Art, Biography, Living Books, Top Picks

Top Picks: Living Art

Giotto Tended the Sheep by Opal Wheeler
The author of the classic Composer Biographies wrote this story of Giotto, the medieval artist known as the “Father of Modern Painting.” Beautiful vintage illustrations accompany the text. Written for mid-elementary through junior high school readers.

Millet Tilled the Soil by Sybil Deucher
The beloved co-author of the Opal Wheeler Composer Biographies wrote this story of Millet, the painter who first showed the world the integrity and value pictures of ordinary peasants could have. Beautiful vintage illustrations accompany the text. Written for mid-elementary through junior high school readers.

Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists Series by Mike Venezia
Though newer than most of the books in our library, these are perennial favorites with young readers in our library and have helped cultivate the love of art in many children we know.  Each book relates a biography in large type and cartoon illustrations by the author.  Interspersed on the pages are reproductions of the artist’s great works.

Art for Children Series by Ernest Raboff
I love this series of art books! Not only do they present biographical information about the artist, they also guide the reader in looking closely at individual paintings’ compositions and styles. Raboff hand-letters the text, making the words just as interesting to look at as the pictures. For elementary students on up–many adults appreciate the lessons they learn from these books.

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
This story is delightful historical fiction at its best. Benjamin, who grew up to be one of the first American artists to be recognized by the Academies of Europe, is portrayed as a young Quaker lad, whose mischief and heart are easily related to. Overcoming his father’s disbelief in the importance of art at all, this story is uplifting as well as informative, a great picture of life in a colonial Quaker home, just before the American nation was born. For upper-elementary readers, though people of all ages will enjoy this story by the author of Misty of Chincoteague.

Elizabeth Ripley Artist Biographies
These books are about 70 pages long, each two-page spread has a full-page black-and-white photograph of one of the artist’s works. Written for 4th-5th grade readers, these biographies are a nice blend of biography and art appreciation; specifics about individual paintings are woven throughout the story of the man’s life. Older readers and younger listeners will be interested as well.

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borten de Trevino
This Newbery Award Winner tells the story of the slave-turned-apprentice (and ultimately an artist in his own right) to the artist Velazquez. Not only is it the life of Pareja, this book relates the story of the great Baroque master himself, especially his years as court painter to Philip of Spain. An excellent resource to enhance your study of the world during the 17th century.

Cowboy Charlie by Jeanette Winter
This picture book tells the story of Charles Russell, cowboy artist of the American west. From the time he was a young child in the east, Charlie dreamed of becoming a cowboy. Leaving home at 18 Charlie found work rustling cattle, but when the wild west became closed off by train tracks and miles of fencing, he settled down and painted pictures of his beloved open range. A great look at this distinctly American art form.

Hana in the Time of the Tulips by Deborah Noyes
More about the Tulipomania in Holland than about Rembrandt, this lovely picture book is about a young girl whose father’s friend is the great artist. A gentle introduction to pique your young children’s interest in art as the heroine learns the importance of true beauty.

The Night Watch by Isabelle Lawrence
This novel relates the adventures some children have with the artist Rembrandt van Rijn. The title for this book is taken from the name of the master’s famous painting–which shows the mustering of a company of militia. Though out-of-print, this gem from the 1950s may be worth tracking down (see link on book’s cover at left) for its value not just for a study of Rembrandt but also to bring to life Holland’s “Golden Age.” Recommended for middle-school-and-older readers.

Picture Study Portfolios by Emily Kiser
Each of these portfolios features a biography taken from a very old living art book called Stories of the Painters, by Amy Steedman. Along with instructions for doing Picture Study the Charlotte Mason way, each portfolio contains 8 full-size, high-quality reproductions of paintings by the title artist. Everything you need to do picture study with very minimal preparation, including leading thoughts to engage your students in discussion, and further reading lists of more great living books. For all ages.