The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children's Literature, Vol 10, No 3 (2006)

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Picture Window
Kathryn Shoemaker, editor


Degas and Seurat and Magritte! Oh My! Classical Art in Picturebooks

Genevieve M.Y. Valleau


With a bachelor's degree in Art History and English Literature, Genevieve M.Y. Valleau finds it natural to examine art in picturebooks. Currently she is completing a Master's of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia and working on a thesis about J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.


For years picturebook critics have used the field of art history as source for describing illustration styles and techniques. In the following article Genevieve Valleau uses her art historian's knowledge to describe the ways that children's book illustrators use classical works of Western art to convey and/or reinforce cultural meaning and to symbolise dramatic social and emotional content.

The debate about whether or not illustrations within picturebooks are pieces of art is one that will always be contentious. Many illustrations are, in fact, beautiful and must be considered art. It becomes obvious that many illustrators are classically trained in the arts and it is no wonder that these illustrators are influenced by the classic pieces of art that they have studied and have come to appreciate. Illustrators such as Anthony Browne, Shaun Tan and Dayal Kaur Khalsa, as well as many others, have been so influenced by the classics of art that they employ and imitate some of the most influential and celebrated pieces of art in their illustrations to enhance their own work. In doing so, many of these illustrators increase the impact of their art in picturebooks and enhance the substance and power of their own illustrations.

Illustrators who reference or recreate classic pieces of art into their own artwork are doing so to increase the significance and impact of their illustrations. There are three main ways in which illustrators incorporate classic artwork into their picturebooks. In the first type illustrators take a photograph or an image of the actual piece of art and paste it into their illustration. In the second type illustrators copy classic pieces of art, but change them slightly to reflect their own style. In the third type, the most complex classification, illustrators evoke a piece of art and utilize similar positions for figures or settings and, in doing so, mimic elements of classic pieces in their work.

A perfect example of Type 1 is Ian Falconer's Olivia. In this picturebook, Olivia's mother takes Olivia and her little brother, Ian, to the museum on rainy days. In the visual sequence at the museum, Falconer utilizes a detail of Edgar Degas' Ballet Rehearsal on the Set and a detail of Jackson Pollocks's Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) to show what the three characters are seeing at the museum. In doing so, Falconer introduces these classic works to his young audience and reinforces the importance of learning about the beauty of art. To show the importance of Degas' oil painting, Falconer writes "One rainy days, Olivia likes to go to the museum. She heads straight for her favourite picture. Olivia looks at it for a long time. What could she be thinking?" (26-27). The following page shows that Olivia is imagining in her head what she would look like if she were a ballerina. Because Falconer indicates that this piece of art is Olivia's favourite, the reader learns that one of the wonderful aspects of art is the imaginative response that it creates in the viewer. Degas' painting allows Olivia to dream of being as beautiful as Degas' ballerinas. Also, by employing a detail of Degas' Ballet Rehearsal on the Set, Falconer is demonstrating the importance of line, colour and tone, which all have key significance in Degas' works. Degas' painting uses muted colours and the direction of light and shadow to suggest a sombre tone. Falconer mimics this tone in his depiction of what Olivia is thinking by his use of shadow and line behind his character.

Similarly, Falconer uses Pollock's work to reinforce the positive message of creativity. He writes "But there is one painting Olivia just doesn't get. 'I could do that in about five minutes,' she says to her mother. As soon as she gets home she gives it a try" (30-31). Here Falconer demonstrates that while the abstract expressionistic works of Pollock are more difficult to comprehend, they are just as beautiful as Degas' ballerinas and no less complex works of art. Similar to Degas, Pollock shows that his art can invoke in his viewer whatever his or her imagination desires. Pollock's Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) is celebrated because of the technique that he used to create this work. As art historians H.W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson note, "[Pollock] came to regard paint itself not as a passive substance to be manipulated at will but as a storehouse of pent-up forces for him to release. . . . The result is a surface so alive, so sensuously rich" (820). Because, as Janson and Janson state, Pollock's canvas becomes alive, the viewer is allowed to interpret what he or she wishes. In this way, Falconer employs the image of both Degas' work and Pollock's painting to demonstrate that, despite their differing styles and techniques, classical art evokes the imagination and creativity of the viewer. This is reinforced by Olivia, whose imagination is heightened after viewing Degas and Pollock, as she imagines herself as a Degas ballerina and attempts to paint in Pollock's style in her bedroom.

Another good example of Type 1, where the illustrator takes an image of a classical piece of art and incorporates it into a picturebook, is the book You Can't Take a Balloon into the National Gallery, by Jacqueline Preisse Weitzman and illustrated by Robin Preisse Glasser. In this wordless picturebook, the illustrator utilizes a technique similar to Falconer's and incorporates into the illustrations images of the artwork the two children and their grandmother are seeing in the National Gallery in Washington, DC. For instance, once inside the Museum, the grandmother and her grandchildren are looking at the bronze statue of Giovanni da Bologna's Mercury. While Glasser illustrates this picturebook using black ink, watercolour washes, gouache and coloured pencils, the image of Mercury jumps off the page at the viewer because it is an actual photograph of the well-known statue. The photograph of Mercury completely stands out against the rest of the illustration and the viewer's eyes go directly to the statue and then down to the three figures in colour: the grandmother and her grandchildren. As a result of the viewer's eyes being directed straight to the statue, the photograph of Mercury becomes the most important element on the page.

