Using Picturebooks to Teach Art History
Sipe, Lawrence, Studies in Art Education
Many children receive their first exposure to art during storytime, as an adult reads from a picturebook and they observe the illustrations. Such reading experiences provide opportunities to introduce children to the world of visual art, specifically to teach about artists of the past, particular artistic styles, or schools of art. The purpose of this article is to discuss the implications of using picturebooks to teach art history, to provide examples that illustrate the artistic resources found in picturebooks, and to consider methods of developing an awareness of artistic techniques through children's literature.
Children's literature has been long valued for its use in integrating subject matter in school curricula. Because language does not have a content in itself, but rather seeks a content (Britton, 1982), literary texts are an ideal resource for teaching various content and subject areas. For example, the literary genre of historical fiction is a valuable tool for teaching about historical time periods. The use of literature in this way need not necessarily detract from the "lived-through" literary experience (Rosenblatt, 1978), but can rather complement it (Beck, Nelson-Faulkner, & Pierce, 2000). The current interest in literature-based instruction develops this natural connection between literature and virtually all other subject areas. One of these areas is art (Mitchell, 1990). The subject of this article is the use of particular types of picture storybooks to teach aspects of the history of visual art.
The picture storybook-that synergistic combination of words and pictures (Sipe, 1998a) where both the visual and verbal texts are necessary to tell the story (Nodelman, 1988)-is a form of children's literature eminently suited to introduce children to the world of visual art. In fact, many children's first exposure to serious art is in the illustrations contained in picturebooks. Children have been found to engage highly in learning about art techniques and media that are used by illustrators (Sipe, 1995), and in learning about illustrators' and designers' choices in their creation of picturebooks (Madura, 1998). Almost any picturebook can be used for teaching children about the conventions and principles of design (color, line, shape, and texture [Richard, 1969]) and the other elements of visual art (Kiefer, 1995). These elements comprise the artist's language or grammar in the sense that artists use them to communicate meaning in a nonverbal and visual manner (Cianciolo, 1984). This visual aesthetic approach to picturebooks has been developed, extended, and refined by various art educators, literary critics, and literacy practitioners (Doonan, 1993; Kiefer, 1995; Marantz, 1977; McCoubrey, 1993; Nodelman, 1988; Roberts, 1996; Sipe, 1998b; Stewig, 1995). These writers conceive of picturebooks as artistic wholes, in which every part contributes to our perception of them as aesthetic objects. For example, the front and back covers, the dedication, half-title, and title pages, and the endpages, far from being extraneous to the text of the story and its illustrations, are all integral parts of the aesthetic experience of the book. As well, all the design choices about typeface, placement of text, page breaks, and size and placement of illustrations contribute to our holistic appreciation and rich interpretation of the picturebook. Finally, the illustrations are not intended to be considered separately, but in the context of their ordered sequence; like comic strips, picturebooks are a form of "sequential art" (Eisner, 1992; McCloud, 1993).
Following and developing upon this perspective, there is a growing number of picturebooks that may be used in a more specialized way: to introduce children to specific artists of the past, particular artistic styles, or schools of art. These books contain references to the history of art in their design and illustration content. Knowledge of these references leads to more textured and refined appreciation of the illustrator's craft, and of the picturebook as an aesthetic object. This knowledge also opens the door to the fascinating and expansive world of artistic visual expression by every culture and historical era. To take a very simple example, Michael Bedard's (1998) Sitting Ducks contains an amusing reworking of American artist Edward Hopper's painting, Nighthawks. In Bedard's wry story, predatory alligators raise ducks in order to eat them; one of the ducks escapes from the duck factory with the help of a sympathetic alligator, and is warned not to venture onto the streets. The duck's curiosity gets the better of him, and he decides to explore at night. "Farther and farther the little duck roamed, until he was hopelessly lost and very scared. Rounding a corner, the little duck came upon a brightly lit diner" (Bedard, 1998, unpaged). At this point in the story, the accompanying illustration is clearly modeled on Nighthawks in its depiction of deserted night streets and a glass-walled diner. Instead of the weary late-night human patrons and a short-order cook in Hopper's work, however, Bedard presents us with a solitary "waiter duck" behind the counter. The sign "Decoy Cafe" replaces the Phillies Cigars advertisement in the original painting. In other words, Bedard has cleverly changed Hopper's painting to match the theme of his book. Knowing that this illustration refers to Nighthawks enhances our appreciation of the story, because the painting's suggestion of sinister late-night isolation and fatigue underlines the little duck's loneliness and fear. At the same time, the illustration invites us to explore the art of Edward Hopper, a painter who mastered the evocation of mid-twentieth century American urban life.
