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Customer Review

on March 13, 2003
Most people can name at least a couple famous artists and cite some examples of their best-known works. But have you ever wondered what's really behind all that painting, sculpting, and drawing? Kathleen Krull's book Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) gives an in-depth view into the humor, tragedy, and mystery in twenty artists' lives, as well as the gossip inspired by their peculiar lifestyles. Carefully researched, this humorous biography travels throughout the centuries, offering basic facts along with interesting tidbits and anecdotes about artists from Leonardo Da Vinci to Georgia O'Keeffe and beyond. It also includes interesting backround information behind each one's artistic works as well as creative and eye-catching illustrations by Kathryn Hewitt. This entertaining book allows readers to get to know the world's greatest artists and their artworks through each one's unique and engaging story.
The book is well organized into chapters each focusing on the life of one individual artist. The author skillfully and humorously connects information about artists' personalities, preferences, and lifestyles with how they affected their most well known artworks. It recreates each one's position in history, telling how the artists were seen by the general population in their day, or even their reputation among curious or superstitious neighbors. Readers will be able to see for themselves that famous artists were real people who did mess up once in a while. The author explains a time when Leonardo Da Vinci decided to try out a new painting method, saying, "The technique resulted in disaster...(he hadn't read all the way through to the part that said "don't try this on walls")."
The author's voice helps compliment the content in several ways. Kathleen Krull's words strike a tone that is warm, chatty, and friendly, making you feel as if she were talking with you in the same room. Her gossip extends not only to the basic facts but also to many specific details abou the artists' lives. Showing the passion and tragedy in his life, she remarks about the artist Vincent van Gogh,"Van Gogh imposed a condition of near starvation on himself and would go for days without food so he could afford to buy art supplies." In addition, every sarcastic or humorous comment made on the part on the author helps readers to feel they are getting to know an actual person rather than a cold, vague historical figure.
The author also ensured that the book would appeal to an audience of both children and adults. The words and explanations are engaging and humorous and immediately capture your interest, yet the vocabularly is not too difficult for children. The full-page color illustrations are vivid, clever, and bring to life each artist for the young and old alike. Because the book gives more information about each artist than is generally known, it is sure to benefit and interest a wide range of audiences.
Readers of all ages will definitely become hooked on this fact-filled and entertaining biography. Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) retells the one of a kind stories of each of the world's most famous artists, blending historical facts with humor and captivating details. Most importantly it allows readers to recognize each individual artist through an attractive mix of their achievements, lives, and unique personalities.
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