By Giancarlo Ascari and Pia Valeninis
Published by the Royal Academy of Arts ISBN 978-1910350348
Review by Laura Bilsby
The Green Fingers of Monsieur Monet aims to introduce children to the Impressionist, through playful illustrations and simple text. The journey of his life as a painter is presented to us through visualisations of his home in Giverny, France. Uncomplicated text provides details of his most prized masterpiece and greatest inspiration, his garden. Each spread is filled to the edges with vibrant illustrations reflecting Monet’s vast paintings of this space.
The book provides brief overviews of some of the historical aspects which effected the life of Monet. First-facts about Impressionism and the First World War are explained in ways children can enjoy and understand. The significance of gardening runs as a theme throughout the book, from detailed instructional letters to his gardeners, to names of flowers and their seasons of bloom, emphasising nature’s impact on Monet’s paintings.
Although the book shares limited information about the involvement of his family and his life prior to Giverny, it does give us a glimpse of Monet’s home life; surrounded by bright Japanese art, prints and decorative objects that he collected as inspiration and his time spent contemplating changing light effects in his water garden.
Giancarlo Ascari and Pia Valentinis interpret Monet’s work as a starting point, but focus on rich content, colour and use of light rather than an impressionistic style. Their modern take on Monet seems to disconnect us from the paintings by Monet himself, particularly because of the black outlines and overall style. It would have been nice to see some original artworks of Monet to provide children with realistic presentations of his work. However, the illustrations are full of detail and colour, and engaging content. Overall I think the book evokes a feeling of nostalgia and provides the reader with a feel for Monet’s passion and success.
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