Four Types of Picture Storybooks with Associations to the History of Art
In this article, I will be referring to a number of picturebooks that contain references such as this, as well as to other types of picturebooks that can help teachers to explore the world of art history with children. Almost all of the books have been published within the last 10 years. In the interest of manageability, the list is limited to picture storybooks with fictional narratives, rather than information books or biographies. In order to obtain a reasonably large sample, I first developed a set of criteria for selection. To be included, the book had to (1) be currently in print; (2) allude in some way to the history of art; and (3) be a work of narrative fiction. Then I conducted hand searches of the last 5 years of reviews of picturebooks in three well-known review journals: Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal, and Book List. Lastly, I supplemented these more formal searches with solicitations from three expert children's librarians, all of whom had been on awards committees, including the Caldecott Award Committee. The result was a collection of 62 picturebooks that fit the criteria. In analyzing content, I identified specific artists and art works (mostly paintings), as well as styles, and developed a typology based on emerging conceptual categories, according to the principles of the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) of qualitative analysis. In other words, I first described the books with conceptual labels (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), recursively changing the labels as I worked through the list of books. For example, I identified the use of small colored paper squares in Saint Valentine (Sabuda, 1992) as an example of the ancient GrecoRoman technique of mosaic. After I labeled all of the books in this way, I grouped the labels into conceptual categories, again modifying and refining these categories in the course of analyzing all the books (Patton, 1990). For example, Saint Valentine was grouped with other books that exemplified a certain artistic style or technique, such as McDermott's Raven, which incorporates the style of Northwest Indian art. To ensure reliability, I engaged a professional art educator (an expert in museum education) to examine the books independently for references to style and specific artists, and either changed the conceptual labels for particular books or eliminated them from the list, based on her recommendations.
The result of this analysis was the development of four conceptual categories: (1) books (like Sitting Ducks) that refer to specific works of art through parody; (2) fictional works about well-known artists; (3) books set in museums and concerned with the experience of visiting museums; and (4) books that imitate or draw on identifiable artistic styles or historical schools of art. In discussing these categories, I will share some classroom examples of children's involvement with art history through picturebooks. Finally, I will deal with the question of significance: why is this type of discussion and this kind of knowledge important for children's intellectual and emotional development?
Picturebooks with Parodies of Specific Works of Art
The illustration in Sitting Ducks relies on the forging of intertextual (or intervisual) connections; in order to understand the reference, we must mobilize our knowledge of another text, in this case the visual text of a painting. Such intertextuality is frequently ironic, amusing, or edgy: a feature of postmodern texts, which are often constructed of multiple texts and which parallel the visual techniques of pastiche and collage. Popular culture is full of references to historic works of art, and seems to delight in presenting them in ways that demystify them, knocking them off their pedestals and out of their gilt frames into the hurly-burly of modern life. Mutts of the Masters (Patrick, 1996b) and Cats of the Masters (Patrick, 1996a) are compendia of paintings that have been slyly changed to include dogs and cats; although the arch commentary is clearly intended for adults, children may enjoy the amusing images. In advertising, images by the Renaissance masters are used to sell cars, computers, whiskey, and liposuction. The New Yorker, in the past few years, has presented front covers where the Mona Lisa has Monica Lewinsky's features (February 8, 1999), as well as parodies of Hopper's Nighthawks (December 27, 1999/ January 3, 2000) and Monet's Japanese bridge paintings (June 5, 2000). Nighthawks seems to be an especially compelling image: in one episode of the trendy "That Seventies' Show" (aired October 4, 1999), the camera pans away from Kitty and Red sitting at a restaurant counter to reveal the unmistakable glass-walled diner and the dark city streets of Hopper's painting.
This juxtaposition and insertion of works of art into other texts is a feature of a growing number of children's picturebooks. Jan Pienkowski's (1996) inventive pop-up book, Botticelli's Bed and Breakfast, contains references to 56 famous paintings and sculptures, including Michaelangelo's David; Botticelli's The Birth of Venus; Da Vinci's Mona Lisa; and Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painters Mother (commonly called Whistler's Mother). In Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter, Diane Stanley's (1997) illustrations include backgrounds on the castle walls with paintings that are parodies of Manet's Fife Player, various paintings by Picasso; The Birth of Venus; a Van Gogh self-portrait; Whistler's Mother, the Mona Lisa; and Piero della Francesco's Duke of Urbino. In The Sign Painter, Allan Say has images based on two paintings by Edward Hopper, Sunday Morning on page 5 and Nighthawks on page 32.
Picasso and Matisse, two of the most noteworthy early modern painters, are the subjects of two amusing picturebooks, Bonjour, Mr. Satie (de Paola, 1991) and When Pigasso met Mootisse (Laden, 1998). In de Paola's book, Mr. Satie, a cat traveling in the 1920s, knows both Picasso and Matisse. Picasso paints his portrait, which is a parody of Picasso's Man with the Blue Guitar, with a cat in place of the man. In When Pigasso met Mootisse, all of the illustrations echo the style of these two artists, and there are parodies of specific works: Picasso's Les Demoiselles dAvignon and Guernica, and Matisse's The Dance and his cut paper art.
Two picturebook illustrators who seem especially to delight in sly references to historic works of art are Dav Pilkey and Anthony Browne. In The Dumb Bunnies Go to the Zoo, (Denim, 1997) includes an uproariously inappropriate parody of Grant Wood's eminently sober American Gothic, which seems to be included for no other reason than to make the book more outrageous. In other books, Pilkey uses historic art in more sensitive ways, referring to Van Gogh's The Starry Night in The Paperboy (Pilkey, 1996b) and to Hopper's Nighthawks in God Bless the Gargoyles (Pilkey, 1996a). In When Cats Dream, Pilkey (1992) reproduces the Mona Lisa and Whistler's Mother with cats on their laps, and refers to the unmistakable styles of Marc Chagall and Henri Rousseau, painters whose work evokes dreams and the irrational, whimsical juxtapositions sometimes present in dreams.
