There is nothing I like more than a beautifully illustrated artist biography, that combines data about the real life of a painter with lush imagery; explaining succinctly how they lived and how much they loved their work. I find them truly inspirational.
Fearless World Traveler. Adventures of Marianne North by Laurie Lawlor (Author) Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander
I wonder if you could imagine what this woman did. Born in a Downtown Abbey sort of setting in 1830, all she did until her forties was wait around, paint when allowed to, and take care of very strict and traditional parents who wouldn’t allow her to study. They wanted her to sit tight, look pretty and find a suitable Victorian husband.
However, she loved to paint and cared a lot about botany, becoming a self-taught artist who, as soon as was free of her parents (having been nearly a prisoner to their wishes from early age and the first forty years of her life), decided to travel with a widower in a steam boat and set foot on the Jamaica in 1871.
Look how vibrant and detailed her paintings are:
After discovering the blooms and wonders of Jamaica, she did not stop painting and traveling. Her botanical illustrations where all taken in natural environments, and once she was out of her cage, this bird flew far and wide, going EVERYWHERE. Seriously, when Charles Darwin met her and saw her work, he suggested New Zealand to complete her detailed collection. This was a master admiring another one.
Marie North spent the rest of her life traveling and documenting birds and flowers in every continent except Antarctica, every one! For a Victorian woman, she did her best to feed with local foods, travel on boat, foot, horseback, steam, train or whatever she came across, was used to sleep rough, faced serpents and mosquito bites, and kept every painting she ever made to present them in a gallery in London.
By 1882, Marianne North had painted the world.
You can learn more about her life and the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens here. The North gallery at Kew Gardens remains open to the public today.
The illustrations are wonderful and invite you to dream, just as her work invited people to dream about faraway places when she first displayed it. I long to see her 800 paintings, made while visiting 17 countries on 6 continents … in 14 years!
Publisher: Holiday House
Publish Date: May 11, 2021
Up next, this book will be available in June:
Breaking Waves. Winslow Homer Paints the Sea by Robert Burleigh (Author) Illustrator: Wendell Minor
A much more lyrical approach to its subject, this introduction to the great American artist invites us to step in his shoes and: Look! Look out to the sea and its ever changing presence, look how the light diffuses the seasons, how hard work and living entirely for your at can pay off in a big way.
The illustrations combine gouache and watercolor in a wonderful manner, that it is both distinct and reminiscent of the works of the master himself.
Born in 1836, Winslow was a painter that lived in Prouts Neck, in coastal Maine, and that was so comfortable with its subject matter: the sea and the fishermen, the people living and loving around it, (even when it was harsh and unforgiving); that he had his cabin moved nearer to the shore, so he could gaze out to it from a close distance.
As with Marianne North, his work really took off after his forties, when he visited England and decided to change his style for a far more impressionistic palette.
Somehow, he became profoundly connected with the sea and representing it was both his challenge and his success throughout the years.
There are many quotes from the artist himself along the lines of the book, and it is a joy to read them.
Publisher: Neal Porter Books
Publish Date: June 1, 2021
Lastly, I want you to take a peek at an upcoming title, that is being translated from the Korean and that will be available in English in August:
I Am the Subway by Kim Hyo-eun (Author & Illustrator), Deborah Smith (Translator)
I rattle and clatter over the tracks.
Same time, same route, every day.
Carrying people from one place to another,
I travel over the ground and rumble under,
twice across the wide Han river.
Around I go, around and around.
Crowds of people wait to climb aboard.
This is the story of Seoul’s Subway, fully illustrated and poetic. With its constant, rumbling badum ba-dum, the subway passes through the city, loving each and every one of its passengers, admiring their stories.
From the proud man who fixes shoes for a living, to the grandmother who loves the sea and is busy thinking about the delicious meal she will prepare for her granddaughters, or the sleepy girl that has had many, many lessons today, and cannot wait to get home and rest… the simplicity of the idea is enthralling and the beauty of the imagery is fantastic.
This is a love song, a poem to a means of transportation, an excuse to talk about a beloved city and a true invitation to get to meet the people of Seoul, getting to know their names, their joys, their hopes, and of course, the stations they come to and from.
Publisher: Scribble Kids Books
Category: Picture book