Glasser, however, utilizes the second type of artistic incorporation on this page as well. In Type 2, the illustrator copies a classic piece of art, but changes the image slightly to integrate the classical piece with his or her personal style. Glasser illustrates the red-haired woman in the same controposto body position as the bronze statue of Mercury (controposto is the intricate and somewhat unnatural twisting of the body used in the statue of Mercury). The red-haired woman reaches her right arm up in the air in almost the identical movement as Mercury, as well as kicking back her right leg behind her as she reaches up to catch the red balloon that is floating away. Not only does Glasser imitate the controposto body position of Mercury, but she also engages her figure in a movement similar to that of the bronze statue. Because Mercury was the messenger to the Roman gods and wore winged sandals, he could fly, and da Bologna's Mercury appears about to take flight up to the gods to deliver a message. Similarly, Glasser's red-haired woman also has a sense of leaving the ground as she jumps up in the air to reach for the red balloon. Not only is this accentuated by her foot jumping up off the ground to reveal a shadow underneath it, but also by her flowing skirt and how her bag moves up her body. Essentially, this sense of movement and body position is derived from da Bologna's Mercury.

Glasser continues to employ both Type 1 and Type 2 artistic incorporation in You Can't Take a Balloon into the National Gallery. Type 1 is utilized when the grandmother and her grandchildren are looking at Edouard Manet's oil painting The Railway. Manet's painting, created in 1873, shows two figures standing against a Parisian background. The figure of the young girl on the right side of the painting turns her back to the viewer and looks out at the background scene. As Manet's little girl takes this stance, not only does the viewer feel detached from the little girl, but this stance forces the viewer to realize that the viewer and the little girl are, in fact, observing the same background. As a result, the background becomes an important element in Manet's painting. Also, the viewer becomes very aware of the black metal bars that divide the little girl from the background that she is so intently looking in at. This division causes the two figures to be pushed right up to the foreground and out at the viewer, which causes the viewer to experience a sense of intrusion and discomfort. Manet furthers these feelings of discomfort by having the figure of the woman sitting on the left side of the painting stare back out at the viewer. The woman stares out of her frame and into the viewer's eye and traps the viewer with her gaze. In essence, her gaze is forcing the viewer to acknowledge her and the little girl's place in society. In doing this, Manet is commenting on the isolation of parts of Parisian society.

Glasser incorporates the photograph of Manet's painting into her own illustration by using Type 1 and, therefore, pulls the reader's eye straight to the photograph because the medium stands out against her ink and watercolour illustration. In doing so, the viewer is able to see, in essence, what the children and their grandmother are seeing at the museum, and this is parallel to the experience of the viewer of Manet's painting. Glasser, however, pushes the viewer's imagination by placing her version of Manet's painting, using the Type 2 classification, directly beside the photograph. In her illustration though, Glasser's people look in at the White House. Nonetheless, Glasser utilizes two figures in almost the same positions as Manet's woman and little girl. She depicts a young woman looking in onto the grounds of the White House, with her back turned to the reader and her gaze on the background of the illustration. The young woman also has her left arm resting on the black metal bars that keep the public out of the White House grounds. Therefore, once again the image makes a distinct and deliberate division between the two figures and the background. Glasser also depicts the woman on the left side of the illustration in a similar position as Manet's figure. She holds a puppy in her arms and is dressed in a modern version of Manet's woman's clothes. However, Glasser's figure is not intently looking out at the reader, but, instead, is involved in the conversation on her cell phone and the direction of her gaze cannot be read because it is covered by her dark sunglasses. While Glasser's imitation of these two figures may not be as powerful as Manet's painting, it does appear as though Glasser is also commenting on modern society and individual people's self-absorption. The division between the public and the elite is just as distinct as in Manet's work, but what makes Glasser's interpretation interesting is the woman on her cell phone. She is not only detached from the people around her gazing through the metal fence, but she is also detached from the setting of the White House. She does not appear to acknowledge what is behind her or the environment that surrounds her. In this manner, therefore, Glasser captures perfectly the type of social critique that Manet was attempting to create.

Anthony Browne is also an author and illustrator who employs Type 2 artistic incorporation into his picturebooks. In Browne's Willy the Dreamer, Browne illustrates the fantastical dreams that Willy has. In one illustration in particular, "Sometimes Willy dreams that he's a painter" (8), Browne depicts his ever-amusing character, Willy, painting his version of Venus de Milo with numerous versions of René Magritte's classic artwork in the background. Browne's version of Venus de Milo is a perfect example of Type 2. His version is practically identical to the original Venus de Milo, except Browne changes the head of Venus into a gorilla's head. This Hellenistic sculpture carved out of marble is one of the most recognized sculptures of the Ancient Greek era because of Venus' elegant pose, despite the fact that her arms have been broken off. This elegance is produced by the way she rests her weight on her right hip, causing the gentle curve of her body. Also, the way in which her drapery flows down her hips and thighs suggests sensuality; Venus is, after all, the goddess of love and beauty. Browne's Venus is positioned in the same manner, with the same drapery falling off the gently twisted body. Other than the gorilla's head, at first glance, the two images look the same. However, Browne adds a surreal aspect to the illustration by having Willy paint the sculpture. Browne plays with surrealism by having the Venus appear to be a sculpture; it looks to be three-dimensional with angles and a long shadow that falls behind it. Yet, Browne skews this impression by having Willy paint Venus' left arm, showing that it is not a sculpture at all, but a painting. Not only does this surreal aspect add to the dream-like feeling that Willy is experiencing, but it also relates to the Magritte-like paintings in the background.

