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Salvador Dalí and the Surrealists: Their Lives and Ideas, 21 Activities (For Kids series) Paperback – September 1, 2003
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up-This visually stunning work enhances the body of material on the artist and his contemporaries. Eminently readable, the crisply written text is detailed and thorough, including pronunciations of many place and personal names. Dal¡'s life is presented familiarly, drawing in many details of life as an artist during that period in Europe and the relationships among the surrealists. No actual dialogue is included, but conclusions are drawn about Dali's thoughts from historical evidence. Sidebars cover other artists (Miro Eluard, Picasso), styles (Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art), and elements of history (the Spanish Civil War, Fascism and Franco, Communism). The attractive layout includes numerous excellent-quality reproductions of the work of Dali and many of the other artists mentioned in the text, and period photographs. Of particular interest here are the 21 activities that will engage budding artists and encourage them to think and to look at familiar objects in a different way. Requiring no unusual supplies, they might be used by classroom teachers as well. There are rich potentials for jumps from here to history and the "'20s in Europe" art era. A valuable addition to any collection.
Cris Riedel, Ellis B. Hyde Elementary School, Dansville, NY
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Gr. 9-12. He was the quintessential crazy artist: a radical, contentious Spanish painter who put his dreams on canvas; an unashamed self-promoter who also wrote books, worked with Hollywood directors, and rubbed elbows with the likes of the Beatles. Ross treats readers to an episodic, roughly chronological glimpse of the eccentric artist and his work, especially his association with surrealism. This isn't a close-up view. Ross keeps a somewhat disappointing distance from his intriguing subject, and the biographical facts are constantly interrupted by boxed insets (often quite interesting) with information about Dali's fellow artists and their turbulent relationships and the times during which they painted. There are also projects to help reinforce the ideas adopted by the surrealists. The reproductions are good but too few for a book such as this, and although Ross' text descriptions of the art are very clear and visual, they really can't replace a look at the real thing. Still, readers are sure to come away with a sense of both the man and the art that will make them want to investigate further. REVWR
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Ross does a wonderful job of putting the Surrealists in historical context. Although he starts by looking at Dali's early life and first impressionist works, Ross tells young readers how World War I and the birth of the Dada movement, started to move art in a new direction. Throughout the book Ross provides looks at not only important artists like Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte, and Frida Kaholo, but also Sigmund Freud, Francisco Franco, and Harpo Marx. When you get to the Marx Brothers and the idea of absurd comedy that they represented in their films such as "A Night at the Opera," then you can rest assured that Ross is providing not only breadth but also depth to his treatment of Surrealism. Dali is clearly the paradigmatic surrealist artist, which may well just be another way of saying the most popular, but that distinction will not matter to young students who will be fascinated by the famous melted watches in "The Persistence of Memory" (1931) and the gaping square hole in the back of the figure in "The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition" (1934). I was surprised that they did not show the infamous harp, covered with silverware, that Dali made for Harpo Marx.
Consequently, the text of the book, where Ross looks at how surrealism drew on the revolutionary theories of Sigmund Freud to bring the creativity of the subconscious to art and details the fanciful creations of Magritte, Miro, Dali and other artists, stands on its own as providing a superb introduction to Dali and the surrealists. However, the activities Ross came up with are even better. Starting with such simple ideas a finding Pictures Everywhere, Ross moves on to tricks for altering the way you see the world (Crystal Eyes), and the inventiveness of Free Association and Inkblots. A series of activities are based on the work of specific artists, such as the Splotch Art of Joan Miro, the Solar Prints of Man Ray, the Surreal Objects of Marcel Duchamp, the Art in a Box of Max Ernst, and Dali's technique of Frottage. Of course, when they get to the concept of Hair Art, students might always recognize that from what some of their classmates have already been doing. Ross provides some actual examples of student projects based on these exercise as well as works by great artists that inspired the ideas. Even younger children will enjoy the "Exquisite Corpse" Drawing activity.
Although I supposed I could always glue a lobster to a rotary telephone on my own, perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to this book is that I wish I had young students that I could get to try some of these out. My youngest daughter should be careful the next time she comes over because I do not think it is likely that I will come up with a way of getting my online Pop Culture class to do this, much as I would like to. This book is so inspiring that I can see teachers who only deal with art tangentially in their class to find a way to work some of this information and several of these exercises into their classes. There are also plenty of other great Surrealist artists for these students to learn more about as well as well as imaginatively inspirational paintings like Magritte's "Time Transfixed" (1938).