Picture books

16th May 1997 at 01:00
Dulwich Picture Gallery Children's Art Book By Gillian Wolfe Pounds 9. 95. Aspects of Art: A Painter's Alphabet By Tom Phillips Pounds 12.95. Dulwich Picture Gallery Activity Book By Gillian Wolfe Pounds 5.95. Bellew Publishing

The collection of paintings at Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London has been static since 1790. And its Old Master paintings interest only connoisseurs attracted by mythologies, classical landscapes, sacred subjects and portraits of people long dead. Wrong. Dulwich has the highest reputation for making paintings inspire today's viewers. Since Gillian Wolfe became head of education at the gallery in 1984, the collection has entranced wide audiences - children of different abilities and backgrounds, unemployed youths and adults and local families among them. These three books allow people everywhere to share this excellence. All are as relevant to people who have not visited the gallery as those who have .

None is specifically targeted at teachers, but each would make a valuable addition to an upper junior or lower secondary teacher's armoury of ideas and information. The Children's Art Book is a friendly introduction to concepts encountered in art history and criticism. With a light touch it illuminates perspective, genre, pentimento and so on, including suitable paintings and just the right amount of information. It also includes some tempting suggestions for things to do and make (a miniature garden in a bowl, a la Gainsborough, or white pigment from chicken bones, for instance).

The Activity Book contains ideas for developing your own projects after seeing gallery pictures (teachers would find some of the ideas for practical work appealing). Several pages give helpful basic training, for instance how to get ears, necks and shoulders right for portraits, or how to create profile and three-quarter views.

Aspects of Art is a book to delight the eyes and brain. Tom Phillips is an artist who is also a bookmaker. For every letter of the alphabet, he selects a word about making, criticising or conserving art, and a Dulwich painting. Then he writes a page or so, and your mind starts to tick.

Here are some striking examples: "Unlike the sciences, art gets no better, " or: "One does not have to pay an apple to sit still - moreover it will never fail to turn up and will not require cups of coffee every hour." He also says: "Although human beings are ultimately no more lovely than cockroaches or dandelions. . ." Read the book to find out what.

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