In this composition, Browne also imitates six René Magritte paintings, three of which, on the left, are his most famous: Le Reproduction Interdite, Ceci n'est pas une Pipe, and Le Fils de l'Homme. In imitating Magritte's paintings, Browne creates an homage to Magritte, but uses Type 2 artistic incorporation and changes each painting to fit his picturebook and his own purpose. He does this by changing small and, at first glance, unnoticeable aspects of Magritte's original works and employs the same surrealist aspects that Magritte uses. For instance, Magritte's oil on canvas painting, Ceci n'est pas une Pipe, is a great example of how Magritte is attempting to challenge the relationship between art and reality by using introducing surrealistic elements into his painting. By painting a wooden pipe in the centre of the canvas and writing underneath the image of the pipe "Ceci n'est pas une Pipe" (This is not a Pipe), Magritte is playing with viewer's sense of what is real and what is an image painted on canvas. The image of a pipe is accurate, as it looks like a simple pipe and is, therefore, essentially a pipe. That said, however, Magritte is correct in saying that it is not a pipe because it is an image and nothing more. Therefore, Magritte is attempting to interrupt the viewer's sense of reality. As art historians Hugh Honour and John Fleming explain,

whereas Dali's paintings were disturbing, Magritte's are truly disruptive. . . . [Magritte's works] challenge our assumptions about art and reality and, furthermore, they are totally without any meaning in so far as they resist explication as distinct from interpretation. Their titles are striking but the connection of their titles with the visual image almost always turns out to be ambiguous, or non-existent. (814)

Because of this surrealist interruption that Magritte creates in this painting, the viewer becomes aware of the act of seeing and that he or she is looking at a painting, not a pipe. Interestingly enough, because Browne is employing the Type 2 technique of Magritte's painting, Browne himself is conjuring up the same surrealistic notions. However, Browne changes Magritte's work to reflect his surreal vision by changing the wood of the pipe into a banana peel. In doing so, he not only reinforces the idea that the pipe is only an image of a pipe, but also twists the sense of surrealism of Magritte's original painting to reflect his theme.

Browne has recently been criticized by the representatives of Magritte's estate for using too many of Magritte's works in this illustration. As Browne tells journalist Julia Eccleshare in an interview, " 'I've recently been sued by the Magritte estate for my fake reproductions of his work in Willy the Dreamer. . . I thought that I was encouraging children to look at Magritte's pictures, but I had to take out all references to him for the new edition'" (Eccleshare, Guardian Unlimited). Not only is this an interesting insight into how Browne is attempting to educate children about surrealist art, but it is also a great insight into Browne's use of Type 2 artistic incorporation for his illustration and why he imitates Magritte.

Browne continues using Type 2 in Willy the Dreamer's illustration "He's in a strange landscape." Similar to the way that he utilizes Magritte's works, Browne has included a number of aspects of different Dali paintings, but has remained centred specifically on Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory to invoke the strange and surreal feelings that dreams have. In Dali's painting "Time stands still within the dreamer's mind, as in Freud's timeless unconscious, so that in Dali's arid, airless landscape the metal watches go limp and stop forever" (Honour 813) and, therefore, the memory of the dreamer never ends and will constantly persist because time itself has stopped in this barren landscape that Dali has created. Browne copies Dali's vast desert as the setting for Willy's surreal dream and remains true to Dali's barren and isolated feelings within the painting. In Browne's illustration, once again, however, certain objects of Dali's, such as the melting watches, have turned into melting bananas, although Browne does include one watch that is melting on a banana. As Browne is depicting one melting watch, he is acknowledging Dali's work and echoing the surreal evocation that Dali was aiming for. Also, although there is no figure in Dali's original work, Browne inserts Willy into the Dali-esque setting and depicts him sauntering through the desert at the centre of the illustration. This inclusion causes the reader to feel Willy's isolation within the illustration. Willy appears not to notice the strange objects around him, and continues to walk down the page to an unknown destination. This adds to the dream-like quality of the image, as one can never know where dreams will lead. This element of Browne's work heightens the surreal and fantastical nature of the illustration.

Browne continues to use Type 2 artistic incorporation in his sequel to Willy the Dreamer, Willy's Pictures, which was published three years later. In this picturebook, the narrator begins by stating "Willy likes paintings and looking at paintings. He knows that every picture tells a story" (3) and then goes on to show various classical art pieces that have been changed by Browne using Type 2. In the illustration entitled "Coming to Life," Browne imitates Michelangelo's The Creation of Man from his ceiling fresco in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. Michelangelo's painting depicts the moment in which God reaches out his hand to give Adam life. Against an empty background, God extends his life-giving finger to Adam's listless, inert finger as Adam sits in a barren landscape. Michelangelo captures the moment perfectly just before their two index fingers touch, and, like a moment caught in time; they remain frozen only an inch away from touch with the suggestion of movement between the two main figures. For example, the line that the two arms create draws the viewer's eye to God and Adam's fingertips and back to each of the figures. The viewer feels the movement of God and his angels toward Adam. Also, because Michelangelo's background is quite sparse, created by the large area of white space between the two figures, Michelangelo again pulls the viewers towards the space between the two figures, and the moment of the transference of life from God to Adam.

In his image, Browne takes this moment and twists it in a very interesting way. Browne appears to have copied Michelangelo's fresco's every angle and contour. He is not only able to capture Michelangelo's sense of movement between the two fingertips, but he also encapsulates the listlessness of Adam's lifeless body, even though he changes Adam's body into the body of a gorilla. Michelangelo is able to depict Adam's physical body as being full of strength and power, if only he could come to life with God's touch. Browne's gorilla's body reveals the same strength and muscular physique as Michelangelo's Adam. Browne is able to transfer the beauty of the human body into the body of a gorilla. Ironically, the gorilla's actual physique is quite similar to the physique of Michelangelo's Adam, as gorillas are immensely strong animals. This fact makes Browne's version of the Creation of Man work well.