Hans Christian Andersen Medal-winner Anthony Browne similarly includes numerous intertextual references to works of art in many of his picturebooks, such as The Big Baby (1993), Piggybook (1986), Changes (1990), and Voices in the Park (1998). Browne's references to works of art forms a great deal of the visual interest in Willy the Dreamer (Browne, 1997), where nods to Magritte, Rousseau, deChirico, Winslow Homer, and Dali are woven throughout the book. For example, since Willy (a chimpanzee) dreams primarily of bananas, Dali's famous image The Persistence of Memory, with its dripping/melting watches, is translated into dripping bananas. In his newest Willy book, Willy's Pictures, Browne (2000) makes his most extensive reference to works of art, including 16 paintings, with details from an additional 8 paintings. A pull-out page at the end of this book includes small reproductions of the original paintings with brief descriptions.
Children are fascinated to learn that illustrators include work by other artists in this fashion. Books in this first category provide an excellent way to begin to talk about the history of art, because of the specificity of their references. Teachers can bring and show reproductions of the works of art that are referenced or parodied in the picturebook, and children will immediately want to talk about the similarities and differences. Once this is done, children will be keenly on the lookout for other references. For example, after a teacher and I showed a reproduction of Frans Hals's Laughing Cavalier in Piggybook (Browne, 1986), the children wanted to know if the image above the mantel in a later illustration was modeled on another famous painting (it is). The teacher and I were prepared for this-- we produced a reproduction of Gainsborough's Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, and the children were delighted. Such comparisons are facilitated by keeping general reference books on hand; Gardner's Art Through the Ages (Tansey & Kleiner, 1996) is a good compendium of reproductions of many wellknown works of art that can be used for this purpose.
Fictional Works About Well-Known Artists
Another important category of picturebooks that are useful for teaching art history includes fictional narratives about various artists. There seem to be two main types of these books: books where the artist is the protagonist; and books where a child (or, more rarely, an animal) is the main character. Included in the first set is A Boy Named Giotto (Guarnieri, 1998), which invites us to imagine that, as a boy, Giotto met the older painter Cimabue, who encouraged him to become an artist. The general style of this book is very much like Giotto's landscapes and paintings of people, and there are also references to specific paintings by Giotto, like St. Francis Preaching to the Birds. A Blue Butterfly (Le Tord, 1995) is a story of Claude Monet, using a palette similar to Monet's, and with allusions to the waterlily paintings, the Rheims Cathedral series, the Japanese bridge over Monet's waterlily pond, his studio houseboat, and his paintings of poplars and red poppies. Also included in this first group are books where the artist tells his or her own story. For example, My Name is Georgia (Winter, 1998) and Meet Edgar Degas (Newlands, 1998) are fictional first-person narrations by the American painter Georgia O'Keeffe and the French Impressionist Degas. Finally, although biographies of artists are not included in this article, Diane Stanley's (1996) superlative picturebook on the life of Leonardo Da Vinci should be mentioned for its flowing narrative style and Stanley's expert use of the deep maroons and blues and the style of the Renaissance in her illustrations. Her equally accomplished picturebook about Michelangelo (Stanley, 2000) also deserves mention for her skillful incorporation of reproductions of this artist's frescoes and sculpture within her illustrations.
In the second type of storybook about an artist, a fictionalized child (or animal) develops an association or friendship with an artist, and we have the opportunity of seeing the artist through the child's eyes. In Michelangelo's Surprise (Parillo, 1998), a page in Piero de'Medici's household is sent to fetch Michelangelo to sculpt a figure out of snow after a very rare snowfall in Florence. This event actually happened in 1494; this story is a thus a fictionalized account of an actual incident from Michelangelo's early career. This book also contains other allusions to Uccello's Battle of San Romano and The Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Dinner at Magritte's (Garland, 1995) introduces us to the French surrealist painter Rene Magritte. Pierre, the neighbor child who tells the story, goes to visit, takes a walk, and shares a dinner with Magritte, his wife Georgette, and their artist friend Salvador Dali. The landscapes and the dinner are suitably surrealistic, with many allusions to these artists' work.
Laurence Anholt has produced a series of charming books of this type. Camille and the Sunflowers (1994) recounts Van Gogh's association with the Roulin family at Arles through the narrative of a boy named Camille; Degas and the Little Dancer (1996) concerns this painter's use of a little girl as a model for his famous sculpture of a young ballet dancer; Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail (1998) tells the story of Picasso's fascination with the model for over 40 of his paintings. Anholt's (2000) newest book in this vein is Leonardo and the Flying Boy, about Leonardo Da Vinci's dream of making flying machines.
In addition to Camille and the Sunflowers, there are several other picture storybooks about Van Gogh. Painting the Wind (Dionetti, 1996) recounts Van Gogh's time in Arles through the fictional eyes of his charlady's daughter, with illustrations evocative of Van Gogh's style. The First Starry Night (Isom, 1998) uses another fictional child to tell the story of Van Gogh's most famous painting, and evokes his loneliness and longing for friendship. In The Starry Night (Waldman, 1999), a delightful fantasy set in contemporary New York, a boy meets Van Gogh, who paints New York landmarks in his characteristic style. This book also includes illustrations done with a reed pen, in the style of Van Gogh's sepia ink drawings, as well as paintings by children who were inspired by Van Gogh's art.
