Artist profile: Onfim “I am a wild beast” of Novgorod

Sure, drawings by kids are great, but have you seen people with hands that look like gardening rakes?

There are no words to describe how much I love Onfim’s drawings! Also called Anthemius of Novgorod, Onfim was a little boy estimated to be six or seven years old when he made these delightful scenes.

Onfim lived in the 1260s in Russia and had a teacher or tutor who gave him assignments. He used soft birch bark, which was basically like paper for the people of the region – plentiful and easy to make marks on.

What I love about these drawings is how uniquely Onfim drew people (in my limited experience looking at children’s artwork, anyway). Some things to notice:

  • aforementioned gardening rake hands
  • sassy eyebrows
  • mouths and noses are an upside down T shape
  • people with large, round necks – maybe representing heavy scarves or coats?
  • people’s bodies aren’t closed shapes – the outline of the body ends in feet, with no horizontal lines to distinguish the torso
The caption says “I am a wild beast.”


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