Browne similarly twists the moment between God and Adam. While almost the entire body of the gorilla appears full of life and texture, and is three-dimensional, his left hand, which reaches out to God, appears two-dimensional and looks like the hand of a human, rather than that of a gorilla. The hand of God, in contrast, is similar to the rest of the gorilla's body and is three-dimensional. Browne changes God's hand, however, to a dark-skinned, hairy hand holding a paintbrush, in the moment of painting the "human" hand of the gorilla. Since Browne only depicts the hand and the edge of a white shirt, the reader must decide if it is the hand of Willy or the hand of the artist himself. While it could be argued that because of the hair and the colour of the skin, it is Willy's hand, the hand appears to be more human than a gorilla's hand. This ambiguity makes the image more complex and therefore more intriguing. Furthermore, not only does Browne imitate the moment between the fingertips, or, in Browne's case, the fingertip and the paintbrush, perfectly, but he also adds the idea that, as author and illustrator, he is "god" to his gorilla. Because his hand is about to paint the gorilla's two-dimensional hand, he reinforces the idea that artists are the creators of their art. But this idea works in so many ways. Not only is he demonstrating that he is the creator of this illustration, but he is also evoking Michelangelo's hand holding a paintbrush, as Michelangelo is the person who created this image originally. By creating this multi-dimensional illustration full of meaning and symbolism, Browne demonstrates that he fully understands Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel and the Creation of Man in particular.

Browne also uses Type 2 artistic incorporation in Willy's Pictures with "The Mysterious Smile," a classical piece of art that is changed slightly to match the illustrator's style. Browne imitates Leonardo da Vinci's well-known Mona Lisa but, like his version of Michelangelo's The Creation of Man, Browne is able to invoke Leonardo's artistic talent, while altering his illustration slightly to make it appropriate for his picturebook. Leonardo's Mona Lisa is renowned for numerous reasons; the best known is her ambiguous smile. As John T. Paoletti and Gary M. Rakde remark,

"One of Leonardo's greatest accomplishments as a painter was his transfiguration of the portrait from an icon of status to a representation of a person fully engaged with the viewer. . . . Leonardo's use of sfumato technique blends light and dark and one form with another to enhance the unity of the composition. The face turns gently to recognize the presence of the viewer, her slight smile -- the subject of endless speculation -- inviting conversation." (330)

Leonardo's painting is majestic and beautiful because of the restful way in which Mona Lisa addresses her viewer. She does not show any pretension or affectedness because of her position in society or because she is sitting for one of the most influential artists of all time, and she sits delicately against a beautiful background. Because of her gaze, she commands the viewer's attention and, in his own way, Browne is able to capture her gaze and mood in his illustration. Browne imitates Mona Lisa's position, the background that she is set against, as well as her gaze, but he adds his sense of humour to the illustration. Once again, instead of a human face, Browne utilizes the face of a gorilla, but he is able to convey the same sense of beauty and quiet peacefulness in the gorilla's face as Leonardo's Mona Lisa. Browne's gorilla gazes out at the viewer with the same intensity and the same curious smile as Leonardo's Mona Lisa, but Browne adds a somewhat ironic twist to her smile, and it appears as though her lips are curling in because she has no teeth. To reinforce that, Browne includes a set of dentures that rest beside his Mona Lisa, the secret to his Mona Lisa's smile.

This is not, however, the only change that Browne makes to this painting. While he does imitate Leonardo's sfumato background, which directly translated means smoky and is the blurring of the shapes in the background to create a continuous space (Paoletti and Radke 297), Browne changes some of the shapes so that they appear to be feet, hands and various animals' faces. In doing this, he not only adds to the humour of the illustration, but he also demonstrates how the blurring of shapes can make them take on many different forms as long as the reader uses his or her imagination.

Similar to Browne's use of Type 2 artistic incorporation, Dayal Kaur Khalsa also employs Type 2 for the cover of her picturebook I Want a Dog. Khalsa's cover is an imitation of Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte painted from 1884 to 1886. Seurat's large painting depicts a scene on the banks of the Seine in Paris with the foreground and background full of frozen figures, from both the bourgeois and the proletariat. What makes Seurat's painting so amazing and progressive is the way in which he painted it, using pointillism, with tiny dots of all different colours meant to merge in the viewer's eyes to form coherent shapes. Although Seurat is considered to be part of the Impressionist movement in France, Seurat's technique differs from the techniques of the majority of the Impressionists because the viewer cannot get a quick impression of the painting at first glance. However, he is considered to be an Impressionist because of the "brilliant colours and the effect of intense sunlight" (Janson and Janson 750) on and amongst the figures sitting on the riverside. Because of the large size of the canvas and the technique, Seurat's work must be examined in great detail. The figures on the canvas seem to be captured in a moment that reveals the mixed society of Paris during this time. Seurat shows the figures with practically no emotions and depicts every figure detached from the others' presence, despite the fact that the riverside is packed with people. This feeling of disconnectedness is reinforced by the fact that no matter how far away the viewer stands from the canvas, the dots of colour do not come together. Therefore, the feeling that the figures are all disengaged from each other is a result of the particular technique of the painting; the dots of colour, themselves, are not connected and will never come together, much like the people on the canvas. Seurat wanted to reflect the Parisian society at the time, a society where there was a large divide between the bourgeois and the proletariat, a divide which, portrayed and recognized, "would transform society for the better" (Janson and Janson 751).

Khalsa's illustration, on the other hand, does not reflect a divided society, but rather a warm-hearted scene between people and dogs. Khalsa places figures in the identical positions as Seurat's figures with the same body position, but adds more dogs to the scene and even changes some of Seurat's people into dogs. While she did not use pointillism as a technique in her illustration, the same sense of disconnect is visible. Perhaps because Khalsa is imitating Seurat almost exactly, the people seem to not be aware of each other. However, Khalsa's illustration has much more life and amusement than Seurat's painting. She fills the image with different types of dogs, many with their owners, and depicts her main character, May, at the centre of the illustration with her roller-skates. She ties a roller-skate to a leash and treats it like a pet dog so that her parents will realize that she is responsible enough to take care of a dog. Unlike Seurat's painting, many of Khalsa's figures show emotions of happiness and contentedness and reflect one of the story's main themes: the happiness of owning a pet. Also, Khalsa imitates Seurat's use of contrasting colours to highlight and illuminate certain elements of the composition. For instance, all the figures in red and orange stand out against the blue and green background and, therefore, the viewer's eye moves toward those key figures. In utilizing this technique, Khalsa is acknowledging Seurat's use of colour and how it affects the composition of her illustration.

