"A drawing or a painting is a soul's message eagerly sought by us watchful onlookers," Robert Coles observes in his foreword to this striking volume. "The point is to demonstrate what has been imagined, or yes, witnessed ...[and] for us to be shown something by certain boys and girls who become our teachers." Bearing powerful testimony to Coles' message, "They Still Draw Pictures" collects and comments on a cross-section of children's art produced in wartime, with a particular focus on the Spanish Civil War. Of the 600,000 refugees who sought shelter from Franco's tyranny in the relative security of Republican-controlled eastern Spain, more than 200,000 were children. The Republic responded to this crisis by establishing colonias infantiles (children's colonies), often in country estates and mansions that had been abandoned by fascist sympathizers.In these colonies, the young refugees - many of them orphaned or sent by their parents to safety - received schooling and medical care, kept each other company, and produced thousands of drawings that serve as a moving, collective testimony of the experience of being a child in wartime.
Born of the trauma of exile and separation, the drawings are invaluable historical documents, giving physical form to the children's experiences of air raids, brutality, destruction, and homelessness. These pictures also represent daily life in the colonies and preserve the children's clear memories of life before the war and hope for life after it. They are supplemented by a smaller selection of drawings from later wars, showing that this problem is contemporary as well as historical. "Once I drew like Rafael," Picasso said, "but it has taken me a lifetime to draw like a child." Deceptively transparent, these drawings speak with a poignant immediacy of war's consequences for its youngest victims.