Here’s an interesting, easy and eye-catching way of getting your children introduced—and probably hooked on—to good art and great artists.
Anjali Raghbeer’s book series Looking at Art looks at four illustrious painters of India. In no particular order, the books are A Trail of Paint, The Veena Player, My Name is Amrita and Barefoot Husain. The first two are about Jamini Roy and Raja Ravi Varma, while the last two—as the names suggest—are about Amrita Sher-Gil and Maqbool Fida Husain.
Raghbeer’s treatment of each subject is friendly without going overboard on the technicalities and overpowering the reader with the greatness of the subject. In A Trail of Paint, the young Biswajeet, after being dragged kicking and screaming to an art exhibition of Jamini Roy’s works, is left to his own devices as his aunt moves off with the curator for a look-see. Here he meets an old gentleman who tells him that true art is “creating” not “copying”. It turns out that the old gentleman is the great painter himself.
In The Veena Player, little Valsa spends the holidays with her aunt Prima because mom and dad have to go to Canada. Prima turns out to be a connoisseur of paintings done by Raja Ravi Varma. Valsa is thrilled when one day aunt Prima decides to clean up her art room and the paintings that have gathered dust and worse. It is while cleaning up that Valsa gets to know more about the famous painter. But strange things happen when Valsa is alone with the painting and it comes alive. The author explains how Varma was the first painter to travel all over India
My Name is Amrita is more of a diary that the young Amrita used to keep—from her days in Europe to Simla. It has notes that the painter has jotted down about her impressions over the short period that she lived. The book also has reproductions from Sher-Gil’s paintings and how her style changed from European to the more vibrant Indian colours as she spent more time in India.
Barefoot Husain is a hilarious story of how Husain has lost his shoes and enlists the young boy, Jai, to help him look for them. The trail takes them on a wild horse ride (Husain just paints the pictures and they come to life) through a man perched high on a hoarding (how Husain started off and how he taught himself to paint) to a film set where Madhuri Dixit is the star to a dhaba. In the end, the painter finds his shoes but discovers that he can’t paint if he wears them.
The writer is the editor of Heek, a children’s magazine.
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