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Indian Child Prodigy Edmund Thomas Clint: Artist with Over 25,000 Artworks
23.04.2021 Hillel Trabelsi
Edmund Thomas Clint Edmund Thomas Clint

When it comes to child prodigies, India has its own share of extraordinary talents to boast about. From mathematical geniuses to musical virtuosos, these children have stunned the world with their prodigious skills. What is even more astounding is the tender age at which they showcase such dexterous abilities, which normally requires years of training and experience for an adult. One such child prodigy was Edmund Thomas Clint, who continues to remain an enigma for artists and art lovers across the world and has mesmerised generations with his remarkable artistic integrity. In a brief lifetime of just seven years, he left behind a legacy of more than 25,000 artworks.

Born to Kochi residents, Mullaparambil Thomas Joseph and Chinnamma Joseph in 1976, Clint was named after the legendary actor and filmmaker, Clint Eastwood, for his father’s obsession with cowboy films. With a frail frame and cherubic face, the boy grew up listening to stories and parables from the Bible and Hindu mythology by his father, whom he lovingly called Papu, and about the wonders of nature from his mother, a natural sciences lover. One can find many of Clint’s later paintings showcasing various characters from these very tales.

In fact, the first drawing that Clint ever made was that of a perfect circle with a chalk piece on the floor of their living room—even before he turned one! This, they say, was probably inspired by Joseph’s artist friend G Mohanan, who used to frequent their home and often paint in the presence of the toddler. At an age where most children refuse to remain idle and have limited attention spans, Clint, on the contrary, would watch the artist’s strokes of paint taking form with undivided attention.

Being the only son, his parents dotted on Clint and got multi-coloured chalks for the little one to scribble his heart’s content. But spending too much time amidst chalk dust proved unhealthy and made Clint’s tiny body swell up. Not wanting to deter his child’s urge to draw, Joseph got his son a set of crayons. By then, Clint had found a new canvas—their walls! Drawing everywhere the tiny fingers could reach, a time came when the walls had no space left to hold the boy’s doodles. Joseph countered that by bringing 5,000 carton boxes, which Clint finished in a span of three months.

Despite being a struggling accountant at the time, Joseph did everything in his capacity for Clint to chase his artistic calling. With every outstation business trip he took, he would spend hours hunting for art supplies in those cities’ factory outlets and tiny shops. By then, most of his drawings comprised simple line drawings but reflected the daily facets of life with such pensive observation on the creator’s part. Many of his animal sketches had such anatomical precision that would have taken years for an art student to imbue and perfect.

Though Joseph and Chinnamma encouraged Clint’s talent, they were yet to recognise the underlying genius within their son. It was Mohanan who realised that with better art supplies and an assistive environment, Clint could become a fine or probably an extraordinary artist. “Let him draw what he wants. He has something to say,” he had suggested. On being requested by Joseph to mentor his son, Mohanan felt that he was unqualified to guide someone as prolific as Clint, for art was in every pulse of his being. Nevertheless, Clint looked up to Mohanan and considered him as Guru. And thus began a journey for the little maestro of whose artistic progression no one had foreseen, even in their dreams.

Some days would come along with an outburst of ideas that would see the earnest artist draw as many as 100 drawings in a single day! Shortly after turning three, Clint had a near tryst with death. Diagnosed with a debilitating kidney disease, his little body was put through a painful trial that resulted in a ballooned up belly and swollen limbs. Despite perpetual exhaustion, Clint continued to create art relentlessly and often dealt with themes as deep and dense as death, solitude, and love.

When almost everyone had given up on the young artist, he went on to create over 25,000 artworks in his brief lifetime, a feat that many adult artists struggle to achieve in their entire career. As news of the prodigiously talented boy spread like wildfire, the art world sat up and took notice. People from all walks of life, including film stars, politicians, and art collectors, thronged the Joseph household to catch a glimpse of the wonder boy.

As he grew older, Clint’s art progressed and matured, reflecting his inner turmoil and the pain of his illness. Despite the pangs of death looming over him, the artist continued to produce powerful works that moved many to tears. In a short life full of struggles and obstacles, Clint touched the lives of many with his talent and remains an inspiration for artists across the world.

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