Reviewed by Emma Fox
"Dot upon dot upon dot, here's a snowman by Georges Seurat!" Learn about the styles of famous artists in this bright book by Amy and Greg Newbold.
The concept for If Picasso Painted a Snowman came to author Amy Newbold while visiting the Mus é e Picasso in Paris. The innovation of Picasso's Cubism inspired her to wonder how an artist like he would have painted something as simple as a snowman.
From such a kernel came a big examination of the ways of seeing. “Not all artists paint the same,” Newbold wrote, and over the next 17 illustrations done in the styles of different artists by versatile illustrator Greg Newbold, their point is proven. The familiar shape of three circles stacked atop one another with a triangle nose and black-dotted smile is deconstructed in the style of Cubism, and re-interpreted wholly in Georgia O'Keefe's famous southwest style.
With a vivid, well-balanced palette and sensitivity toward the details that make an artist's work special, this book is a visual treat. Each of the artists featured were extensively researched by Greg Newbold to ensure a faithful rendering, and his research shows. "Chagall's snowmen” cavort in a carnival tent that is as soft at the edges of ones' dream-memory as the artists' actual paintings of lovers flying over sleeping fields. Newbold told the Deseret News last year upon the book's release, “Every great artist has things that they do that make them unique, and it was up to me to figure out their 'handwriting' in order to successfully emulate their styles.” (Deseret News, December 11, 2017)
Written in punchy prose, one can't help feeling swept into the action as a Pop Art representation of Lichtenstein's paintings says, “BLAM! Roy Lichtenstein's snowman saves the day.” The book is fun, light in tone, and energetic. Young readers won't even notice they're learning about art with a charmingly chubby hamster for a guide.
At the end of the book is a gallery of thumbnail biographies which invites a child reader to curl up in the lap of someone they love and explore the artists one by one. I can imagine my granddaughter pointing to a biography as she reads aloud, and turning back to the painting that corresponds with it. This book inspires wonder. It is a “snowy day book” that is perfect for reading together while the snow falls outside.
The Newbolds recently released a second book in the series, If Da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur, which continues to seek new ways of seeing the work of famous artists, but this time the subject is our giant reptilian predecessors. The book features art by the usual canon of great painters, but takes time to include the equally great works of artists such as Navajo painter Harrison Begay and Alma Woodsey Thomas, a Black woman who grew up in the racially segregated South. As a bonus, Dinosaur includes a short info sheet on the dinosaurs each of the artists "painted." With If Picasso Painted a Snowman our Best Weller's at 20% off, pairing it with If Da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur makes a smart and affordable gift.