Illustrated profiles of 20 famous artists and the pets they owned.
This intriguing concept—telling stories of artists and their pets—unfortunately doesn’t get off the ground. Each artist’s life is summarized with a chapter of uncontroversial facts: when and where born (late 19th and 20th centuries predominate), where educated, exhibitions, movements founded, fame, and what pets they owned. Even Andy Warhol’s life comes across as pretty ordinary. Of the 20, three are women—Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Suzanne Valadon—and the majority, 16, are white. One is black (Romare Bearden), one is Mexican (Kahlo), and two are Asian (Ai WeiWei and Tsuguharu Foujita). Although David Hockney, openly gay, is profiled, his sexual orientation is not mentioned. What the book does well is to impart to readers the value of persistence (many artists had to overcome early rejection), and it presents a clear overview of the many named art movements, with a helpful glossary included. Lemay’s illustrations are simple spots of the artists and their pets scattered throughout, and she also offers her interpretation of some of the recognizable paintings of each artist “to familiarize the reader with certain iconic works.”
Despite its impressive amount of information, this ultimately comes across as a sanitized list of facts about each artist and the names and types of pets they owned. (glossary, sources, art citations, index) (Collective biography. 8-12)