Art history need not be dry and boring. Homeschoolers and autodidacts alike have some marvelous resources at their fingertips. Gone are the days when one needed a guided tour of a museum or a thick coffee table book from the library to dig deeply into an artist’s works and life.
One resource available is a new series of books on art history put out by Laurence King Publishing. Their This Is… series includes artists such as Matisse, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Bacon, Warhol, Dalí, and Pollock.
The thick cardboard cover of each book is reminiscent of a board book, but the inside pages are a nice, quality paper. In general, it looks like a nice picture book for children, but the content is appropriate for a wide range of ages, from students to adults.
Each of these 80-page books tells the story of the artist’s life through their own art and through illustrations. Written in sections that break down their lives into important portions, deep content is still there while being offered in more easily digestible portions, perfect for younger readers whose eyes might glaze over with text-heavy books.
The back cover of each book contains a poignant, moving quote from the artist, leaving the reader with a final thought. The quote from Paul Cézanne really struck me: “I could paint for a hundred years, a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as if I knew nothing.” The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.
While the artwork from the artist is included unaltered, the other illustrations in the books are done by a different illustrator for each book, giving an even deeper artistic feel. Those illustrations are worthy of study and appreciation in their own right.
Reading these books, I felt immersed in the world of art, not just the world of that particular artist. It is inspiring, and is an important and necessary stark contrast to the usual academic subjects.
There are a number of books in the This Is… series, all giving readers a healthy taste of the life of the artist, along with many of their famous and not-so-famous works. These books are fantastic for students and all lovers of art. Some are already available, and others will be published soon.
Note: I received a sampling of these books for review purposes.