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Great Artists

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Without getting into any esoteric exploration of the nature or meaning of art, it's safe to say that artists have always played a crucial role in human society and civilization. We aren't even talking about the broad spectrum of artists here: surely this would be true if we included poets, composers, actors, and concert pianists, but it's equally true when "artist" is limited to painters and sculptors.

The men responsible for overseeing the construction of the Tabernacle of the Jews, Bezalel and Oholiab, can rightly be described as visual artists. It's interesting that in the ancient world artists were considered manual laborers, that they had none of the glory attributed them by modern cultures, that instead of idle bohemians they were hard workers who put in long hours and earned their bread by the sweat of their brow.

If you told a Hebrew or Greek that painters were somehow spiritually or intellectually enlightened oracles, they wouldn't understand. Even during the Renaissance, when the bourgeois reverence of "Art" was born, painters and sculptors were simply advanced craftsmen—gifted in their fields, but not the set-apart breed later generations would consider them to be.

Modern critics like to talk about the "surprisingly advanced understanding of human nature" evidenced by ancient paintings and statuary. Those artists were simply representing what they saw: much of what interpreters think they see now in those reflections is simply the result of their own over-intellectualized approach rooted in Enlightenment ideas of evolution and human progress. The ancient artists undertook to present and interpret life as they knew it, not to represent some philosophically-based school of thought or technique.

To suppose that an artist's life is of no consequence or likely uninteresting, however, is not a defensible assumption. Rembrandt's biography may not be any more interesting or compelling than yours or mine, but given the mark he made on Western civilization through his paintings, it might be more valuable reading, at least from an educational perspective.

Also, artists since the Renaissance have been in the business of making statements through their art, and understanding what their lives were like can be helpful on two levels—it lets us see if their lives were consistent with the ideals they championed, and it demonstrates that, as people, they were just as much products of their environment as those of us who've never picked up a paint brush or chisel. The following biographies show both sides, as well as helping us toward a greater appreciation of the paintings, sketches, drawings and sculpture they left behind.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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46 Items found Print
Artist of the Reformation
by Joyce McPherson
from Greenleaf Press
Biography for 5th-9th grade
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin
by Marguerite Henry & Wesley Dennis
Reprint from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 3rd-6th grade
in Animal Stories (Location: A06-03A)
Bill Peet
by Bill Peet
from Houghton Mifflin
Biography for 4th-8th grade
1990 Caldecott Honor Book
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Charlotte in Giverny
by Joan MacPhail Knight
Reprint from Chronicle Books
for 3rd-8th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Chasing Vermeer
Balliet Art Mystery Series
by Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist (Illustrator)
from Scholastic Inc.
Mystery & Suspense for 4th-6th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Country Artist
by David R. Collins
from First Avenue Editions
Biography for Preschool-3rd Grade
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: A12-05)
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velasquez
Art For Children
by Ernest Raboff
from Lippincott
for Kindergarten-3rd grade
in Art History & Appreciation (Location: ART-02C)
Discovering Great Artists
by MaryAnn F. Kohl & Kim Solga
from Bright Ring Publishing
for Preschool-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Drawings of the Masters: Flemish & Dutch Drawings
by Colin Eisler
from Shorewood Publishers
for 5th-Adult
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Frederic Remington
Art for Children
by Ernest Raboff
from J.B. Lippincott Co.
for 3rd-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself
by Margaret Frith
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 1st-3rd grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Genius of Leonardo
by Guido Visconti, Bimba Landmann
from Barefoot Books
for 1st-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec
Art for Children
by Ernest Raboff
from J.B. Lippincott Co.
for 3rd-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Henri Matisse
Art for Children
by Ernest Raboff
1st edition from Lippincott
for 1st-4th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Henri Rousseau
Art for Children
by Ernest Raboff
from J.B. Lippincott Co.
for 3rd-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
John Audubon
Young Patriots series
by Miriam E. Mason
from Patria Press, Inc.
for 4th-6th grade
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Joni's Story
Today's Heroes
by Joni Eareckson Tada
from Zondervan
Biography for 4th-6th grade
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Leonardo
by Serge Bramly
1st edition from HarperCollins
for Adult
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: A12-05)
Leonardo da Vinci
by Diane Stanley
from HarperCollins
Biography for 3rd-6th grade
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Leonardo da Vinci
by Emily Hahn
from Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd.
for 5th-8th grade
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Leonardo da Vinci
by Norman V. Marshall
from Silver Burdett Press
for 2nd-5th grade
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: A12-05)
Leonardo da Vinci
by Emily Hahn
from Random House
for 5th-8th grade
in World Landmark Books (Location: A10-04D)
Leonardo da Vinci
by Barbara Witteman
from Capstone Press
for Preschool-3rd grade
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: A12-05)
Leonardo Da Vinci
by Carlo Pedretti
Reprint from Taj Books International LLP
for 6th-10th grade
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: A12-05)
Life of Leonardo da Vinci
by Susie Hodge
from Brighter Child
for 2nd-6th grade
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: A12-05)
Lifetime of Wisdom
by Joni Eareckson Tada
from Zondervan
Autobiographies & Memoirs for Adult
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Linnea in Monet's Garden
by Christina Bjork & Lena Anderson
from R&S Books
Biography for Preschool- 3rd Grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Lives of the Artists
by Kathleen Krull
Reprint from HMH Books for Young Readers
for 3rd-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
M.C. Escher Kaleidocycles
Box from Purple Pomegranate Productions
for 6th-Adult
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Marc Chagall
Art for Children
by Ernest Raboff
from J.B. Lippincott Co.
for 3rd-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Margaret Bourke-White
by Montrew Dunham
from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 3rd-6th grade
in Childhood of Famous Americans (Location: A12-07D)
Mary Cassatt
Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists
by Mike Venezia
from Children's Press
Picture Book Biography for 4th-6th grade
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Masters of Art: Giotto and Medieval Art
by Lucia Corrain
from Peter Bedrick Books
for 4th-10th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Masters of the Renaissance - Audiobook
by Jim Weiss
from Greathall Productions
for 3rd-8th grade
in Greathall Storyteller CDs (Location: APO-01C)
Mathew Brady
by James D. Horan
from Bonanza Books
for 8th-Adult
in American Civil War (1860-1865) (Location: B01-18A)
Michelangelo's Surprise
by Tony Parillo
from Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Picture Book Biography for 3rd-6th grade
in Clearance: Biographies (Location: A12-05)
Pablo Picasso
Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists
by Mike Venezia
from Children's Press
for 4th-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Paintings That Smile
by True Kelley
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 3rd-6th grade
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Pieter Brugel
by Mike Venezia
from Children's Press
for Preschool-3rd grade
in Biographies (Location: A12-01A)
Raphael
Art for Children
by Ernest Raboff
1st edition from Lippincott
for 1st-4th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Rembrandt and Seventeenth-Century Holland
Masters of Art
by Claudio Pescio
1st edition from Peter Bedrick Books
for 5th-Adult
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Salvador Dali
by Mike Venezia
Revised from Children's Press
for Preschool- 3rd Grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Trails Plowed Under: Stories of the Old West
by Charles M. Russell
Reissue from Nelson Doubleday, Inc.
for 7th-12th grade
in Cowboys & Cattlemen (Location: B01-17B)
Usborne Book of Famous Artists
from Usborne
for 2nd-7th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)
Who Was Leonardo da Vinci?
Who Was?...Series
by Roberta Edwards
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 2nd-5th grade
in Who Was? biographies (Location: A12-06B)
Winslow Homer
Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists
by Mike Venezia
from Children's Press
for 4th-6th grade
in Great Artists (Location: ART-02B)