The most famous of the French Impressionist painters, Claude Monet, is introduced through two fantasies about frogs who live in his lily pond: Philippe in Monets Garden (Carmack, 1998) and Once Upon a Lily Pad: Froggy Love in Monet's Garden (Sweeney, 1995). This painter is also the subject of a pair of books about children who get to know him and his work. The story of Charlotte in Giverny (Knight, 2000) is told by a young girl whose parents have moved to France to join the artists' colony that surrounded Monet in Giverny. It is notable for including information about many of these artists, who were primarily from the United States and Canada. Linnea in Monets Garden (Bjork, 1985) is an informational storybook about a modern child who visits Monet's restored garden. It includes photographs of Monet and his family and a time line of Monet's life, as well as reproductions of 14 of his paintings, including beautiful endpapers of one of the waterlily paintings.
The books in this category are useful for humanizing artists for children-for helping children understand artists as real people, whose lives are, like all human lives, a mixture of success and failure, sorrow and joy. The books also convey a great deal of information about the artists' lives and work, in an enjoyable and engaging narrative style. As Christina, a first-grader, commented after hearing The First Starry Night, "Van Gogh was famous, but he was pretty lonely, too. I'd like to paint like him, but I wouldn't want to feel like him."
Books About Museums
The only place most of us will see well-known works of art is a museum; illustrations in picturebooks are important because they help to demystify and humanize the experience of visiting one. Some museums have commissioned picturebooks about their collections. For example, Going to the Getty (Seibold & Walsh, 1997) is a postmodern, whimsical look at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, in John Seibold's zany illustration style. It includes images of the building itself, and reproductions of many paintings and decorative arts in the Getty's collection. This book also includes some discussion of the work of a museum, in acquiring, restoring, and exhibiting art. Jack in Search ofArt (Boehm, 1998) is similarly about the collection of the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington. Though the premise is rather simplistic (Jack, a bear, is in search of Art; he thinks "Art" is a person), the storyline includes reproductions of 31 works of art from this museum, including its famous collection of PreRaphaelite paintings.
You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum (Weitzman, 1998) reproduces 18 works of art from that museum's collection. Each work of art is paired with some scene or activity outside the museum, as the storyline follows a museum guard's efforts to retrieve a lost balloon. For example, Winslow Homer's painting of rural children playing "Snap the Whip" is echoed in a line of rollerblade skaters; and the chaos that ensues when the balloon is pursued during a performance of the opera Aida is wittily represented with one of Jackson Pollock's spatter paintings. A sequel, You Can't Take a Balloon into the National Gallery (Weitzman & Glasser, 2000) also uses scenes outside the museum to echo motifs from works of art inside Washington's National Gallery. As a prelude or a capstone to children's visit to a particular museum, these books are excellent.
Art Fraud Detective (Nilsen, 2000), produced in association with London's National Gallery, is an interactive picturebook based on the premise that most of a museum's paintings have been replaced by forgeries. The forgers have changed small details of the paintings, and readers must compare the paintings with the museum's catalog in order to identify the forgeries. Squeaking of Art: The Mice Go to the Museum (Wellington, 2000) is another book that actively involves children in looking closely at works of art in an imaginary museum, where the galleries are arranged thematically.
Several books, set in museums, deal with the blurring of the world represented in paintings and the world of everyday experience. In The Peaceable Kingdom (Zadrzynska, 1993), Edward Hicks's well-known image of placid children, predators, and prey is the beginning of a fantasy of literal "frame-breaking," as animals from the painting leap out into the museum and escape to the adjacent park area. Over 50 versions of this painting by Hicks exist, and the version upon which this story is based hangs in the Brooklyn Museum. In The Gentleman and the Kitchen Maid (Stanley, 1994) a museum gallery contains two paintings, one of a kitchen maid and one of a young gentleman; they have fallen in love with each other. An art student portrays them standing beside each other in one painting, so that they can be together. This book contains allusions to the art of 19 painters, including Picasso, Monet, Chagall, Rousseau, and many Dutch masters. A third picturebook which blurs the worlds of art and life is Anna's Art Adventure (Sortland, 1993). Young Anna magically enters a series of paintings (13 in all), and converses with the painters about their work. The last section of the book includes useful brief biographies of the painters, who range from Rembrandt to Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. A fourth picturebook, Luke's Way of Looking (Wheatley & Ottley, 2000), describes the way in which a trip to a museum of modern art builds confidence in the way that Luke portrays his perceptions of the world through his artwork. These types of books release children's imaginations, and invite them to consider what the world inside a painting would be like, or what would happen if characters from a painting were able to enter the real world. For example, after hearing The Peaceable Kingdom, Calvin (a second-grader) wrote his own story about why the three diner customers in Hopper's Nighthawks were there so late at night. Fascinated by Grant Wood's stern husband and wife in American Gothic, first-grader Kathy speculated on various ways the class could make them laugh.
