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Art: from the beginning to the end

29 Oct

Did I ever mention the time one  of my students asked me if we were doing real art or art with science? I am not the world’s greatest art teacher, but I love teaching about art. When I moved into the library, I increased the collection of kids’ books about art. If I were still there, I would add these two books, which cover art’s early days, and the end of an artist’s life.

FIrst, we have The First Drawing written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, who imagines the life of the first artist.

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The book has a basset hound with a wolf ancestor, just as does the main character has a prehistoric ancestor..

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Stepping back into time, Gerstein imagines a young boy whose eyes are filled with wonder at the world and who sees pictures in clouds and fire. When he translates his ideas into concrete form to share with others their awe and fear are palpable. You really understand how powerful and magical art really is.

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Finally, we see Henri Matisse at the end of his life in Henri’s Scissors, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winters.

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OK. I didn’t even know Matisse did paper cuts. I knew he painted, but somehow I missed the rest. When he became too old and ill to paint, Matisse did not give up art. He could no longer paint, but found a new way to honor his muse. See, here are Mother Superior’s words again: When God closes a door he opens a window. Bed-ridden as he was, Matisse created a world of paper cuts around his bed, so he could still enjoy the world’s beauty.

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The book chronicles Matisse’s early life, but focuses on the later years. It is peppered with quotes by Matisse, that reflect his ease with the end of his life. “You see, as I am obliged to remain often in bed…I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk…There are leaves, fruits, a bird.”

What a beautiful, upbeat way to spend your last days.

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