From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4-- Adrian Van der Weld is gifted, but angrily rejects portrait painting when his first commission fails to jibe with the sitter's view of himself. He wants to paint landscapes; "big paintings of the trees, the clouds, and the royal castle." When he is summoned to the castle, however, he is commanded to paint a group portrait of all 27 courtiers. Defying their demands that he "improve" their present appearance for the portrait, Adrian spends two years stalling and painting portraits of the king's pretty little daughter. This unprofessional behavior is, however, rewarded by the infatuated father: Adrian is given land and a house (not the daughter), and returns to landscape. The Young Artist looks like a picture book. It has 16 glossy "high art" paintings, most of them alluding to 17-century Dutch landscapes and interiors. It lacks, however, both the integration of illustration and text that characterizes true picture books and a clear sense of its audience. The story is sophisticated, despite some weaknesses (how could Adrian, raised "near the royal castle," be completely unaware that "the king was feared throughout the land?"). More seriously, the central conflict is historically questionable. Ideas about landscape painting (particularly that it is more "honest" than portrait painting, a Romantic 19th-century notion), crucial to the story, are not appropriate to the specific time and place evoked by the illustrations. --Patricia Dooley, University of Washington, Seattle
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