cover image ART UP CLOSE: From Ancient to Modern

ART UP CLOSE: From Ancient to Modern

Claire d'Harcourt, Author, Seuil, Author, Seuil, Author . Chronicle/Seuil $19.95 (64p) ISBN 978-2-02-059694-7

Art lovers will enjoy this inviting exercise, which asks readers to notice the tiniest visual elements of 23 historic artworks. Each oversize spread reproduces one piece, with its artist, title and date in large, casual lettering. Along the borders appear a dozen or so details culled from the piece itself, reproduced in silver-dollar-size, slightly larger than they appear in the paintings. For instance, Jan Steen's The Village School , abuzz with misbehaving pupils and two unconcerned instructors, gives readers a comic sense of laissez-faire education, circa 1665. Readers seek easy-to-miss but telling information—the rat nibbling at someone's lunch, the boy doodling on the wall—and in the meanwhile make their own discoveries. D'Harcourt (Art Through the Magnifying Glass ) chooses dramatic subjects and places them in chronological order, from an ancient Egyptian papyrus to one of Jackson Pollock's paint-drip canvases. Some audiences will gravitate to Abu Ma'shar's 15th-century illuminated manuscript, with its lute players and a sword-wielding warrior who has beheaded a foe. Others will be captivated by intricate 16th-century works like Bruegel the Elder's peasant grotesque, The Battle Between Carnival and Lent , a bawdy companion piece to Bosch's hallucinatory The Temptation of Saint Anthony (c.1500). D'Harcourt discusses each example individually in an afterword, and lift-the-flap mini-paintings reveal the details' location and offer brief artist bios. Despite its contemporary design, the guidebook is fairly conventional; only five pieces are non-Western, and none are by women. Nevertheless, this diverting souvenir suggests the rich rewards of close investigation. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)