This excellent book, an offspring of Phaidon’s well known The Art Book, is ideal for use with upper primary or high school children. It explores the choices and attitudes of thirty different artists. Containing over 100 colour illustrations, it helps stimulate children’s own creativity and imagination by asking them to wonder why artists create things in the way that they do. It explores the various ideas, meanings, roles and functions of art by looking at painting, sculpture, photography and prints and helps develop children’s understanding of colour, form, texture and pattern. Each double spread uses mainly a single painting by a well known artist to invite a personal response from the reader for each theme. ‘Feelings’ are explored through Rembrandt’s Jacob Blessing, ‘Showing Off’ uses van Eyck’s Arnolfini portrait to encourage the reader to examine the detail for examples of extravagance. Indeed throughout this fascinating book the reader is constantly challenged to search out those aspects of paintings which at first glance might well be missed. Holbein’s The Ambassadors has often been the focus of such work and is included here in ‘Detective Work’ but I was particularly intrigued by the theme ‘Portraits’ using Velázquez’s Las Meninas – a painting of an artist doing a portrait. The reader really has to scrutinise the painting to work out of whom the artist in the painting is doing a portrait. Other themes include ‘A party’ (Bruegel), ‘A battle’ (Altdorfer) ‘A jungle’ (Rousseau) and Shapes (Miró). Background information on the artists is to be found at the back of the book.
You have to be something of a detective to discover who the authors are, given credit only towards the back in very small print. The spine has The Art Book for Children: Book One printed on it, from which I deduce we can look forward to further highly readable volumes in the future.