Before They Were Famous

How Seven Artists Got Their Start (Bob Raczka's Art Adventures)
32p. 978-0-76136-077-3.
Gr 3—5—Raczka's talent for explaining art to children continues with this book. The author gives readers a different perspective on Dürer, Michelangelo, Artemisia Gentileschi, Sargent, Klee, Picasso, and Dalí. One-page biographies focus on their childhoods and young adulthoods; three pages of color reproductions follow, among them, paintings done when the artists were 8, 10, or 17 years old. Lengthy captions give readers a tour of the "gallery" and include additional facts. Art lovers will read this for pleasure, but report writers will also be fascinated by the information in this well-organized survey. It is sure to broaden the scope of any art shelf.—Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH
Raczka compiles some fascinating early works of seven artists: Durer, Michelangelo, Gentileschi, Sargent, Klee, Picasso, and Dalí. The text describes how each artist began painting as a youngster and went on to shape a career. These biographical sketches, along with reproductions of the astonishing works themselves, may inspire budding artists to explore their own talents at an early age.
The artists included here have at least two things in common: their family’s encouragement and support (especially noteworthy for Artemisia Gentileschi, who in the 1600s was a painter when it was rare for women to work in such trades) and an early love for drawing. It is inspiring to see their childhood work, and to note the talent they had from a young age. As Bob Raczka points out to readers, “make sure your parents save a few of your favorite art projects. Who knows, maybe you’ll grow up to be a famous artist!” Full-page biographical sketches of the artists focus on their childhood interest in art and their early training. Captioned reproductions of three works by each artist include a childhood piece and an iconic piece for which they are known. The progression of their work, often within a short period of time, is fascinating.

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