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Pop goes the kitchen sink

Martin Child is inspired by a series of books on art history.

Art history is one thing, a hamburger is something else. Pupils will relate to the latter easily, especially when it is more than two metres wide. Enlarged comic strips, multiple images of film stars, even giant iced lollies covered in furry animal print fabric should also capture the imagination. New ways into art history are always useful and Pop Art from the Art Revolutions series has many examples to inspire key stage 2 pupils.

The pop art movement is firmly placed in the late Fifties and Sixties because of the clear way it reflected popular culture but it still has an immediacy which should connect with pupils' own experiences. Pop Art features the work of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Blake and Hockney among others and could inspire pupils to create their own powerful paintings, prints and sculpture using everyday objects.

Everyday life was the main subject matter of impressionist painters. Degas compared his art to that of a ballet dancer: both worked very hard to produce something that looked easy. Impressionism discusses individual paintings and helps to explain what the artists were trying to achieve and just how dramatic and different their work was in the 1870s. The artists were breaking rules of colour, composition and subject matter - even painting in the open air rather than the studio was different.

Impressionism is probably the most familiar territoy for key stage 2 pupils but although they may be aware of many of the painters and paintings, the likes of Cassatt, Morisot and Caillebotte may be new to them. It is unlikely that they will be familiar with all the illustrations in the book.

An understanding of the history of art is a fundamental requirement of art education and the revised national curriculum expects it to be integrated with practical activities. Although there is a plethora of art books, not too many are written specifically for pupils to study. Aimed squarely at key stage 2 (but useful up to Year 8), this series covers familiar territory. Nevertheless, the books, designed in a lively way, contain interesting and thought-provoking illustrations.

They are designed for pupils to read, not just to look at the pictures. The bite-sized nuggets of text aid understanding of the artwork. Although limited in content and written in a rather matter of fact way, the books give a simple, clear overview of the art movement in question.

The series' main weakness is the pupil tasks on each page. They do not seem well thought out and, speaking as a teacher, I would not rely on them for lesson plans. But the books are likely to be a useful resource for pupils to carry out individual research and could also form the basis for some sound practical artwork.

Now, where will you store those giant hamburgers?


Belitha Press stand PV354

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