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Stack Overflow: Artist Biographies by Lucy Brownridge

Books Featured Reviews Stack Overflow

Lucy Brownridge is an English author and editor of children’s books. She likes to write about art, history, animals, and science. She has an MA in history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art and a BA in history of art from the University of Bristol.

Her books are fun and informative, and when she talks about famous artists she does so with the children in mind (and the art teachers as well). In doing so, she takes into account the real works of art, interspersed throughout the book as hangings in the walls and part of the scenery. It’s really a clever way to introduce each artist’s work from a simple perspective.

Here we present Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Claude Monet

Portrait of an Artist: Claude Monet illustrated by Caroline Bonne-Müller

Monet is well loved in all American schools: there are many art lessons out there that study his dazzling way of portraying light and movement. His water lilies floating on ponds and his generous gardens always come to mind.

As known as he is, the book starts in the right place: as a bored apprentice he hated to pain the stiff still-life’s that where traditional at the time. Even when he was forced to do so, he included beautiful plant arrangements in the walls inside the painting to show how much he cared for the landscapes outside.

As a master of Impressionism, we of course learn that the name of the group of revolutionary artists came from one of his famous works, Impression, Sunrise, a painting he displayed in 1872.

The narrative is guided throughout, taking a look at his works stage by stage. It’s very nice to learn that he fell in love with his wife Camille and painted her over and over again, sometimes repeating her in the same picture. As Monet’s life was a long one, he later on experienced the loss of his wife, and it seems satisfying and good that he did so many known portraits of the happy times he spent with her and his children. Sometimes life will do that to you, and knowing that he continued to paint after such loss seems important.

The illustration work by Caroline Caroline Bonne-Müller is very good, and does its best to reflect the ambience of Monet’s life.

My favorite part of the series is the way the works of art are inserted in the narrative, they feel very right.

The Hardback is on sale since January 7, 2020.

Format: Hardback, 32 Pages
ISBN: 9780711248779
Illustrations: color illustrations
Size: 8.465 in x 10.394 in / 215 mm x 264 mm

Vincent van Gogh

Portrait of an Artist: Vincent van Gogh illustrated by Edith Carron

This famous artist faced many hardships his life: he was known for his internal struggles, his fierce and passionate correspondence with his brother Theo and his mental illness, that even led him to maim one of his own ears.

He made no money at all, but managed to paint more than 2000 incredible masterpieces throughout his life.

As complicated as all of this is, this book has been challenged a bit for trying to keep it simple. It starts with a “gloomy” phase where Vincent found no solace in his work or in his art. He was discontented with the muddy browns and costly paints available at the time, but that would change. He met the Impressionists and was fascinated with their bold use of color, these bright colors where chemically made and where much cheaper than the costly oils and ground colors of past times. This also explains the new artistic movement. I would argue that the availability of a wide range of new colors spread like a wave though art and changed it forever.

However this is not explained much in the book, it just points out that Vincent was inspired, met Paul Gauguin and decided to move with him to Arles in order to paint. Of course many scenes here are beautiful because Arles is beautiful and unforgettable thanks to Van Gogh’s paintings. When the episode of the ear is mentioned, the author tells us he decided to put himself on a hospital. In not any part of the book the mental part of his illness is mentioned.

Therefore, his suicide is also not mentioned. It just says that “he was tired of being unwell and that he had had enough”. I would argue that Van Gogh’s incredible passion, love, intensity and manic approach to painting cannot be separated from the fact that he struggled with mental issues. Otherwise his suicide makes absolutely no sense.

And I would also argue that you can approach the subject with your students, just as Lygia Bojunga did in My friend the painter.

The Hardback is on sale since September 3, 2019.

Format: Hardback, 32 Pages
ISBN: 9781786036469
Illustrations: color illustrations
Size: 8.5 in x 10.4 in / 215.9 mm x 264.16 mm

Frida Kahlo

Portrait of an Artist: Frida Kahlo illustrated by Sandra Dieckmann

Frida has had an extraordinary surge these last few years. I am amazed at the sheer quantity of books there are out there about her. The main traits of her biography are: she was born in Mexico City, had polio when she was a child, and later had an awful car accident. Bored out of her mind and bed-ridden, she taught herself how to paint. When she recovered, she met and married the famous painter Diego Rivera. Pain and heart ache would accompany her throughout her entire life.

Highlights of this book are the original ten pictures Brownridge chose. For instance, I didn’t know that one of the first things that she learnt how to paint where her feet, because she stared at them a lot when she was stuck in bed.

Self-portraits are her most powerful subject matter, and the surreal elements she added had all symbolic meanings. As Jonah Winter points out in other book about her, “she would never cry and despair over her condition; instead, she would paint herself crying”. Self-portrait with thorny necklace and hummingbird, 1940 and Three of Hope, keep firm, 1946, both showcase how pain was accepted and how her strong self, Frida Kahlo’s most famous trait, rose above her disabilities.

I think Sandra Dieckman did a good job portraying Frida. However, her life as an artist is truly inexhaustible and I strongly recommend seeking and choosing several biographies about her. All would highlight something different. As Van Gogh did, she kept journals and diaries, and her words are as strong willed as her paintings.

The Hardback is on sale since September 3, 2019.

Format: Hardback, 32 Pages
ISBN: 9781786036421
Illustrations: color illustrations
Size: 8.465 in x 10.394 in / 215 mm x 264 mm

Georgia O’Keeffe

George O'Keefe cover

 

Portrait of an Artist: Georgia O’Keeffe illustrated by Alice Wietzel

This was by far my favorite of the entire series. I don’t know if it’s the first story book about the Mother of American Modernism, but it is a very good one.

Her love of nature, her first showing in New York, the way she kept traveling the world and searching to develop her own voice are all powerful assets. Her attention to weed-like small flowers and details of everyday life; the way that they would enlarge themselves in the eye of the beholder, thanks to her bold use of shape, color and form, are all well displayed.

Alice Wietzel does an extraordinary job combining her paintings with O’Keeffe’s own. Her portrait of Georgia uses a soft palette that surrounds her work and serves as a frame that enhances each unique painting.

All ten masterpieces displayed throughout the book help define who Gerogia O’Keeffe was, and why she is so important to this day.

The Hardback is on sale since March 3, 2020.

Format: Hardback, 32 Pages
ISBN: 9780711248793
Illustrations: color illustrations
Size: 8.465 in x 10.394 in / 215 mm x 264 mm

Disclosure: These books where provided to me for review purposes, but all opinions remain my own.

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