Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Painting Perceptions

When reading good nonfiction, besides providing you with intriguing information, it challenges you.  You are asked to think about how you view your world.  Perhaps you need to look at things through the eyes of the author, illustrator or, if it's a biography, the way the person made choices or followed a dream.  With each book I find myself taking extra hours and days to discover more about the topic.

Having had an interest in art and artists for most of my life, I was thrilled to be able to take an art appreciation class during college.  It enlarged my knowledge of art history and gave me the ability to recognize a specific artist's work.  For me, those like myself, those who have no understanding of a particular artist and people needing to understand the joy of pursuing your passion, Edward Hopper Paints His World (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, August 19, 2014) written by Robert Burleigh with paintings by Wendell Minor is an unexpected gift.

Little Edward Hopper had many dreams.  But one dream was biggest of all---he was going to be a painter when he grew up.

Even at an early age Edward was committed; drawing day after day and placing his signature on his work as an artist would do. With his high school education completed he set his sights on New York City.  Taking classes there made him feel as though he was on the right track.  To enhance his skills as a painter, he left the city he loved to spend time in Paris studying and painting outside.

After Paris he came back to New York City working as an illustrator for periodical publications.  He lived economically, working by day to make money, painting what he desired by night and in his spare time.  Despite receiving no recognition for his work, he continued.

Houses and lighthouses, the way the light fell on each portion, fascinated him.  When he was forty-two, a woman he had met previously in art school, Jo Nivison, became his wife.  In her, Edward had a champion.  The two would travel the countryside finding bits and pieces of Americana for Edward to paint.

Though they eventually built a small cottage on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Edward was always drawn back to the city for inspiration.  He had a unique way of depicting what he saw focusing on items others would not choose or miss entirely.  Sometimes he would combine details from various scenes creating from his marvelous mind a place of fiction.

Over time Edward Hopper's work was noticed for the genius it was and still is today.  He and Jo maintained their life style moving between the city and shore with the seasons.  He was a man who lived the

biggest of all

his dreams,

to be a painter. 

One word comes to mind upon repeated readings of this book, inspiration.  Robert Burleigh has combined his painstaking research with his remarkable skills as a writer to give readers a picture of Edward Hopper's life from boyhood to old age; one spent living that which he imagined, never faltering.  Burleigh includes personal information which binds readers to this man; writing "WOULD BE ARTIST" on his pencil box, his nickname of "Grasshopper", statements made by Hopper about his work and the relationship he had with his wife, Jo.  We can't help but feel we know this man after reading this book.  Here is a portion of a passage from a single page.

There, a couple reading in their living room.  There, a man working late in a dim office.  There, a lonely stroller on a dark street.  Often, the people were serious. They seemed slightly sad.  What had happened to them?  What was about to happen?  These small mysteries became the subjects for many of Edward Hopper's paintings.  

Accompanying the narrative work of Robert Burleigh is the paintings of Wendell Minor.  When I (every reader really) hold this book in my hands, it's like holding a museum.  Each visual, each portrayal is splendid.  Minor begins with his interpretation of one of Hopper's most famous paintings, Nighthawks, on the matching front dust jacket and book case.  On the back we see a close up of a piece from the interior of the book, young Edward painting a sailboat while sitting on a dock. The opening and closing endpapers are a gorgeous picture of Edward rowing across the water with a sailboat towing a smaller boat in the background.  It is done in shades of blue looking like a drawing.

Wendell Minor using a full color palette presents double page and single page spreads historically accurate as to time and place with lighting and shading which will take your breath away.  Opposite most of the single pages on the right, he has placed a smaller illustration done in a single color to again look like an artist's sketch.  On two of the double page illustrations he has used this same approach.  This mixture of illustrative techniques compliments the pacing of the text perfectly.

One of my favorite illustrations is his depiction of Edward Hopper's Gas.  In my mind Minor is showing how Edward and Jo might have been driving one evening, coming upon the station as the sun is setting.  Minor's use of color, his brush strokes and choice of details take you right into the moment.

Edward Hopper Paints His World written by Robert Burleigh with paintings by Wendell Minor is a triumphant tribute, a passionate portrayal, of not only a significant American artist but a memorable man.  In the Afterward Burleigh asks readers to think about whether an artist could be a hero or an explorer.  He highlights three important quotations of Hopper explaining their meanings.  Four Hopper Paintings are highlighted further.  On the third page at the back we find important dates, author and artist references and web sources.  Wendell Minor's Artist's Note On Images In This Book is well worth a read.  This book has my highest recommendation.

Please follow the links embedded in the author's name, illustrator's name and the book title to access their personal websites.  You will get a peek at interior illustrations from the book.  Don't miss them.

Each week I consider myself fortunate to be participating in Alyson Beecher's 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at her website, Kid Lit Frenzy.  Please stop by to see the other posts.  There are fantastic nonfiction titles listed there by other bloggers.


  1. Sounds fantastic, shall look forward to reading it. Love your reviews, as always... :)

    1. I know you are really going to like this Debbie. It's your kind of book. You are the perfect person to share it with your students.

  2. This looks gorgeous! Can't wait to see it. Thanks for the excellent review. :)

    1. It is a true treasure Jama. I love the way Robert Burleigh wrote about Edward Hopper and Wendell Minor's paintings leave me nearly speechless. You are welcome. Thanks for visiting.