In contrast to Type 1 and Type 2, Type 3 artistic incorporation occurs when the illustrator is influenced by an artist or a particular piece of art and bases his or her illustration on an artist's work or a particular classical work. As a result, it is the most complicated classification, as it is inevitable that artists will always be influenced by other artists. A good example of Type 3 is author and illustrator Tomie dePaola's work, particularly in his picturebook entitled Jingle the Christmas Clown. The illustration of the circus pulling into town is reminiscent of pieces of art made in Italy in the mid-fifteenth century that show processions of travellers. Procession pieces during this period were created to depict not only a journey, but also some of the various people and episodes that occurred during the journey. While many procession pieces were of a religious nature and depicted the journeys of various Biblical figures, many secular procession pieces were placed on sarcophagi to represent a person's life. Procession pieces usually portrayed landscapes and the architecture of villages and highlighted the difference levels of society. One of the most well-known processions is Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco in the Medici Chapel. Gozzoli depicts the procession of the Magi to Bethlehem and, on the right side of the chapel; Gozzoli portrays the youngest king on the white horse in the middle of the procession. The perspective of the landscape behind the young king is somewhat skewed in order to show as much terrain as possible that the procession has passed. Gozzoli also used a lush, earthy palette of colours to bring a sense of realism to his piece and contrasted the colours of the landscape with the gold and red shades of the procession. At the top of the fresco, on the left side of the painting, the procession can be seen curling around the countryside, as it makes its way out of the painting on the bottom right side in the direction of Bethlehem. Gozzoli tried to depict life during the fifteenth century, and, at the centre of the fresco, he paints two figures hunting a deer. This inclusion of daily life demonstrates that Gozzoli was attempting to reflect aspects of his society. This idea is reinforced by the different elements of society shown throughout the procession: royalty and peasants are shown side by side. The figure of the young king is lavishly dressed in gold drapery, which matches the highlights on his horse, and, of course, he is shown wearing a bright crown. This wealthy figure is contrasted with the peasant figures that are leading the other horse around him. The African figure on the right side of the foreground is shown in simple clothing, with no hat or jewellery as he walks in the procession with no horse. A figure of an older man left of the middle of the foreground is shown in similarly simple clothing with no baggage. This contrast of figures demonstrates that not only was Gozzoli attempting to reflect the society before him with its many facets, but also trying to aggrandize elements of the procession.

DePaola creates a similar procession in his illustration, and it becomes evident that he was influenced by the Italian processional pieces from the mid-fifteenth century. He chooses to depict a moment during the journey of "Il Circo Piccolo -- The Little Circus" (4) as a procession. He uses an earthly palette similar to Gozzoli's for the background of the illustration, a rolling hillside, and on the left side of the illustration, a small Italian village. Although dePaola creates a vast blue sky that takes up most of the illustration, the sense of an abundant landscape is still evident. DePaola also uses the same contrasting colour technique as Gozzoli in that he contrasts the earthy colours of the countryside with the golds and reds of the procession. This contrasting colour palette causes the figures and the procession itself to stand out against the vast landscape around it and pulls the reader's eyes to The Little Circus and their journey. The procession of The Little Circus passes from the left to the right of the illustration, and dePaola depicts all the different people of the circus, each with their own individuality and characteristics, similar to the figures in Gozzoli's fresco. Another aspect of dePaola's illustration that resembles Gozzoli's painting is its inclusion of elements of daily life. At the very foreground of the illustration, dePaola illustrates three figures. The man holding a branch of a tree stands on the left side of the foreground, and a mother and her child watch excitedly as the procession passes by. These figures are probably from the small town that The Little Circus is passing by and demonstrates a part of daily life as many people would have stepped out of their houses or workplaces to watch the circus go by. All of these elements of dePaola's interpretations are completely individualized and in keeping with his style of art. However, it becomes evident that dePaola was influenced and imitating procession pieces of Italy because of the way in which he depicts the circus' procession.

Illustrator Shaun Tan also uses Type 3 artistic incorporation. In his picturebook The Red Tree, Tan tackles the subject of depression, and, in one particular illustration, "without sense of reason," Tan creates a collage that is both stunning and overpowering. Collage is a technique that many illustrators and artist use alike; however, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are the two most well-known artists of Cubism, and these two artists were the first to use collage as a Cubist art form. As art historians Hugh Honour and John Fleming comment:

The virtue of papiers collés, however, lay in the method's ambivalence. The strips of pasted paper could be arranged according to an aesthetically independent (or abstract) scheme, while still signifying the color and form of the objects drawn over them. (791)

One of Picasso's most intriguing collages is entitled Glass and Bottle of Suze, which depicts a cubist's look at a drinking glass and a bottle of liqueur on a table. Picasso creates a visual image that demands the attention of the viewer, and, as Honour and Fleming point out,

Picasso delighted in the opportunities [collage] gave him to display his audacity in paradox and visual wit, turning one substance into another as if by visual alchemy -- newspapers into violins and so on -- and extracting new meanings out of old forms by combining them in unexpected ways or in unusual contexts. (791)

In this particular piece, Picasso has used pieces of newspaper, both painted and unpainted, cut into shapes to form incongruent objects. Picasso was known for using clippings of newspaper articles that he deemed important, and, in this collage, Picasso included articles on the beginnings of the war in the Balkans and international socialist movements (Daix and Rosselet 289). By including these articles, the collage becomes more than what it appears to be at first glance, simply a cubic still life. Instead, it is a piece of art that shows political awareness and concern.

