“What does it mean?” “What was she thinking?” Have similar thoughts crossed your mind as you have wandered through the galleries of an art museum? I think too often, we approach art with the idea that there must be some deep meaning to each work of art, and it’s our mission to try and figure it out. Add your child to the mix, and it might seem even more daunting…if you can’t “get it,” how will your child “get it?”
Let’s break down this myth right here and now. Artists are indeed thoughtful. Many do have particular meanings they want to impart in their work. But the thing about art is that it involves more than just the artist—it involves you. And I believe what you bring to a work of art is just as important as what the artist brings to it. What a work of art means to you does matter.
That being said, those artists are real people with real lives—real emotions, real triumphs, real tragedies. Getting to know them can make looking at their art a new experience.
Children’s book writer and editor Bob Raczka has a new picture book that offers quotable tidbits from eighteen different artists to let you do just that. Speaking of Art: Colorful Quotes by Famous Painters is filled with lively reproductions of some of the world’s best-known artists’ work, alongside their own words. From the serious—“The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting” (Vincent van Gogh) to the humorous—“All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow” (Grant Wood), children will get a taste of what the artist themselves thought about what they did.
This book or any other biography of an artist would make a great addition to your next visit to the museum. Tote it along with you as you look at works of art, and encourage your child to not only enjoy looking at the art for him/herself, but to also think about the person behind the art.
Some of my favorites:
- My Name is Georgia by Jeanette Winter
- Laurence Anholt’s picture books about artists (he covers Matisse, van Gogh, Degas, Monet, da Vinci and many others)
- The Smart About Art series of artist biographies for children
- Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia (books and DVDS)
- Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull
Posted by: Leah