nonfiction nuggets…looking at paintings through story

The Story of the World’s Greatest Paintings, by Charlie Ayres

This is a big, gorgeous, well-conceived book which wonderfully introduces us to twenty masterpieces, dating from the 15th to 19th century, by telling us the stories behind their creation.  Artists included are van Eyck, Uccello, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Bruegel the Elder, Velazquez, Vermeer, Chardin, Kauffman, Friedrich, Gericault, Constable, Courbet, Millais, Renoir, Homer, Morisot, Seurat, Cezanne, and Gauguin.

For each painting, Ayres tells an engaging story, in a narrative style, of the occasion of the painting, how it was painted, what it is about.  We get a glimpse of the artist’s personality and thoughts and process.  There is a beautiful color reproduction of the painting, as well as close-up details of it, a self-portrait or portrait of the artist, and one or two other works by that artist for comparison with the main painting.

Ayres also uses inset boxes to talk to us about certain details in the painting, to give us ideas and ask us questions as we compare the several pieces printed here, to give us a few trivia-type tidbits about the artist, list web-sites where we can view more of that artist’s work, and give some suggestions for an activity related to the masterpiece we’re contemplating.  Despite all this information, the page lay-outs are not busy, but graphically very pleasing.

Ayres writes in an incredibly pleasant style, communicating a great deal of information in a very approachable voice.  Without talking down for a minute, she reaches out to anyone from mid-elementary on up, pulling us into a world of wonder and observation and beauty, giving us excellent tools for looking at and thinking about art.

Included in the book are life chronologies for every featured artist, information on the museum where each painting resides, and a nice glossary of art terms.  This is a fabulous resource for anyone wanting to impart a love for great art to children.

Amazon link:  The Story of the World’s Greatest Paintings