5 Inspirational Children's Books About Famous Artists

The famous American painter, Georgia O'Keeffe, once said, "To create one's own world in any art takes courage." The French painter, Henri Matisse said, "Creativity takes courage." O'Keeffe and Matisse and the other painters portrayed in these children's books had to overcome adversity or opposition to their own personal vision in order to create their art. Every child will be inspired by these artists to see the world with wonder and to follow where their own unique vision and imagination lead them.

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"Viva Frida"

Children's picture book about Frida Kahlo
Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales,. Courtesy of Amazon.com

"Viva Frida," written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, and photographed by Tim O'Meara, is a unique picture book that provides a new approach to and insight into the well-known story of the incredible life, courage, and fortitude of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Written in simple, poetic language, in both Spanish and English, the book gives voice to Kahlo's strong urge to create despite great personal pain and hardship, and reveals her ability to see and find inspiration for her art all around her. The characters are portrayed by lifelike puppets including the animals Kahlo loves. The book has a magical dreamlike feel that will draw young readers in and open their eyes to the wonders that surround them. For preschool through third grade.

This is not like other books that are biographies of Frida Kahlo and that show her paintings. Rather this book depicts her artistic process and vision, showing us how one can transcend limitations through love, creativity, and an open heart.

You can see a short video of how the book was made here.

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"Through Georgia's Eyes"

Children's book about Georgia O'Keeffe called "Through Georgia's Eyes"
Through Georgia's Eyes, by Rachel Rodriguez, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Courtesy of Amazon.com

"Through Georgia's Eyes," written by Rachel Rodriguez and illustrated by Julie Paschkis, is a beautiful biography that echoes the style of one of the most well-known female artists and one of America's greatest painters, Georgia O'Keeffe, known as the mother of modernism. This book illustrates how as a child Georgia sees the world differently than other people and is sensitive to the beauty of color, light, and nature. Spending her early childhood on a farm in Wisconsin she longs for open space all her life, and later finds a spiritual home in the hills and deserts of New Mexico. She lives there off and on for many years and moves there permanently during the latter years of her life. The book introduces this inspiring woman and artist to young children, giving them a glimpse into an authentic life lived in wonder and amazement at the beauty in the world. For kindergarten through third grade.

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"The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art"

Children's book about painter Vasily Kandinsky
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art, by Bareb Rosenstock, Illustrated by Mary Grandpré. Courtesy of Amazon.com

"The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art," is a picture book about the famous Russian painter, Vasily Kandinsky, who is credited with being one of the founders of abstract art in the twentieth century. As a young Russian child, he is schooled in all the proper things. He learns math, history, and science, listens to adult conversations, and takes piano lessons where he learns the scales to the steady beat of a metronome. Everything is very formulaic and uninspiring. When an aunt gives him a paint box, though, he begins to hear a hiss as the colors mix on his palette, and to hear music as he paints. But since no one else can hear the music the colors make, they do not approve of his style of painting and send him to formal art lessons. He studies art and does what his teachers tell him, painting landscapes and portraits like everyone else, and studying to become a lawyer, until one day he makes a decision. Is he brave enough to follow his heart and paint the music he hears and what he really feels?

The last page of the book has a biography of Kandinsky and several examples of his art. For kindergarten through fourth grade.

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"Magritte's Marvelous Hat"

Children's book about Surrealist painter René Magritte
Magritte's Marvelous Hat, by D.B. Johnson about Surrealist painter René Magritte. Courtesy of Amazon.com

"Magritte's Marvelous Hat," written and illustrated by D.B. Johnson, creatively tells the story of Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. Magritte's character is portrayed by a dog whose hat, based on Magritte's signature bowler hat, floats above him and leads him on artistic games and adventures, inspiring him to paint ordinary things in unordinary and extraordinary ways. Four transparent pages add to the surrealistic effect and interactive nature of the book, allowing the reader to transform a picture by turning the transparent page, alluding to Magritte's quote, "Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see." The book encourages young artists to follow their imagination and inspiration, wherever it leads them.

The author's note gives a brief biography of Magritte and explanation of surrealism. For preschool through third grade.

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"Henri's Scissors"

Children's book, Henri's Scissors, about Henri Matisse
Henri's Scissors, by Jeanette Winter. Courtesy of Amazon.com

"Henri's Scissors," by Jeanette Winter, tells the story of French artist Henri Matisse. Winkler relates through small pictures and accompanying story Matisse's childhood and adulthood as he becomes a famous artist. But at the age of 72, Matisse's art changes as he turns to painting sheets of paper and cutting shapes from them while he convalesces from surgery. These works were to become some of his most famous and beloved works. Just as Matisse's art changes so, too, do the illustrations in the book, becoming full-page compositions of simple colorful rounded shapes. The pictures show Matisse sitting in his wheelchair in his studio creating his collages. Matisse works until his death, which is dealt with in the book simply and gracefully. The book is interspersed with actual quotes from Matisse and exudes the joy that Matisse expresses through his art despite his aging and illness, showing the triumph of the human spirit. For kindergarten through third grade.