Monday, November 07, 2016

But How Does Art Make You Feel?

I pulled Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Paintings That Smile by True Kelley off one of my To Be Read Shelves to take with me on vacation back in September. I have a vague recollection of buying it new somewhere. I often no longer recall how I came to have books on my TBR Shelves. This one was published in 2005, and I'm not sure it's still in print.  (UPDATE: I just did a blog search. I bought this book in 2005. Yikes.)

This book is structured like a child's report on Renoir and makes very good use of page layout--Renoir's artwork, text that is supposed to be the student's text, and her personal comments. While her report tone is enthusiastic, it is pretty much the familiar French Impressionist story. What makes Paintings That Smile unique is those personal comments, in which the narrator often describes her responses to Renoir's art.

For instance, on the cover of her book of piano music is a Renoir portrait of two girls seated at a piano. "They look like they are having such a good lots of his paintings people are smiling and having fun. That's why I picked Renoir for my report. His paintings make me smile."

She likes the dress in one of his paintings, the dog in another. She wonders what a woman is doing with her hands in still another. She has opinions about Renoir's children, who served as models in some of his work. My personal favorite of our young report writer's responses? "Those black eyes look weird to me."

What I think this book does is show people that art can be enjoyed on a very personal level, related only to them. They don't have to be concerned about whether their responses are right or wrong or falling in line with those of anyone else. It's not so much that it shows child readers how to enjoy art. It's more as if it gives them permission to enjoy it.

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