Tan uses newspaper in his illustration to the same end as Picasso. At first glance, like Picasso's work, Tan's collage seems to be a jumble of newspaper clippings that he has fragmented and painted to create an abstract, but coherent, illustration. However, upon closer observation, the reader can discern that the subject matters of many of the clippings are, in fact, despair, loneliness and pride. For instance, the border of the illustration is left unpainted and many of the clippings appear to be definitions of such things as "insanity," "exclusion" and "vanity." By including these definitions, Tan alludes to the subject of depression in a very subtle way. Tan paints most of the collage bright red, orange and yellow, which heightens the intensity of emotions in the image. In a similar manner to Picasso, Tan cuts the newspaper into shapes to form what appears to be a chaotic modern city, filled with tall buildings, ladders, planes and smokestacks. The little girl, who is the main character of the picturebook, looks out at the reader as she climbs a ladder towards the bottom of the centre of the illustration. Although she is the central character of the story, the viewer has to seek her consciously to find her in the maze of the red city. Tan creates a city that is both unclear and unusual, and, therefore, as the little girl enters the city, the reader is able to understand the little girl's sense of loneliness in this bizarre surrounding. As a result, Tan's use of the technique of collage is similar to that of Picasso because both artists are attempting to increase the importance of the materials used and the messages written on them as a means to heighten the emotions and politics of their piece.

Another good example of the use of Type 3 artistic incorporation is Julie Vivas' The Nativity, and, specifically, the illustration when the archangel Gabriel is visiting Mary to tell her that she is carrying the child of God. There have been numerous depictions of this moment throughout history. Because of this, there are many paintings and sculptures that Vivas could have been influenced by. That being said, however, it appears Giovanni Lanfranco's The Annunciation, painted in oil on canvas around 1616, was Vivas' main influence. Lanfranco's painting shows the archangel Gabrielle floating delicately on a cloud a few feet about the ground. He leans his body toward Mary, as if about to whisper to her. The quietness of the conversation is reinforced by the cherubs above Gabrielle and Mary, who are playfully resting on clouds and turning their ears towards the conversation to see if they can hear a glimpse of what Gabrielle is telling Mary. As Gabrielle leans toward Mary, he turns his face down toward her and places his right hand to his heart and this left points up to the heavens and to the dove, which is a symbol for God. His gentle body position tells the viewer that he is aware of the shock that Mary must be in and treats this conversation with tenderness. In response, Mary, who is traditionally shown in royal blue, turns her face up towards Gabrielle, as the light from above falls on her face. Lanfranco treats Mary's hands with the same sense of grace and softness as he does with Gabrielle's hands. Mary turns both in towards herself, as if to suggest that she is in awe of what Gabrielle is telling her. Also, Lanfranco contrasts the dark background with the light from above to highlight aspects of the painting, such as Mary's face, Gabrielle's wings and the branch of lilies that sit on Mary's table, a symbol of both Mary and the annunciation. By highlighting these aspects of the painting, Lanfranco draws the viewer's eyes to those elements as they are meant to recognize the significance of them. The colours that Lanfranco uses in his work are also intriguing. Gabrielle's yellow drapery stands out against the dark background, as does Mary's royal blue drapery. As a result, the two figures are distinct against the rest of the rich colours that Lanfranco employs.

The positions of Lanfranco's figures and the colour distinction that he uses seem to have been adapted by Vivas in her illustration. Although the composition of Vivas' illustration is quite different from Lanfranco's, the two works share certain elements. For instance, in Vivas' illustration Gabriel and Mary are sitting at a table, drinking cups of coffee as Gabriel tells Mary that she is carrying the son of God. Gabriel leans his body towards Mary, turns his head to her in a sympathetic manner and places his left arm to his heart in a motion similar to Lanfranco's Gabrielle. Once again, Gabriel tender's body position shows both Mary and the reader that he is aware of the shock that Mary must be in and is attempting to soothe her. Similarly, Vivas illustrates Mary wearing the symbolic royal blue colour and, therefore, is signalling the well-known depictions of Mary wearing this colour. Vivas' Mary leans in close to Gabriel and Vivas depicts her as being in both shock at what she is hearing and in awe that an angel is visiting her. Vivas is also able to capture the way in which Lanfranco's Gabrielle appears to be whispering his message to Mary. In Vivas' illustration, the two figures lean closely toward each other, as if they would not be able to hear each other otherwise. By evoking Lanfranco's mood in this manner, Vivas is able to signal Lanfranco's painting and demonstrates that she is attempting to create a connection between her illustration and Lanfranco's painting.

As the illustrator in John Marsden's The Rabbits, Shaun Tan once again uses Type 3-style images. For instance, Tan's illustration of the rabbits arriving on the shore by boat, "They came by water" (13-14), has been influenced by a well-known Australian oil on canvas painting by E. Phillip Fox Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay, 1770. Fox's painting depicts the historical moment when Captain Cook and his crew first landed in Australia, at Botany Bay in 1770. In this painting, Fox depicts Captain Cook on shore with a few of his men, who are unloading their items from a boat. The Captain stands in the very centre of the painting and points his right arm at a destination off in the distance while taking a commanding position: his figure is tall and straight and both feet are planted firmly on the ground. This powerful body position demonstrates that he is the person in command of this journey and the figure who the painting is centred on. The viewer's eyes are drawn to him, not only because of the authoritative stance in which Captain Cook stands, but also because of the elegant white uniform that he wears, which is unlike the clothing of any other figure in the painting. Captain Cook's second-in-command stands to his left in a grey uniform, and turns his head to his commander and points to the top right hand side of the painting to the Aboriginal figures in the background, as if he is mentioning the presence of the Aboriginal people to his Captain. In front of these two figures, a young man with a gun stand poised as if ready to take a shot at the Aboriginal figures, while another sailor places a large red ensign behind Captain Cook and his second-in-command. This cluster of four figures sets the tone of adventure and colonization for the painting. Also, Fox paints Captain Cook's large ship, with great white sails, anchored in the background on the ocean.

