A History of Pictures for Children: From Cave Paintings to Computer Drawings by David Hockney & Martin Gayford; illustrated by Rose Blake; Abrams Books for Young Readers, 128 pages ($24.99) Ages 10 to 14.
Artist David Hockney and art critic Martin Gayford join forces for this stunning book, a fascinating, youth-friendly "conversation" between artist and critic that explores how and why humans have made pictures from the earliest cave paintings to the newest computer game.
Rather than offering a standard art history of periods and styles, this handsome volume, loaded with beautiful artwork and based on Hockney's best-selling book for adults, explores why humans have made art and how artists have created new ways of making pictures, blazing the trail for artists who came later.
Hockney notes that Jan Van Eyck's 1434 "Arnolfini Portrait," included "objects that had never been shown in that way before," including the mirror, the chandelier, the oranges by the window, the dirty wooden clogs. Gayford explores the connections between images from different times and places, juxtaposing "The Arnolfini Portrait" with Hockney's "1971 painting "Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy" (1970-71), noting "some pictures appeal to us even if the objects in them become unfamiliar" and observing that the rotary telephone in the 1971 painting appears just as strange to viewers today as Arnolfini's weird hat in the 1434 painting.
One particularly fascinating chapter, "Making Marks," explores the basics of drawing, "what makes a mark interesting," whether made with pen, charcoal, or pencil, or brushstrokes made with paint. Hockney sees the influence of Chinese drawing on Rembrandt in a small, expressive sketch, with minimal lines, of "a child being taught to walk" (1656). Hockney and Gayford offer interesting insights on Monet and his 1880 painting "Breakup of the Ice" on the Seine, a very rare occurrence that would have required Monet to immediately set to work and to work very fast. "Watch This Space" examines how artists set the scene and different ideas about perspective and includes Hockney's "Pearblossom Highway," a collage of 850 photos. The chapter on "Mirrors and Reflections" is also fascinating, examining Diego Velazquez's painting" Las Meninas" (1656), Monet's water lily paintings and Hockney's "Study of Water, Phoenix, Arizona" (1976).
The book explores how 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer achieved his extraordinary realism, the development of the camera obscura and the camera lucida and the advent of photography and moving pictures and "what's next for pictures." The playful illustrations by Rose Blake, daughter of artist Peter Blake, offer an entertaining running commentary throughout, expanding and clarifying in a most delightful way.