Three series of books have provided us with much information about famous artists and their art, and hours of exploration, in a fun and easy-to-read way:
1. Getting To Know The World's Greatest Artists series of books by Mike Venezia
2. Anholt's Artists set of books by Laurence Anholt that offer stories about famous artists
3. Come Look With Me series of interactive art books from Lickle Publishing
Picasso (Getting to know the world's greatest artists)
by Mike Venezia
Mike Venezia's books are direct in offering facts but not in a tedious way. They showcase the artist's famous paintings with an anecdote or back-story about each of those paintings. This alone might not have held the 6 yo's attention for long, but, the funny cartoonish interludes certainly did.
When describing Picasso's Blue Period, the cartoon shows people looking at a blue painting exclaiming, "Why is the guitar blue? Guitars aren't usually blue!", "Why is he blue? People aren't blue!" and so on, along with, "It's wonderful! no one has ever painted like this!", "It's the work of a genius", and "It's the work of a nut".
The text explains, "Some people thought Picasso's blue paintings were great. Others (including Picasso's father) thought they were just too strange. This meant his paintings were controversial."
With a page like that, it is easy for the young reader to remember something about Picasso's Blue Period.
Venezia's books are a quick read - done in installments or in one go. And, can be re-read any number of times if handy on the bookshelf, thus sealing the knowledge.
Other Getting to know the World's Greatest Artists books by Venezia we've enjoyed so far:
Georges Seurat, Van Gogh, Georgia O'Keeffe, Paul Klee, Matisse.
Mike Venezia also has written a few other Getting To Know... series of books - Great Composers, U.S. Presidents, Scientists & Inventors.
[Getting to know Mike Venezia]
Anholt's Artists are in picture book format with gorgeous illustrations and gentle narration. Each book is developed around a real event in the artist's life, wherein the artist is not necessarily the central character. Notes at the back of the book explain the context of the book.
For example, in Cezanne and the Apple Boy, the story is about the artist Paul Cezanne's namesake son (who later became a successful art dealer) and we learn that the story takes place in 1886, when young Paul visited his artist father in Gardanne near Aix-en-Provence.
Each of the books we've read in this series so far offer a simple episodic story involving the artist, with art work in the style of the artist we are reading about. A few we have enjoyed so far: The Magical Garden of Claude Monet, Cezanne and the Apple Boy, Picasso and the girl with the Ponytail.
Come Look With Me series of books present a full page copy of the art work on the left side, with the typical artist, title, medium, and such information. And on the right, it asks a few pointed questions that pertain to the picture, compelling us to take a closer look at the art work in order to answer the questions.
For example, in Come Look With Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard, as we look at Winslow Homer's Snap the Whip, we are asked, Which boy seems to be the leader? How did the artist show you that? What season does this painting show? What clues let you know that? and a few more. And below the questions, a few paragraphs about the artist and this particular piece helps us appreciate the work better.
In Come Look With Me: Latin American Art by Kimberley Lane, we look at Xul Solar's Drago and try to figure out What is happening in this scene? What kind of creature do you see in the painting? How many of the flags in the picture do you recognize? Why are the sun and the moon out at the same time?
As readers, we don't always have to know the 'right' answer, and sometimes, there isn't a single right answer. It is all about what you see in the picture, what speaks to you, what stands out and gets your attention.
In Come Look With Me: American Indian Art by Stephanie Salomon, we see a pair of Hopi Kachina Dolls made of painted wood, cloth, feathers, string and yarn. Have you ever received a doll or figure as a gift? Talk about a toy or doll or figure that is special to you... And we learn that Kachina dancers would give Hopi children these dolls as blessings for a happy life.
[image sources: http://www.mikevenezia.com, http://www.anholt.co.uk/, goodreads.com, paperbackswap.com, openlibrary.org]