Tan's illustration in The Rabbits echoes Fox's painting but utilizes Tan's unique style. For instance, the four main figures in Fox's painting appear in Tan's illustration. The figure of Captain Cook is now the Captain of the rabbits and stands in the same authoritative position. He points his right arm off into the distance beyond the illustration and places both of his feet firmly on the ground, just like Fox's Captain Cook. Similarly, Captain Rabbit's second-in-command turns to his Captain and points his left arm at the armadillos on the right side in the background, as if he is letting his Captain know about the armadillos' presence in the distance. A smaller rabbit stands in front of the Captain of the rabbits and the second-in-command with a gun pointed at the armadillos. This figure is a mirror image of the younger man in Fox's painting, as both the rabbit version and the human version of this figure are standing in the same position and holding their guns at the same angle. Tan also includes a forth figure, the rabbit behind the Captain and the second-in-command, who erects a large red flag. By echoing the body positions of the four figures in Fox's painting, Tan is able to align his illustration with the same sentiments of adventure and colonization in Fox's work.

However, Tan does change the illustration to match his style of work. For instance, while in Fox's painting Captain Cook's ship is in the background and appears quite small, the Captain of the rabbits' boat is larger and closer to shore. Tan exaggerates the ship through the large curve of the bow to enhance the overpowering effect the rabbits have on Australia. Similarly, Tan exaggerates the rabbits themselves. Other than their torsos, their bodies are quite angular, while their ears, arms and legs are composed of long, thin lines. In contrast, the armadillos in the background have rounded edges and appear to be gentler. This contrast between rounded shapes and harsh edges adds to the impact of the rabbits threatening position and causes them to appear frightening and hostile. The Rabbits is a simple story about a complex topic, colonization. In this picturebook, the rabbits come to Australia and take over the land and destroy the civilization that the armadillos had created. This story is meant to symbolize the colonization of Australia by Europeans as well as the infestation of the continent by rabbits that were brought to Australia by the Europeans. Both the colonization and the infestation led to the destruction of the Aboriginals', or, as in the story, the armadillos', way of life, and, because of this, Fox's painting is the perfect work for Tan to echo. However, while Fox's painting shows colonization to be civilized and good, because Tan creates fearful looking rabbits, Tan's illustration demonstrates the negative aspects of colonization.

Although Anthony Browne's use of Type 2 artistic incorporation was examined previously in this study, Browne does make use of Type 3 as well. For instance, in one of his earlier picturebooks, Gorilla, Browne illustrates a scene where a gorilla comes to take Hannah to the zoo. Hannah puts on her coat, and the gorilla is a "perfect fit" in her father's hat and coat (12). While Browne does use Type 2 in this illustration as well by incorporating his changed version of James Abbot McNeil's Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother, otherwise known as "Whistler's Mother," hanging on the wall on the left side of the illustration, he once again changes the human face to that of a gorilla's, Browne uses Type 3 to evoke one of Rene Magritte's paintings. The image of Hannah's father's black coat and grey hat that hangs on the wall on the right side of the illustration is Browne's version of Magritte's Le Fils de l'Homme. Harry Torczyner, who requested a self-portrait of the artist, commissioned Le Fils de l'Homme in 1963. The idea of painting a self-portrait appeared to be a problem to Magritte and he writes in a letter to Torczyner

"Your idea for 'a portrait of the artist' raises 'a problem of conscience': it has happened (three times) that I have put myself in a picture, but the intention at the start was to paint a picture, not a portrait. I am able (or rather have been able) to paint a few portraits which were intended as such, but if the subject is myself, my visual appearance, this raises a problem that I am not sure of being able to resolve." (ed Sylvester 400)

As a result of Magritte's "problem of conscience" (400), he covers most of his face with an image of an apple. This not only creates a distancing between the portrait and the viewer, but it also allows the figure in the painting to be interpreted as any man, not just Magritte himself. The figure appears without an identity: a man who is not really there or a soulless man in the confines of a business suit and bowler hat. Magritte sets his figure in front of a beautifully bright sky background, but, despite this, the figure seems out of place and bizarre. Much like many of his other artworks, Magritte adapts his painting with a surreal twist that forces viewers to acknowledge that what they are observing is simply a painting and, therefore, in the portrait, viewers are not seeing Magritte, but a surreal image of a man who could be Magritte just as much as it could be any other man.

Browne uses this lack of identity in his illustration by creating an empty grey hat that sits on a hanger above an equally vacant long black coat hanging on the wall and a pair of empty black boot. It appears that there is a figure of a man standing behind Hannah. But, like Magritte's portrait, the figure behind Hannah is empty and appears like a soulless figure trapped by the hat and coat. While Browne does use this image to symbolize the absence of Hannah's father in her life, which is contrasted with the way the gorilla fills in her father's tan coat, the emptiness of the image reflects Magritte's Le Fils de l'Homme. With the emptiness of this image, Browne is utilizing Magritte's sense of a lack of identity. Throughout the picturebook, Hannah's father is distant and practically fades into the background, and there is no image stronger of that than this particular illustration. Because of the way Browne places the hat, coat and boots, it appears as though a man is standing behind Hannah. However, when the reader looks closer and discovers that these pieces of clothing are in fact barren, the reader is meant to understand Hannah's father's lack of identity, which echoes the subject matter of Magritte's self-portrait. In effect, any man could be Hannah's father, including the gorilla taking her to the zoo. This parallel of the soulless man that Magritte paints and the emptiness of Hannah's father's clothing is not only significant to the story, but it also adds a surrealist touch to the illustration. With this surrealist touch, the feeling of entering a dream is heightened, as well as the longing that Hannah feels for her father.

