Introducing Art to Children – Anna and Johanna & A Journey Through Art: A Global Journey

Anna and Johanna
Géraldine Elschner and Florence Kœnig

It’s 12th October 1666 and we’re in the city of Delft where two girls are busy working. One is Anna, the daughter of the well-to-do master of the house; the other is Anna’s maid and co-incidentally they both share the same birthday. Each girl is creating something special for the other in celebration of the day.

For her friend, Johanna, Anna is fashioning a lace collar just like her own, which she knows her friend likes a lot.
In the kitchen Johanna is cooking a special birthday breakfast mousse as a treat for her friend Anna. It’s a breakfast fit for a queen.

But why are they such close friends and why do they share a birthday? Is it co-incidence or something much deeper?

When the girls meet and exchange their gifts, they discover something intended for both of them – a letter addressed simply ‘For your birthday’, which begins, ‘Dear children’ – a letter from Anna’s father telling of an incident that had occurred exactly twelve years earlier and disclosing a secret that he’s been keeping ever since.

Inspired by two of 17th century Dutch painter, Jan Vermeer’s greatest works of art, The Lacemaker and The Milkmaid Géraldine Elschner has crafted a story of friendship and more that reflect the painter’s impressions of domestic life.

Equally evocative of Vermeer’s style are Florence Koenig’s acrylic paintings executed predominantly in subtle blue, yellow, brown and orange hues of the Dutch city’s landscapes and scenes of domesticity.

There are many ways to interest children in art and artists: this lovely tale of friendship and devotion offers an unusual introduction for young readers to Vermeer’s art.

 Journey Through Art: A Global History
Aaron Rosen, illustrated by Lucy Dalzell
Thames & Hudson

Aaron Rosen takes readers on a journey through time and place to visit some thirty locations as he tells how the art and architecture of different cultures developed.
The tour, which travels to four continents, begins in northern Australia at Nawarla Gabarnmung in 35,000 BCE where we see prehistoric petroglyphs.

The next location is the city of Thebes 1250 BCE and then on to Nineveh 700 BCE, followed by more cities – almost all sites visited are cities – and thereafter to the site of a Buddhist monastery hidden in caves at Ajanta in Central India. Those caves contain some amazing sculptures and the oldest surviving paintings in India, done by the Buddhist monks who lived there around 500BCE.

All the locations thus far are included in the first of the three sections entitled Prehistoric and Ancient Art and next comes Medieval and Early Modern Art that encompasses Granada, Florence, the 16th century town of Timbuktu, 1650 Amsterdam where we find the first mention of a woman artist, Judith Leyster who was celebrated for her paintings of musicians.

The final Modern and Contemporary section includes a stop at 1825 Haida Gwaii to view the Northwest Pacific woodcarvings, one of the few non-urban destinations.

At every stop Rosen begins with a spread giving an overview of the site and a painting by Lucy Dazell; following this is another spread comprising information about the culture/customs together with small photos of significant artefacts, paintings and monuments together with printed notes.
The journey terminates at Rio de Janiero where the 2016 Olympic Games took place and thereafter are notes about visiting museums and art galleries and a glossary.

A whistle-stop tour indeed and one that might leave you feeling somewhat breathless but equally one hopes, hungry to find out more about the art of some of the places visited.

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