This lively, illustrated book aims to teach youngsters about art and art history from the Renaissance to the present day.
Gibbons (The Inspirational Sketchbook, 2016, etc.), an artist and educator, offers the fourth installment of his If Picasso… series, this time imagining how Pablo Picasso and various other painters of different genres, styles, and historical eras might have illustrated trips abroad. In each case, an art teacher (ranging from elementary school to high school levels) chooses an artist and a landmark and then creates an artwork that emulates and honors that artist’s style. Globes marked with each destination country and Gibbons’ rhyming verses add historical, geographical, and other context to enrich the lesson. (Punctuation and spelling can be shaky, though, as in a reference to Africa’s “Victoria Fall” rather than “Victoria Falls.”) The book is specifically intended for classroom use, and Gibbons suggests that educators couple the pastiche images with known works, providing a link to free, online lesson extensions. Some artists are familiar, such as Picasso himself, Grant Wood, and Keith Haring; others, such as Marie-Anne Nivouliès, Albert Namatjira, or Sarah Mary Taylor, are less so, providing students with a rich, varied, and inclusive selection. The teachers sometimes match the styles with their subjects, such as Edward Gorey with Count Dracula’s Romanian castle; other times, they yoke them together seemingly randomly, such as Georges Braque with the aforementioned Victoria Falls. Some of the links are clever and unexpected, though, such as Winslow Homer’s sailboats reinterpreted as a saillike five-star hotel. In one example, teacher Elena Klimova paints Florence Cathedral in the manner of Vincent van Gogh; the painting shows a domed church against a swirling background, and Gibbons’ rhyme explains, “He painted in dashes of vivid, bold color, / swirling brush strokes, were done like no other.” Although the background and trees do resemble van Gogh’s work, the cathedral’s brush strokes are restrained and its drawing geometrical, featuring straight lines. These differences aren’t necessarily a drawback, though, as they could possibly lead to further, fruitful conversation on topics such as what makes a style recognizable.
A rich, wide-ranging, and imaginative classroom resource.