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The Manchester Academy of Fine Arts chose an abstract watercolor to hang in its annual show, unaware that it was painted by a 4-year-old.

"Rhythm of the Trees," by Carly Johnson, was one of 150 paintings chosen from more than 1,000 works submitted for the six-week show at the City Art Gallery.The academy's seven judges said the work displayed "a certain quality of color balance, composition and technical skill."

The artist's mother, Helen, 28, said Tuesday that she submitted the picture as a joke. "It proves anybody can do modern art," Johnson, a free-lance artist, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The academy president, Glenys Latham, defended the judges' decision, saying often technical skill can get in the way of instinctive response.

"Remember that the art of children often has an innocence, an unplotted quality, which adults often strive to gain. So I don't feel in the least embarrassed," Latham told BBC radio.

Johnson said her daughter, who is now 5, describes the picture named by her grandfather, as "just a little pattern."

Academy secretary Vera Lowe said a buyer in Ireland bought "Rhythm of the Trees" Tuesday for $420 after seeing a photograph in a newspaper.