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Monday, January 21, 2013

Beautiful picture book for art and spanish teachers

     My brother Mike is an art teacher and spends most days of the week immersed in helping students make and understand art.  I go to the Art Institute of Chicago a couple of times a year.  My good friend Jim is also a high school art teacher.  He takes his students to Chicago to visit the gallery district and some art museums I have never heard of.  I enjoy outdoor sculpture when I notice it.  So I am an amatuer.  I am not confident that I know what good art is.  I am not certain that when I look at a painting I know what to look for.  I know that when Mike or Jim look at a painting, they are seeing far more than I am.  I am vaguely familiar with Piccasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Paul Klee, Georgia O'Keefe.  I have heard of Diego Rivera, but am not certain that, as of two weeks ago, I could have told you what country he is from or what his style looks like.
     Then I read the picture book, Diego Rivera:  His World and his Work by Duncan Tonatiuh (2011, New York: Abrams). 

It is a pretty simple biography of Rivera and tells of his early childhood in Guanajuanto, Mexico, of his art education in Spain and France, and of his return to Mexico to paint murals.  It talks of his gradual development of a style deeply influenced by ancient Mexican art.  It tells of his desire to show the ordinary people of his homeland, and make their world the subject of his art.  And then Tonatiuh experiments with Rivera's style to ask young readers to imagine what subjects he would paint if he were alive today.  The book ends with a challenge for young artists to uphold Rivera's legacy as they decide what they will draw or paint.
     I know the book isn't comprehensive.  I know it doesn't say a single word about Rivera's passionate and sometimes bizzare relationship with Frida Kahlo.  I know that the final section goes on a bit long. At the same time, though. I love the way Tonatiuh appropriates Rivera's style to show images from his life, like this one of Rivera as a yonng boy:


or this one of him working on a mural:

This would be a great book for art lessons for little kids -- first, second, third grade -- but I also think students through high school would get a kick out of the images.  I liked it.

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