Intrigued by an art print in her childhood bedroom, a young Dixon (I Love Being a Girl, 2014, etc.) spent hours wondering about the stories behind the pictures: “My curiosity was piqued, not only about the little girl that Renoir painted, but by the creative process.” Encouraging her young readers “to dream and to marvel and to appreciate not only the act of creativity but a new way of seeing the world,” Dixon presents 30 painters and engaging samples of their work. With artists arranged in birth order, the format—the artist’s biographical information and portrait with a short essay appear on a single page, followed by three paintings identified by title, date, size and current location—works well to present a range, from the old masters (da Vinci leads off, followed by Titian and Rembrandt) through modern artists (Munch, Modigliani and Klee) and with less familiar names along the way (Corot, Alman-Tadema, Czech artist Mucha). The high-quality illustrations are interesting and varied. Along with the anticipated Mona Lisa and Girl with a Pearl Earring are less commonly viewed gems, almost all celebrating the feminine, although the occasional boy or still life can be found. The art selections alone are noteworthy, but the essays bring the book to life; brief but intriguing, each offers personal detail, definition, and odd and humanizing details. For example, the rule breaker Courbet used big canvases for painting common lives, and Manet painted a few strokes on a Morisot work without her permission. Most of the essays pose straightforward questions or refer to other artists in the book and encourage readers to see the relationships among painters, paintings and audience. But there is nothing dry about this presentation—young readers are encouraged to wonder about and just plain enjoy the works. Minor discrepancies (a Gonzales piece is referred to as both Nanny and Baby and Nanny and Child) do not detract.
An engaging, interactive guide to museum-quality visual art.