Another engaging book in this category is Art Dog, by Thacher Hurd (1996). This fantasy, set in the "Dogopolis Museum of Art," regales us with the story of Arthur Dog, a museum guard who, by night, paints anonymous murals all over the city. Upon the theft of the museum's most valuable work of art, the "Mona Woofa," Arthur turns sleuth and eventually recovers the painting. This picturebook is a veritable cornucopia of allusions to famous paintings and sculpture. On the first double page spread, for example, we see the gallery of the museum, hung with allusions to Degas's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jane, Picasso's Demoiselles de Avignon, Gainsborough's Blue Boy, Grant Wood's American Gothic, Matisse's The Dance, an ancient Egyptian bust of Queen Nefertiti, a Van Gogh self-portrait, and Jan Vermeer's Girl with an Earring. In all of these works, dogs hilariously take the place of people. Hurd also outrageously changes the names of painters: "He liked guarding the paintings by Vincent Van Dog and Pablo Poodle, but Leonardo Dog Vinci was Arthur's favorite painter-or was it Henri Muttisse?" (Hurd, 1996, unpaged). In my experience, children love this book, delighting in its visual and verbal parodies. After enjoying Art Dog, Laurie, a second-grader, suggested that the class could write a book called "Art Cat," and that Henri Matisse could be called "Meow-tisse;" this led Terry, an inveterate punster, to add that Pablo Picasso could be named "Purrcasso"!
Books That Imitate Individual Artistic Styles or Historical Schools of Art
The history of art is, from one perspective, the history of the influence of artists (and groups of artists) on one another (Gombrich, 1961). Illustrators of picturebooks are artists in their own right, and it is not surprising that they, like all artists, draw from this immensely rich and varied tradition. Most current illustrators have studied art professionally, and part of their training is examining the history of painting, drawing, and sculpture. Any illustrator would be able to talk about the art that has influenced him or her. David Diaz, for example, mentions the influence of Mary Cassatt, Georges Roualt, and Marc Chagall. This section deals with three artists who seem particularly interested in adapting a variety of artistic styles to the books they illustrate or write, as well as one book that incorporates many artistic styles.
With the goal of matching illustration to story, Robert Sabuda has shown a mastery of a number of artistic styles. For Saint Valentine (Sabuda, 1992), he created mosaics of thousands of tiny squares of colored paper, appropriate for the story of an ancient Roman Christian martyr. The illustrations for Tutankhamen's Gift (Sabuda, 1994), about the ill-fated pharaoh, are reminiscent of the formal stylized art of ancient Egypt, and are given an additional authenticity by being rendered on paper made from papyrus. When he illustrated Sir Thomas Malory's story of the Excalibur Legend in Arthur and the Sword, Sabuda (1995) turned his hand to imitating medieval stained glass with clear sheets of acetate, translucent colors, and thick black outlining. When they were photographed for the book, the illustrations were placed in front of bright light in order to make the stained glass effect even more realistic. For Marguerite Davol's (1997) story of The Paper Dragon, Sabuda's illustrations suggest Chinese narrative scroll-making by using fold-out pages for a pronounced horizontal format, and by cutting the images from painted tissue paper. The images were then affixed to handmade Japanese paper. This is an astonishing range of techniques and styles for a young artist.
Diane Stanley demonstrates a similar interest in drawing from various historic artistic styles. In Shaka King of the Zulus (Stanley & Vennema, 1988), for example, Stanley studied African beadwork and design from the 19th century to create this book's borders and front cover. When she turned to illustrating Fortune (1990), an old Persian folktale, she used a beautiful adaptation of ancient Persian miniature style. For Joan of Arc, Stanley (1998) imitated the style of 15th-century French illuminated manuscripts, including gold overprinting.
Many of Gerald McDermott's books retell myths and legends of traditional cultures. His Caldecott Medal winner, Arrow to the Sun, (1974) draws on ancient Pueblo art. In a similar way, the illustrations for Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest (1993) are indebted to traditional Pacific Northwest Native American painting and totem sculpture. The illustrations for Zomo the Rabbit (1992) use the geometric and highly colorful style common to many African artistic styles; and the Aztec tale, Musicians of the Sun (1997), is influenced by ancient Central American sculpture and pottery.
Leo and Diane Dillon's To Everything There is a Season (1998), a tour de force of picturebook art, incorporates many historical artistic styles. Each phrase of the well-known biblical text from Ecclesiastes is illustrated with a different style. There are 15 styles represented from all over the world, including Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Irish. This broad range makes this book particularly useful in comparing and contrasting traditional styles.
How would we begin to talk with children about artistic style? It is difficult, in the sense that style encompasses all aspects of a work of art. Each of the elements of art-color, texture, line, shape-works in synergy with all the other elements to produce a unique artistic whole. Style may be difficult to talk about for this reason; but a particular artistic style is not difficult for even young children to recognize. For example, consider the work of Tomie de Paola. This artist has developed a style that is easily identifiable because, unlike the illustrators described in the previous paragraphs, de Paola's style is much more constant, and he has illustrated many books. These two factors make his work an excellent starting point in talking about style with children. In my experience, children recognize this distinctive style after only a few exposures to his picturebooks. "Tomie de Paola did those pictures!" they shout, even when they are standing across the classroom from the book. Actually describing what this style consists of is more challenging, but, armed with a display of a number of his books, teachers can begin to talk with children about how all these books look alike. Some of the qualities of de Paola's style are: extensive use of rounded shapes; light, translucent, pastel colors (usually diluted acrylic washes); figures and objects outlined in dark brown. Children may also point out that there is a distinctive way in which human faces and bodies are drawn, with minimal detail. Clouds, too, look quite similar from book to book, and there are other common motifs, such as hearts and religious objects. All of these contribute to our recognition of his work.
