This impressive biography of Vasily Kandinsky highlights the unusual connection between his art and the music that inspired it.
As a young boy in Russia, Vasily—nicknamed Vasya—glumly studies “bookfuls of math, science, and history.” His heavy eyelids droop; he sits “stiff and straight” while adults drone on. Then his aunt gives him a paint box, and everything changes. As Vasya mixes one hue with another, he hears the colors making sounds. “Whisper” is set in a faux handwriting type; “HISS” is also set in a different type from the primary text. Vasya listens as “swirling colors trill…like an orchestra tuning up.” Rosenstock explains the mixing of Vasya’s senses—synesthesia, in contemporary terms—through the shapes he paints: “Crunching crimson squares,” “[w]hispering charcoal lines” and “a powerful navy rectangle that vibrated deeply like the lowest cello strings.” Using acrylic paint and paper collage, Grandpré emphasizes the blending of two arts by showing Vasya’s paintbrush-holding arms aloft as if he were conducting and by letting Vasya’s colors waft upward from his palette, making curlicues in the air, with music staffs and notes interwoven. As Vasya grows up, he faces resistance to his nonrepresentational work, including the repeated interrogation, “What’s it supposed to be?”—but his magnificent, abstract, sound-inspired paintings won’t be repressed.
A rich, accomplished piece about a pioneer in the art world. (author’s note, painting reproductions, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)