Guglielmo seizes on Bisou, Paul Cézanne’s pet parrot, as an entree into the life and work of the artist whom Pablo Picasso acclaimed as the father of 20th-century painting.
Paul Cézanne was a nearly stereotypical struggling artist who abandoned his middle-class roots in Aix-en-Provence to carve out an art career in late-19th-century Paris. Neurotic, more than a bit depressed, and misanthropic, Cézanne was the odd man out among the impressionists. He was stolid and solid; they flew near the sun. Discouraged by his lack of conventional success, he found a sassy studio companion. Bisou was a clever mix of pet and service animal whom he trained to squawk an affirmation: “Cézanne is a great painter!” It worked. Cézanne worked. He became obsessively devoted to modeled tabletop still lifes, portraits, and figures (The Bathers, The Card Players, etc.). He finally exhibited and…he sold. Guglielmo does a good job focusing on the value of artistic persistence, but she relies only on Bisou for a hook, not taking the opportunity to incorporate the very kid-friendly character of Cézanne’s son, Paul (the subject of nine portraits and countless drawings). Helquist contributes oil-on-paper illustrations that approximate Cézanne’s palette and still-life skills, though the figures sometime border on the cartoony. Characters all present white.
Readers will find this portrait of an artist distinctive, useful, and appealing. (author’s note, selected bibliography, source notes, list of paintings) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)