Another useful technique in talking with children about artistic style is to contrast two very different styles. For example, consider a de Paola book placed beside a book illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, who also has an easily recognizable (and consistent) style. Children will notice that, unlike de Paola's work, Pinkney's does not emphasize rounded shapes, and that he rarely uses outlining. Instead, his pencil underdrawing is frequently visible. As well, the colors tend to be more intense, and the style is looser-not as contained as de Paola's. In fact, this looser style is appropriate for Pinkney's preferred artistic medium, watercolor. There is a dappled quality to his work, especially noticeable in his rendering of trees, foliage, and clothing. In fact, Kendra, a visually aware first-grader, described this dappled effect by saying, "He uses a lot of colors, like not just one green but lots of greens, and it looks like it's sparkling or something." This led the teacher and me to bring reproductions of the work of various French Impressionists to class, and to talk with children about how the Impressionists wanted to capture the shifting, ever-changing effects of light on objects in the natural world. This led, in turn, to an examination of some works by the Pointillist painter, Seurat, whose use of dots of different colors fascinated the children. This bore fruit several months later, when we read Chris Van Allsburg's (1993) The Sweetest Fig. Van Allsburg's style in this book has a very grainy, stippled quality. Noticing this, Mike commented, "Hey, that looks like the guy with the dots-- what's his name? Seurat?"
As children learn about artistic style, they can begin to understand how artists are influenced by one another, and how schools of art develop. Anne Isaacs's (1994) Swamp Angel illustrated by Paul Zelinksy, is a good book to introduce children to 19th-century American folk painting. Zelinsky chose to imitate several features of this style because it is eminently appropriate for the story, which is very much in the oral tradition of American tall tales. Zelinsky chose to paint with oils on smooth surfaces of wood, like many painters in this tradition; and his use of color and depiction of landscape features has much in common with folk art. He also chose ellipses and half-roundels for the frames of many of the illustrations; these shapes are common to this tradition, as well. Studying Swamp Angel in this way can open the door to an exploration of this school of American painting, as well as refine and extend our pleasure in this well-crafted book.
Children can become very engaged in imitating and adapting artistic styles. They enjoy discussing the practicalities of style: What materials did the artist use? What did she do to create this effect? What, exactly, was the process that culminated in this illustration? A useful resource for teachers in encouraging this activity is Discovering Great Artists: HandsOn Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Kohl & Solga, 1996). This is not just a matter of imitating the styles and techniques of other artists, but of freeing children to experiment, explore and expand their repertoires, both of techniques and of ways of responding expressively and creatively.
At the beginning of this article, I argued that picturebooks are aesthetic objects; if these books are regarded as artworks, then they have a history themselves within the history of art. From Randolph Caldecott's work (which many would call the first true picturebooks, in the sense that both text and pictures are indispensable for conveying meaning and enabling the aesthetic experience) to the present, this art form has a fascinating and complex history. Techniques of color reproduction have evolved to the point that picturebook illustrations are almost indistinguishable from the original art. The form and content of picturebooks have also evolved to the point where the "postmodern picturebook" (Paley, 1992), with its irony, intertextuality, and playful self-referentiality, is part of a new wave of children's literature that Information Studies professor Eliza Dresang (1999) calls the literature of "radical change." Picturebooks exist within certain historical time periods, are influenced by socio-cultural context, and have been interpreted through a multiplicity of cultural perspectives. All these aspects of the rich history of picturebooks may be studied by children and their teachers.
The Importance of Learning about the History of Art
Why is it important to pursue this type of inquiry with children? Educators have long argued that experience with the arts in general (and with the visual arts in particular) is an important part of children's cognitive, emotional, and social development (Cianciolo, 1994; Eisner, 1999; Gardner, 1982; Greene, 1995); and senior literacy researchers have called for a broadening of the lens of literacy to include visual aspects of picturebooks (Flood & Lapp, 1995). Art is a way of seeing, a way of knowing, and a way of feeling. The first step towards a more just and equitable society is to imagine what it would be like. The imagination, developed by viewing and talking about art, is the gateway to a broader and deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
In Art as Experience, Dewey (1934) argued that the fine arts have been drastically separated from everyday experience, and that this separation has led to an impoverishment of human life. Introducing great art in the common everyday classroom experience of picture storybook read-alouds may be a way of breaking down this separation. Talking about famous works of art through exposure to them (or parodies of them) in picturebooks thus invites an open stance, free of the inhibitions that frequently surround our response to art. Children who are introduced to Nighthawks through Michael Bedard's amusing parody of it in Sitting Ducks are not as likely to view works of art as unapproachable mountain peaks, but as grassy playgrounds. To demystify art in this way is to combat what some have termed the "fetishization" of art (Arato, 1978). To encourage playfulness in relation to great works of art prepares the way for teaching children to be free in critiquing it, exploring the ways in which art reflects and reinscribes not only the positive aspects of a culture, but also the negative, unjust, and limiting aspects of that culture. For example, it is clear that, of the picturebooks referred to in this article, there is an overwhelming emphasis on the works of European male artists. Teachers can explore this bias with children, and expand children's experience beyond Eurocentrism to the art of other cultures (City of Birmingham Polytechnic, 1980).
