six gorgeous books about six spectacular artists

A feast for the eyes today! Learn about a few great artists while soaking in the masterful work of these authors and illustrators.

jake makes a world cover imageJake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, a Young Artist in Harlem, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, illustrated by Christopher Myers
published in 2015 by The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Powerful lines and ravishing color burst from the pages of this brief biography of Jacob Lawrence, a phenomenal talent who immediately attracted the attention of his art instructors from his early teen years in 1930s Harlem.

jake makes a world illustration christopher myers

This personal glimpse of his childhood is exquisitely crafted to reveal his inner world and help us understand the riveting work he did. Christopher Myers draws on Lawrence’s style to flood these pages with radiant energy. Easily accessible to ages 3 and up.

matisse's garden cover imageMatisse’s Garden, by Samantha Friedman, illustrations by Cristina Amodeo with reproductions of artworks by Henri Matisse
published in 2014 by The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Stunning, color-saturated, cut-paper illustrations by Italian artist Amodeo ravish us in this MoMA offering, as we eavesdrop on Matisse’s wonderings and experiments leading to his peerless paper-cut pieces. 

matisse's garden interior friedman and amodeo

This book is simply brilliant. The progression of Matisse’s thought and the progression of his snippings, culminating in gatefold reproductions of his masterpieces — heartbreakingly beautiful. There are gobs of books on Matisse. This one deserves all the superlatives. Ages 4 to Adult.

mary cassatt extraordinary impressionist painter cover imageMary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter, by Barbara Herkert, paintings by Gabi Swiatkowska
published in 2015 by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company

One of the features of all of today’s books is the remarkable economy of words on the part of these authors, allowing the illustrators to convey the artists’ style and voice, while we, seemingly-effortlessly, learn from their minimal, graceful narratives.

mary cassatt interior herkert and swiatkowska

Barbara Herkert’s lyrical words beautifully introduce us to this determined woman who painted against the odds. Gabi Swiatkowska’s phenomenal artwork mimics Cassatt’s style, cleverly tucking in elements of her paintings and exuding the atmosphere of the era. Absolutely lovely, for ages 3 and up.

the fantastic jungles of henri rousseau cover imageThe Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Amanda Hall
published in 2012 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Flaming with exotic imagination, here we discover a remarkable, self-taught artist who struggled his whole life to be heard.

the fantastic jungles of henri rousseau illustration amanda hall

Henri Rousseau is the poster child for pursuing what you love and hang all the critics. His dramatic, surreal, dreamings-on-paper were met with derision for most of his life, but Rousseau persisted, and we could say he gets the last laugh. Sensory language and Amanda Hall’s eye-popping exuberant illustrations deliver a delightful vision of this gifted man, for ages 5 and up.

stone giant cover imageStone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be, by Jane Sutcliffe, illustrated by John Shelley
published in 2013 by Charlesbridge

I was lucky enough to be in Italy a few years ago and I am here to tell you: There is no possible way you can grasp how beautiful Michelangelo’s sculptures are until you are standing a few feet away from them. Absolutely gobsmacked, I was.

stone giant interior sutcliffe and shelley

This short account tells some of the backstory behind his monumental sculpture of David, which only adds to our sense of  bewilderment over how he could produce such a piece. It’s a fascinating look at his process. Shelley’s sunny, appealing illustrations immerse us in Florence — the look of the city, the clothing, the tools. I love the changing images of David as he emerges from the block of marble. Excellent book for ages 4 and up.

the garden of monsieur monet cover imageThe Garden of Monsieur Monet, by Giancarlo Ascari, illustrated by Pia Valentinis
published in 2015 by Royal Academy of Arts

Finally, this handsome look at Monet as he transforms his new place — Giverny — into an artistic paradise.

Ascari introduces us to Monet’s infatuation with light and loving design of his gardens, while also dropping in occasional asides about the world in which he lived. What was the Belle Epoque? What gardening advice did he dispense? What went on in World War I?

the garden of monsieur monet interior ascari and valentinis

Valentinis is a fabulous Italian illustrator whose compositions here are extraordinary. Wow. Every page is a wonder. Share this with kids ages 4or 5 and up.