Women Artists: Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo

Because March is National Women’s History Month, let’s look at two books about famous women artists: Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo. Both are in the “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” series by Mike Venezia.

Georgia O’Keeffe starts with a breathtaking portrait of a young Georgia by her husband, the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The next few pages show some of her paintings with just a few lines of explanation. Following is a cartoon about how this famous artist ate dirt as a child. What person, young or old, can’t relate to that with a grin? Venezia makes a point to explain early influences in Georgia’s life and how she studied to become an artist. He also emphasizes her interest in nature and use of bright colors.

Frida Kahlo is another vibrant female artist who used bright colors, but her life was very different from Georgia O’Keeffe’s. Frida was ill as a child and then the victim of a severe bus accident. She was in pain and had serious health problems throughout her life. Frida is known for her intense, riveting self-portraits. Like Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida had a famous husband, the artist Diego Rivera.

Although I highly recommend these books, I do have one small note of caution. Because they contain paintings by adult artists, a few of the images may be unsettling. In Georgia O’Keeffe, one of her paintings shows a dead rabbit, and the author chose Paul Cezanne’s “The Large Bathers” as an example of an artwork that influenced O’Keeffe. I never thought much about nudity in art until I found a piece of construction paper taped over a nude in one of Venezia’s other books at the library, which is why I mention it. In Frida Kahlo there is a graphic painting of her illness where food is pouring out of her mouth that could be disturbing. The artwork by other Mexican artists consists of scenes of war.

On the other hand, the art can be exquisitely beautiful as well, and shouldn’t be missed. Georgia O’Keeffe’s giant flowers are soft and entrancing. Frida Kahlo is a petite woman with a huge presence in her paintings.

As an art masterpiece volunteer for five years, I learned to treasure Mike Venezia’s books. He gives clear and informative discussions of the artist’s life illustrated with a good number of well-chosen examples of their work. The format is always similar in a comfortable way, with humorous cartoons to add instant kid appeal. The books are slim 8 x 9 ½-inch paperbacks that are easy to hold and carry. The best part is the books can be used with children of a wide range of ages and levels of art experience.

If you want to expose children to artists and art history, you should consider these books.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week join the action at Lori Calabrese Writes!

Georgia O’Keeffe (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia

Frida Kahlo (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia

Share a Story Blog Tour

If you are interested in children’s literature, here is one event you just can’t miss. Next week, starting on March 9, 2009, there is going to be a blog tour called “Share a Story – Shape a Future.” Each day they will have a group of bloggers sharing ideas around a specific theme. Book giveaways and free downloads will be announced by the various hosts. Check Share a Story for the tour schedule. It starts at one of my favorite blogs, “The Miss Rumphius Effect.”

See the cute bear logo link in my sidebar? Elizabeth Dulemba did the artwork.

Storytellers

In the “What Picture Books Tell Us About Writing” post, I mentioned how it seems like people are often categorized as writers or illustrators, at least for children’s picture books. Later I realized there is probably at least one other group, those that use oral language. Storytellers, poets and songwriters would fit in this group.

I once went to a wonderful presentation by the children’s book author, Jim Arnosky. Mr. Arnosky is both a writer and an illustrator of many nonfiction books about animals and the natural world. He sang a few songs during the presentation, and then shared that the words to his books often came to him in the form of songs and/or rhymes. I remember being fascinated at the time, because although I tell bedtime stories every night and have sung hundreds of made up silly songs, I don’t think any of them have been book material. What a wonderful ability to have.

Have you ever turned a song into a book?

Books by Jim Arnosky
All About Turkeys (All About) by Jim Arnosky

Drawing from Nature by Jim Arnosky