Learning about the history of art is, of course, only one small part of a total art education curriculum. Eisner (1984), for example, suggests that learning about art history is one of five components of art education, along with creative development; social and cultural awareness; art studio (making art); and learning about design and craft. The small subset of picturebooks discussed in this article are especially well-suited to addressing the component of art history, but the incredibly diverse world of picturebooks can be used in teaching these other components, as well. To look at the work of various artists, to experience it and discuss it with others is to learn to see in a new way (Greene, 1984). Children who engage in this type of activity and discussion are learning additional possibilities and potentials for constructing reality: art is a "fundamental way of knowing" (Bucheli, Goldberg, & Phillips, 1991, p. 25) and a basic epistemology (Gallas, 1991). Like Harold with his purple crayon in Crockett Johnson's (1955/ 1977) classic picturebook, children can begin to create a world for themselves through art.
Arato, A. (1978). Esthetic theory and cultural criticism. In A. Arato & E. Gebhhardt (Eds.), The essential Frankfurt School reader. New York: Urizen Books.
Beck, C., Nelson-Faulkner, S., & Pierce, K. M. (2000). Historical fiction: Teaching tool or literary experience? Language Arts, 77, 546-555.
Britton, J. (1982). Prospect and retrospect: Selected essays of James Britto Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc.
Bucheli, R. J., Goldberg, M. R., & Phillips, A. (1991). Symposium: Arts as education. Harvard Educational Review, 61, 25-26.
Cianciolo, P. (1994). There is much to see and think about in book illustrations. In J. Hickman, B. E. Cullinan, & S. Hepler (Eds.), Children's literature in the classroom (pp. 123-134). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
Cianciolo, P. (1984). 1984 illustrations in children's books. In Z. Sutherland & M. C. Livingston (Eds.), The Scott Foresman anthology ofchildren i literature (pp. 846-884). Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman.
City of Birmingham Polytechnic (1980). Projects and prospects: Art in multicultural society. Birmingham (England): City of Birmingham Polytechnic Department of Art.
Dewey, J. (1934). Art as experience. New York: Minton, Balch, & Company.
Doonan, J. (1993). Looking at pictures in picture books. Stroud, England: The Thimble Press.
Dresang, E. T. (1999). Radical change: Books for youth in a digital age. New York: H. W. Wilson.
Eisner, E. (1984). Alternative approaches to curriculum development in art education. Studies in Art Education, 25,259-264.
Eisner, E. (1999). Arts education for the 21st century. Kappa Delta Pi Record 35, 136-137.
Eisner, W. (1992). Comics and sequential art. Princeton, WI: Kitchen Sink Press.
Flood, J., & Lapp, D. (1995). Broadening the lens: Toward an expanded conceptualization of literacy. In K. Hinchman, D. J. Leu, & C. K. Kinzer (Eds.), Perspectives on literacy research and practice (pp. 1-16). Chicago: The National Reading Conference.
Gallas, K. (1991). Arts as epistemology: Enabling children to know what they know. Harvard Educational Review, 61, 40-50.
Gardner, H. (1982). Art, mind, and brain: A cognitive approach to creativity. New York: Basic Books.
Glaser, B., & Strauss, P. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Sage.
Gombrich, E. (1961). Art and illustion: A study in the psychology of pictorial representation (2nd ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Greene, M. (1991). Texts and margins. Harvard Educational Review, 61, 27-39.
Greene, M. (1984). The art of being present: Educating for aesthetic encounters. Journal ofEducation, 166, 123-135.
Johnson, C. (1955/1977). Harold and the purple crayon. New York: HarperCollins.
Kiefer, B. (1995). The potential of picturebooks: From visual literacy to aesthetic understanding. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Kohl, M.F. & Solga, K. (1996). Discovering great artists: Handson art for children in the styles ofthe great masters. Bellingham, WA: Bright Ring Publishing, Inc.
Madura, S. (1998). An artistic element: Four transitional readers and writers respond to the picture books of Patricia Polacco and Gerald McDermott. National Reading Conference Yearbook, 47, 366-376.
Marantz, K. (1977, October). The picture book as art object: A call for balanced reviewing. Wilson Library Bulletin, 148-151.
McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: HarperPerennial.
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Mitchell, F. (1990). Introducing art history through children's literature. Language Arts, 67, 839-846.
Nodelman, P. (1988). Words about pictures: The narrative art of children's picture books. Athens, GA.: The University of Georgia Press.
Paley, N. (1992, Winter). Postmodernist impulses and the contemporary picture books: Are there any stories to these meanings? Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, 151-162.
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Picturebooks Useful for Teaching Art History
Books that refer to/parody specific works of art:
Bedard, M. (1998). Sitting Ducks. New York: Putnam & Grosset.
Browne, A. (1986). Piggybook. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Browne, A. (1990). Changes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
Browne, A. (1993). The big baby. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Browne, A. (1997). Willie the dreamer, Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Browne, A. (1998). Voices in the park. New York: KD Publishing, Inc.
