Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, November 19, 2018

A History of Pictures for Children by David Hockney & Martin Gayford

A History of Pictures for Children: From Cave Paintings to Computer Drawings
by David Hockney & Martin Gayford; Illustrated by Rosa Blake
Abrams. 2018
Grades 6 and up

British artist, David Hockney (as I write this, one of his paintings just sold for $90.3M, a record-breaking sale for a living artist) and art critic, Martin Gayford have combined their knowledge of art in this sweeping journey through art history. From cave paintings to using computers, the pair highlights how artistic inventions throughout history created new ways of making images.

The book is unique in its approach to looking at art. The author’s contend that throughout history art is linked based on the skills and materials available for each period. “Every picture ever made has its rules. Someone has put it there, and arranged it so it would cover a certain area.” Readers are encouraged to look at the evolution of drawing and how each invention influenced the artist. For example, with the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck (1434), “No painter had ever included a mirror like the one in the center of the Arnolfini’s portrait. It would have been difficult for him to draw. But anyone who drew afterward would have his [Van Eyck} example to follow.” 

The book's design is inviting and intimate. As the two men converse on their perspectives and opinions on art concepts, the font changes based on who is talking. Well-captioned reproductions of paintings discussed in the text are placed throughout the book. Hockney’s art is used to further explain a technique or invention or illustrate how it influenced his own art. To fill up the white space, Blake’s comic style illustrations further enhance the narrative.

Back matter includes a timeline that highlights inventions of the art world that moves from stone tools and natural pigments used by cave painters to the use of smart phones and tablets, as well as, a glossary, endnotes, bibliography, list of illustrations, and index.

MARTIN: “Pictures have moved from the cave wall, to the temple, the church, the photograph album, the cinema, television, and the computer screen. Many ways of making pictures have been devised, beginning with applying pigment with a stick or finger, and ending, for now with computer drawings.” 

We have no idea what will be next.

The author’s encourage us to spend less time snapping the perfect photograph and look closely at each one. If creating art is all about making sense of what is around us, Gayford and Hockney show us how artistic concepts are all linked together, and why it still matters.”

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write this review.

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