I confess that I am not a very sophisticated appreciator of fine art. Novels like Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev and Steven Brust's The Sun, the Moon and the Stars (as well as films like Emile de Antonio's Painters Painting) have given me a glimmering of what other people see when they look at paintings, but they've also left me half-convinced that I was missing something important. I find most paintings...nice, but somewhere between the art, my eyeballs, and my brain, something seems to go astray. Sometimes I'm just left wondering what the big deal is.
Looking at Paintings is a beginning textbook for young children (I'd say 6-12) who are wondering the same thing. Using beautifully reproduced paintings and crisp prose, Looking at Paintings expounds on the history of visual art, and the use of size, shape, color, light and dark, perspective, frame, motion and materials in creating visual effects. The short chapters are lavishly illustrated, and each section ends with a short quiz and a Mickey Mouse comic that uses comedy to re-cover the material.
Having read the book, I feel like I learned rather a lot. The beautiful art, combined with the simple, intelligent accompanying text, has me looking at artists from Pollack to Chagal to Rembrandt in new ways. I only wish someone had handed me a book like this when I was about seven. I can't wait to get to a gallery again.