetic. Freddie “has suckled, crawled and now walks and runs in galleries. So he is getting a natural exposure to art and is lucky to have a mum who teaches art history,” she said. “I don’t force it down his throat, but he is naturally exposed to it.”

Although Lovatt is Jewish and often writes about Jewish artists, her explanations of Freddie’s works include no mention of Jewish values or symbols. In fact, she rejects the concept of Jewish art, instead differentiating between art by Jewish artists that contains Jewish themes and that which does not. “So his work is Jewish because he is,” she said of her son. “When he starts at Jewish nursery school in January, we will see if his work takes a more religious tone (watch out, Chagall)!”

So does such an illustrious painting career get in the way of Freddie’s childhood innocence? “No, he is playing and having much fun,” Lovatt said of her son, who is just a regular 2-year-old. “When he wants to go to the park, we go; when he wants to watch a ‘Mary Poppins’ or ‘Wizard of Oz’ DVD, he does.”

Menachem Wecker, who blogs on religion and the arts at Iconia.canonist.com, is based in Washington, D.C.

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