Browne, A. (2000). Willy )pictures. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Denim, S. (1997). The dumb bunnies go to the zoo. Illustrated by D. Pilkey. New York: Scholastic
de Paola, T. (1991). Bonjour, Mr. Satie. New York: Putnam Books.
Laden, N. (1998). When Pigasso met Mootisse. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Patrick, M. (1996a). Cats ofthe masters. New York: MJF Books.
Patrick, M. (19966). Mutts ofthe masters. New York: MJF Books.
Pienkowski, J. (1996). Botticelli's bed and breakfast. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Pilkey, D. (1992). When cats dream. New York: Orchard Books.
Pilkey, D. (1996a). God bless the gargoyles. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Pilkey, D. (19966). The paperboy. New York: Orchard Books.
Say, A. (2000). The sign painter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Stanley, D. (1997). Rumplestiltskin i daughter. New York: Scholastic, Inc.
Fictional books about well-known artists:
Anholt, L. (1994). Camille and the sunflowers. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Anholt, L. (1996). Degas and the little dancer New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Anholt, L. (1998). Picasso and the girl with the ponytail. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc
Anholt, L. (2000). Leonardo and the flying boy. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Bjork, C. (1985). Linnea in Monet's garden U. Sandin, Trans.). Stockholm: R&S Books.
Carmack, L. J. (1998). Philippe in Monet's garden. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts.
Dionetti, M. (1996). Painting the wind Illus. by Kevin Hawkes. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
Garland, M. (1995). Dinner at Magritte's. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
Guarneiri, P. (1998). A boy named Giotto U. Galassi, trans.). Illus. by B. Landmann. New York: Farrar Strauss & Giroux.
Isom, J.S. (1998). The first starry night. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing.
Knight, J. M. (2000). Charlotte in Giverny. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Le Tord, B. (1995). A blue butterfly: A story about Claude Money New York: Doubleday Books for Young Readers.
Newlands, A. (1998). Meet Edward Degas. New York: Lippincott.
Parillo, T. (1998). Michelangelo i surprise. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.
Stanley, D. (1996). Leonardo do Vinci. New York: Morrow Junior Books. [narrative biography]
Stanley, D. (2000). Michelangelo. New York: HarperCollins. [narrative biography]
Sweeney, J. (1995). Once upon a lily pad Froggy love in Monet garden. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Waldman, N. (1999). The Starry Night Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
Winter, J. (1998). My name is Georgia. San Diego, New York & London: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Books about museums:
Boehm, A. (1998). Jack in search ofart. Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart Publishers.
Hurd, T. (1996). Art dog. New York: HarperCollins Publishers,
Nilsen, A. (2000). An fraud detective. NY: Kingfisher Publications.
Seibold, J. O., & Walsh, V. (1997). Going to the Getty. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum.
Sortland, B. (1993). Anna's art adventure. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc.
Stanley, D. (1994). The gentleman and the kitchenmaid. Illus. by D. Nolan. New York: Puffin.
Weitzman, J. (1998). You can't take a balloon into the Metropolitan Museum. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Weitzman, J. P., & Glasser, R. 1. (2000). You can't take a balloon into the National Gallery. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Wellington, M. (2000). Squeaking ofart The mice go to the museum. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
Wheatley, N. & Ottley, M. (2000). Luke's way of looking. Sydney, Australia: Hodder Children's Books.
Zadrzynska, E. (1993). The peaceable kingdom. Illus. by T. Olbinski. New York: M.M. Art Books, Inc.
Books that imitate individual artistic styles or historical schools of art:
Davol, M. (1997). The paper dragon. flus. By R. Sabuda. New York: Athenaeum Books for Young Readers.
Dillon, L., & Dillon, D. (1998). To everything there is a season: Verses from Ecclesiastes. New York: Scholastic.
Isaacs, A. (1994). Swamp angel New York: Dutton.
McDermott, G. (1997). Musicians ofthe sum New York: Simon & Schuster.
McDermott, G. (1993). Raven: A trickster tale from the Pacific Northwest. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company.
McDermott, G. (1992). Zomo the rabbit. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Coompany.
McDermott, G. (1974). Arrow to the sun: A Pueblo Indian tale. New York: Viking Books.
Sabuda, R. (1995). Arthur and the sword New York: Athenaeum Books for Young Readers.
Sabuda, R. (1992). Saint Valentine. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Sabuda, R. (1994). Tutankhamen's gift. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Stanley, D. (1994). The gentleman and the kitchen maid New York: Puffin Books.
Stanley, D. (1990). Fortune. New York: Morrow Junior Books.
Stanley, D. (1998). Joan of Arc. New York: Morrow Junior Books.
Stanley, D. & Vennema, P. (1988). Shaka, king of the Zulus. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc.
Van Allsburg, C. (1993). The sweetest fig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Lawrence R. Sipe is a member of the Language in Education faculty of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and teaches courses in children's literature in the Reading, Writing, and Literacy Program. The basis of this article is a presentation given at the International Reading Association Conference in the Spring of 1999. No financial support through grants was used to do the research for this article. The author can be contacted at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 191046216.…
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Publication information: Article title: Using Picturebooks to Teach Art History. Contributors: Sipe, Lawrence - Author. Journal title: Studies in Art Education. Volume: 42. Issue: 3 Publication date: Spring 2001. Page number: 197+. © National Art Education Association Winter 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.