The number of illustrators that use classic pieces of art in their illustration is endless. Closely analysing these illustrators the reader can not only learn more about the history of art, the techniques, the materials and the artists, but also the way in which a particular piece of art has affected the illustration. The inclusion of these classical pieces of art can open many different doors of interpretation. Also, by examining picturebooks in this manner, not only does this form of children's literature become more important, but also the quality of the books becomes required to be of better value. Because fewer and fewer picturebooks are being produced each year, it is important to celebrate this type of children's literature and to show artistically how important they are to the realm of art. All of the illustrators are exactly that, artists, but, more than that, artists whose work merits serious consideration and commentary.

 

Works Cited:

a. Artworks:

Buonarroti, Michelangelo di Lodovico. The Creation of Man. 1508-1512. The Sistine Chapel. Fresco. The Vatican City.

Dali, Salvador. The Persistence of Memory. Oil on canvas, 9? X 13" (24.1 x 33 cm), New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1931.

da Bologna, Giovanni (attributed to), Mercury. Bronze, 69?" x 19" x 37?" (177 x 48.5 x 94.9 cm), Washington, DC: The National Gallery of Art, c. 1780-1850.

Degas, Edgar. Ballet Rehearsal on the Set. Oil on canvas, 2' 1?" x 2'8" (65 x 81 cm), Paris: Musee d'Orsay, 1874.

Fox, E. Phillips. Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay. 1770. Oil on canvas, 75" x 103.5" (192.2 x 265.4 cm), Victoria, Australia: Victoria National Gallery, 1902.

Gozzoli, Benozzo. The Procession of the Magi. c. 1459. Medici Chapel. Fresco. The Medici Palace, Florence, Italy.

Lanfranco, Giovanni. The Annunciation. C. 1616. Oil on canvas, 9'8?" x 6' (2.96 x 1.83 m.), Rome: Costaguti Chapel, Church of SS. Biagio and Carlo ai Catinari.

Magritte, René. Ceci n'est pas une Pipe. 1928. Oil on canvas, 23?" x 37" (59.7 x 94 cm), Paris: Louvre.

- - -. Le Fils de l'Homme. 1964. Oil on canvas, 45.2" x 34.7" (116 x 89 cm), New York: Harry Torczyner.

- - -. La Reproduction Interdite. 1937. Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm, Rotterdam, Netherlands: Museum Boymans-van Beuninge.

Manet, Edouard. The Railway. 1873. Oil on canvas, 36?" x 45?" (93.3 x 111.5 cm), Washington, DC: The National Gallery of Art.

McNeil, James Abbot. Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother. 1871. Oil on canvas, 56?" x 64" (144.3 x 162.5 cm), Paris, France: Musee d'Orsay.

Picasso, Pablo. Glass and Bottle of Suze. 1912. Pasted papers, gouache and charcoal, 25.2" x 19.5" (64.5 x 50 cm), St. Louis, MO: Washington University Gallery of Art.

Pollock, Jackson. Autumn Rhythm (Number 30). 1950. Enamel on canvas, 105" x 207" (266.7 x 525.8 cm), New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Seurat, Georges. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. 1884-1886.Oil on canvas, 6'10" x 10'1" (2.08 x 3.8 m), Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago.

Venus de Milo. C. 150 B.C. Marble, 6'2" (2.08m), Paris: Louvre.

da Vinci, Leonardo. Mona Lisa. C. 1503. Oil on panel, 38" x 21" (97.8 x 53.3 cm), Paris: Musée du Louvre.

b. Text works:

Brown, Anthony. Gorilla. London: Julia MacRae Books, 1983

- - -. Willy the Dreamer. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 1997.

- - -. Willy's Pictures. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2000.

Daix, Pierre and Joan Rosselet. Picasso: The Cubist Years, 1907-1916, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings and Related Works. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1979.

dePaola, Tomie. Jingle the Christmas Clown. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1992.

Eccleshare, Julia. "Portrait of the artist as a gorilla: Anthony Browne explains his surrealist children's style to Julia Eccleshare". Guardian Unlimited. Saturday July 29, 2000. http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/childrenandteens/story/0,6000,348137,00.html - March 17, 2006.

Falconer, Ian. Olivia. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000.

Honour, Hugh and John Fleming, eds. The Visual Arts: A History. Fifth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Inc, 2000.

Janson, H.W. and Anthony F. Janson, eds. History of Art. Fifth Edition Revised. New York: Prentice Hall Inc., 1997.

Khalsa, Dayal Kaur. I Want a Dog. Montreal, QB: Tundra Books, 1987.

Marsden, John. The Rabbits. Illustrated by Shaun Tan. Port Melbourne, Australia: Lothian Books, 1998.

Paoletti, John T. and Gary M. Radke, eds. The Art in Renaissance Italy. London: Prentice Hall, 1997.

Sylvester, David (ed). René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné. London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 1993.

Tan, Shaun. The Red Tree. Vancouver, BC: Simply Red Books, 2003.

Vivas, Julie. Illustrations. The Nativity. Adelaide, Australia: Omnibus Books, 1986.

Weitzman, Jacqueline Preisse. You Can't Take a Balloon into the National Gallery. Illustrated by Robin Preisse Glasser. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2000.


Genevieve M.Y. Valleau


Volume 10, Issue 3 The Looking Glass 2 September, 2006

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"Degas and Seurat and Magritte! Oh My! Classical Art in Picturebooks"
© Genevieve M.Y. Valleau, 2006.
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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

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