Review of the Day: Yves Klein Painted Everything Blue and Wasn't Sorry by Fausto Gilberti
I often joke about how niche all of my interests are. I'm passionate about education... but specifically Montessori education. I'm (obviously) all about children's literature... but specifically picture books. And, as much as I love any and all picture book, what I really love is a good picture book biography.
You may have caught wind of that particular affection when I developed our "March for Women" series last year: a thorough and intense look at all the picture book biographies of women available for young people to celebration the month for women. I collected them into lists of artists, scientists, mathematicians, and more, but there were still some that I couldn't capture. This deep dive into picture book biographies showed me just how many are out there (SO MANY) and made me excited to get my hands on more of them.
Now I DO have my hands on more picture book biographies, and I am very excited to share them with you!
Now, this series-in-development from Phaidon isn't one filled with little-known facts or thorough back matter. If you're hoping a picture book biography will help with a deep dive on research on the Really True Life of An Artist, these probably won't do the trick.
If you are, however, wanting to share with children the way that art develops out of playfulness, creativity, and a little rebellion, these picture books could be just the thing.
In Yves Klein Painted Everything Blue and Wasn't Sorry About It, the reader meets a sophisticated-looking stick figure named Yves. When we meet him, he's dreaming of a blue, blue sky--and figuring out how to replicate it. He creates International Klein Blue and steps into his "Blue Phase," full of blue objects, blue paint, and even blue drinks, all highlighted by the stark white backdrop and black figures in the illustrations. The rest of the sparingly illustrated picture book walks, flies, jumps, and drives through some of Klein's most innovative artistic endeavors, all guided by one question: "What if?" Painting with fire? Wind? The human body? Nothing seemed to limit Yves Klein's creativity, and his bold footprint on the world of art remains with us for years to come. At the end of the picture book, the reader can find some more biographical information about Klein (without sources) and can even see one of his most famous works of art. The book, even from its title, is bold and irreverent, showing that art is made better when it is questioned and stretched beyond what we think is possible.
Likewise, Jackson Pollock Splashed Paint and Wasn't Sorry, also by Gilberti, explores the style of the famed splattered-painting artist of the 20th century. "He would paint and move, move and paint"--but how? The picture book illustrates a few playful ways in which Pollock could have been moving so much to make his paint splash: riding a bike, dancing the "boogie woogie," or climbing the Rocky Mountains. (Nope, not quite.) Instead, he really laid his canvas on the floor and splattered paint on it as he moved around it. His tools ranged from spoons to brushes to just pouring from the can of paint itself, but all of them were used with care and control until he placed the last drop. In conclusion, the book tells the reader that Pollock's work was not always appreciated or understood, but now he is admired and emulated by many. More background information and a singular work of art are provided in the back matter, and a playful set of splatters are contained beneath the book jacket. This book is less informative that the Klein counterpart, and the speculative questions could have been left out to tell more about Pollock's interesting tools or the great size of his works. Still, the picture book invites young children to think creatively and boldly about the different ways in which art can be made.
Gilberti makes the choice in both of these picture books not to try to emulate the artists at hand. In fact, in using minimal to no colors beyond black and white and keeping his figures to largely simplified forms, he keeps his references to Klein and Pollock to a minimum. I initially found this a little off-putting--I want the real people!--but have settled into enjoying these books as perfect introductory volumes to artists and the methods in which they created. Each time I closed the book, I wanted to look for more--and when our goal is raising readers and young researchers and artists, that seems like the right place to land.
Source: Deborah Sloan & Co. provided these books for a fair and honest review.