Artists’ Lives Through Picture Books

~posted by Ruth

Sunday painters like me are drawn to studying and appreciating the art of the masters.  It’s also fun to learn about their lives and share their creative spirit and process with our young artist friends.  Picture books to the rescue.  Here’s a few of my recent favorites that are sure to delight friends and family.

A-Splash-of-RedA Splash of Red:  The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Pippin’s first box of colored pencils  was his first “teacher,” as this important African-American artist loved to paint and draw from a very early age, though art lessons were out of the question.  Even after his war injuries in WWI, when he lost the full use of his right arm, he continued to paint, relying on his left arm to guide his shaky right hand.  His works hang in major art museums today, and he is revered as an important twentieth century artist.  The writing in this book pulls readers in, and the illustrations are delightful, combining images with quotes from Pippin. No wonder this book is the winner of so many awards  including:  Schneider Family Book Award; ALA/ALSC Notable Children’s Book; Robert F.Silbert Honor Book).  A wonderful book to share with children.


Noisy-PaintboxThe Noisy Paintbox:  The Colors and Sounds of Kandinski’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre

To Vasya Kandinsky, the colors in his paintbox sounded like an orchestra preparing for a concert.  He heard the colors singing to him, and he could see the sounds themselves dance. This drew him to a unique vision for his art, becoming one of the very first masters of abstract art.  We have always been intrigued and inspired by synesthesia, a kind of collision of sensory experiences, allowing some folks to see sounds or letters as colors, or hear visual stimuli. It’s a treat to encounter this condition as part of Kandinsky’s biography. His life story is well told, and the pictures that accompany it are spot on.


HenriHenri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter

Henri Matisse’s art is accessible to everyone, but perhaps his paper cut-outs are especially intriguing to young children who can try on his scissors craft.  A painter throughout his life, Matisse turned to cutting out his shapes and designs from paper when he was convalescing from surgery and too weak to paint.  The brilliant Jeanette Winter mirrors his art in her illustrations, from his early museum-framed art to the full-page compositions as he becomes ill. Her simple yet eloquent text captures Matisse, his art, and his story.



One Response to Artists’ Lives Through Picture Books

  1. isbergamanda says:

    As usual, these books sound great! I will definitely be looking for them this summer for my classroom!

    -Amanda at

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